It’s difficult at times to grasp the full consequence of our decisions. This is especially true when those decisions are made weeks, months, or years apart. My suspected illness last month is a perfect example.
Over the past two years, I’ve had illnesses and injuries that I’ve treated symptomatically with a lot of anti-inflammatories. I’m not a big “pill” person, either. I already take more medications than I care to, so when I’m faced with pain, I’ll typically tolerate it until it’s either worn on me for hours (or days) or gotten intense enough for me to launch a decisive counter-assault. At that point, I’ll take one large – usually slightly higher than recommended – dose. The vast majority of the time, this knocks the pain out completely.
But when you do that every few months, those large doses add up. My throat pain in July wasn’t from catching some bug; it’s an advanced symptom of GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease). The reason I felt sharp pain rather than the familiar heartburn is that the reflux damage has been so chronic my throat no longer feels the burning sensation. The inflammation in my neck and cheeks was an indication of just how high up the acidic damage goes.
I only know this now because an episode of throat pain last week was so severe I broke into a cold sweat and almost passed out. This sent me back to the doctor two days before our latest trip to Costa Rica (I told my hubby tongue-in-cheek if I wasn’t coughing up blood, we were still going), and now I’m faced with several unplanned but necessary changes.
Just as an aside, traveling with acute reflux symptoms is hell, but thanks to my very patient and understanding husband, it’s gone as easily and smoothly as possible. And, being away from home makes it a bit less challenging to start my modified diet.
I have to eliminate caffeine, chocolate, carbonated drinks, citrus fruits, and other acidic or spicy foods. Safe to say, I’m a little disappointed.
I happen to enjoy my 3 cups of coffee every morning, club soda throughout the day, an orange for an afternoon snack, some Thai curry or lamb shahi korma for dinner, and a bowl of chocolate ice cream for dessert. I enjoy it a lot.
The problem is, eating like that is killing me slowly.
I’m on Day 4 without caffeine now, and there’s a noteworthy difference: the pain is far more tolerable than its been in several days, even with the headaches. I still have painful esophageal spasms, so I’m trying to be mindful of everything that sets them off.
I have to see an ENT in the next few weeks to assess the throat damage and determine if additional treatment is warranted, and there are a few more modifications to diet, sleep, and exercise I need to make. All in all, my situation could be much worse. If I don’t make these changes, it definitely will be.
It’s perhaps fortunate that despite my fondness for acid-producing food and beverages, I’ve developed a relatively healthy diet. Foods that I’ve recently incorporated more of, like oats, lentils, quinoa, nuts and seeds, squash, beets, and sweet potatoes are encouraged in a reflux diet. I’m accustomed to eating them now. Toss in some leafy greens, and I need only eat these things more frequently.
I know I’m whining about my condition; part of this is the realization of how many of my chronic health complaints over the years are actually due to stomach upset. I know continuing my current lifestyle will only make me sicker and more miserable. If I want reasonably good health for the next 20+ years, I must give up several things I enjoy.
I’m allowing myself a few days for a pity-party, then it’s time to put the Big Girl panties back on.