In 2009, I was on holiday in Wales with my husband. We’d had pizza for tea (well we were on holiday!) but by the time I went to bed, I had bad indigestion. Not just like a bit of pain or discomfort, but really bad, like something I’d never experienced before.
Now, this may well be TMI, but I just couldn’t stop hiccuping and burping. It felt like the pizza just hadn’t gone anywhere!
I was awake most of the night, but just assumed it would be gone by the morning. I was wrong.
The following night we were due to be going out for a nice meal, but the burping continued all day and all evening. I tried my husband’s antacids (that I’d never had before in my life). Nothing worked.
The hyperacidity diagnosis
When we got home, I headed straight for the doctors. I was then told it was acid indigestion and was put on a couple of different drugs. Like super-charged antacids.
They were horrible. I started sleeping 18 hours a day. And when I wasn’t asleep, I just couldn’t sit still.
The following weekend, my in-laws came to stay and we went to the theatre. I spent the whole show wriggling around in my seat. Unable to sit still, like I had ants in my pants. The side effects of these drugs really scared me and they clearly weren’t doing any good.
After various doctor’s appointments, I was finally sent to see a specialist. She told me that I was just swallowing air and then burping it back up again and that nothing was wrong with me.
I knew this wasn’t true, but she really wasn’t one to be argued with.
She arranged for me to have an upper GI endoscopy. A delightful procedure where a camera is put down your throat to view your oesophagus and stomach. I felt like an animal, and I had to be forcibly held down by multiple nurses while it was happening!
Fortunately it showed that there was nothing wrong with the oesophagus at all. But I did have a hiatus hernia. A small part of the upper section of my stomach was protruding into my oesophagus because my diaphragm wasn’t working properly.
She then just sent me home and said that it would go away of its own accord. It didn’t.
The detective nutritionist
A few months later, and nothing had changed. I was still burping most of the time, especially after eating. And I was willing to try anything.
I therefore arranged to go on a week-long juice fast to Turkey, in the hope that this would help. I’ll save more on the details of the retreat (and daily enemas) for another day!
While there, I met a nutritionist who just happened to share my maiden name.
After one quick test that involved pressing the end of one of my ribs, she thought she knew what was wrong. But she couldn’t prove it until we were back in London.
On my return, I went along to meet her and she undertook a remarkably simple test. It involved me swallowing a special piece of string while keeping hold of one end. Leaving it hanging in my stomach for 15 minutes. And then removing it again via my mouth.
Having had a high protein meal immediately beforehand, my stomach should have been full of acid as part of the digestion process. But, once removed and litmus tested (just like in school chemistry), the string showed that my stomach contained pretty much zero acid.
We repeated this test various times over the coming months, and the acidity of the string that had been in my stomach never really moved beyond neutral.
Rather than being hyperacidic as the doctor and everyone else had just assumed, I was actually hypoacidic. A diagnosis un-thought-of in conventional medicine.
My body was not producing any stomach acid. And in crude terms, everything I ate was just sitting in my stomach and rotting until it eventually broke down. Unfortunately, because of the hiatus hernia, any gas that this produced was then just coming straight up into my mouth. Lovely!
The fledging health coach
While in Turkey, and for the months afterwards working with the nutritionist, I learnt so much about health. I already thought I knew a fair bit (having been veggie for over 20 years), but I had barely scratched the surface.
And it wasn’t just about food. I also learnt about all the other things I could be doing to improve my health. The sleep, the stress reduction, the exercise, the meditation, etc.
I’d always been interested in this stuff, but I’d never really gone beyond the basics before. Suddenly I had my eyes opened to a whole different way of thinking about health and wellbeing.
Within a few years, I’d trained as a health coach and was helping others to create their own roadmaps towards great health and wellness.
As for my digestion, it’s still a work in progress! I can manage the symptoms through good diet and low stress, but I’m still experimenting with ways to kickstart it for good.
Now I’d love to hear how you relate to my story. Have you had a challenging health issue that conventional doctors didn’t even consider? Or some other awakening that has put you on a path to better health and wellbeing? I’d love to hear more in the comments below.