By Steve Sharpton, Parsons Training Center, Tucson, Arizona
May 19, 2016
I'm not gonna lie to you, my family seems to be a wreck when it comes to health issues. Fortunately many of my family members have taken some steps to battle this onslaught of disease by actually eating better taking some precautionary steps to prevent further damage. We’re not a perfect family by no stretch, for some difficult problems had to be realized and painfully lived out before the said treatments were finally dealt with. So it is no stretch the imagination that my family is not really a healthy one at all, even though we are taking the necessary steps to finally do something about our various issues.
I’ve mentioned several times about the ravages of diabetes that pertains to my mother’s bloodline. My mother is trying to maintain a good blood sugar level while dealing with her heart issues. Every day she has to check just about every label, followed up with a usual response of “that has too much sugar in it.” Two of my sisters are pretty much lactose intolerant, and one has actually gone vegan for the most part. And then you have my poor father, though his main issues seem to be more physical as he strives to fix up his body from the wear and tear of a 45-year electrical career. And then you have me. Over the past few years, the scourge of disease kind of hit me in odd ways. First of all, my blood sugar was relatively high but still safe. My heart was strong but I was as huge as a blimp. I didn’t have any foreseeable muscle issues with my body and bones, but I was still relatively weak. I am the conundrum in the family, so it was an actual surprise to me when I got sick a few years ago and had to start taking proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) to battle my acid reflux problems. Over time, I kind of knew this would be a problem for me due to the fact that eating late would cause acid reflux. Eating too much candy would cause acid reflux. Eating too much cheesy, greasy garbage would cause acid reflux. I had to discover my illness the hard way, when a bizarre pocket of gas erupted in my mouth and it was like I had just stepped into the sewer and my gas mask suddenly split open. I kid you not, I nearly crashed my car that night, for I had to pull over into the parking lot at Casa Video and dry heave the vicious smell that had overtaken my senses. I thought I had run over an animal or some guy that rode his horse through the neighborhood and decided to lift the hood of my car and let his horse dump all his waste directly into my engine. That's how overpowering the smell was. It was everywhere…I couldn’t run away. It was fitting I was right next to the best video store in Tucson, for I’m sure there could have seen a movie in there that might have illustrated the tension I was feeling. Perhaps “Wolf Lake,” or maybe “Undead” or “The Blob”….. “From Justin to Kelly?” I never knew how to describe the feeling in my stomach or the smell in my mouth, but here is a good illustration.
When my father had to have his septic tank cleaned out not too long ago, it turned out to have a plethora of tree roots and dirt seeping into the tank. The guy doing the work had to shovel the stuff out in a bucket, physically hanging out in the dank and disgusting pits of the septic tank. They were these clumpy, mossy, disgusting clusters of human waste, dirt and whatever else can get into the septic system….and it stunk like nothing I had ever smelled before. I nearly puked twice from it, and the consistency of the septic du jour pate kind of made me visualize what my stomach most likley had lining the bottom during the horrific week where everything smelled like a treatment plant, even over my favorite food staples like chorizo and pizza.
I never thought my body could produce such a disturbing reality….the human body can be utterly disgusting in some instances. I mean, look at the near porn-fetish appeal people have in regards to seeing gigantic pimples being popped (which I guess I am weird, for a lifetime of acne problems helps me realize…things can be much worse!). I always point out this little anecdote about that particular night in front of the Casa Video. I should have done something more than just take a pill. I was too deep of course, too deep into the lifestyle of excessive food eating to really care. I may not have had matching furniture or appliances from this millennia, I at least had an ample supply of food stuffs that could make feel better in a heartbeat. Normally, when the symptom of “swamp smell” is showing up on your chart, shouldn’t you think a massive change might be in order? Either way, I went on the next year taking PPIs (mostly omeprazole) and living a life free of swamp smells and a stomach that felt like sack of fecal waste before finally taking some control of my health. It was definitely a good thing, because over the last few years, a new health issue is starting to rear its ugly head in my family. Over the last few years, my father has been dealing with some problems in relations to his esophagus….as in it is pretty much gone. While he is being his typical stubborn self, drinking coffee and wine, he has managed to maintain the problem with an even keel. But recently, a new addition to the club has been added….my older sister Christina. She too is having a lot of issues with her esophagus, so much to the point to the where she gave up coffee cold turkey. This is a woman that could drink side by side with me in regards to my coffee habit. Now, you might be able to blame the issue on their long histories of acid reflux disease. My sister has had many instances where she has been kept awake, while my father has been a long time PPI user to battle his problem. You can certainly blame the food problems and the natural acidity of their bodies as the culprit, but what if that is no longer the case?
While the groundswell has not been felt yet, for the revelation is only a few days old, what if the “acid” in acid reflux was just a misnomer? https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/05/160517191818.htm It seems the industry is about to be put on its back, for a new study has most likely pointed out the reason for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is not due to the long held belief of acid reflux, but due to a natural occurring protein in the body. It seems pretty simple, that something harsh and acidic like a bubbling stomach that has had a few too many sausages would be the culprit. Just the very word “acid” has so many destructive connotations. The Joker had acid in his flower pin, nearly killing Batman with a giant bell when he destroyed the weak foundations. The aliens in the “Aliens” series had acid blood that could burn holes in any type of metal. Heck, even “acid trips” are usually described with a negative tense, for we usually see such depictions negatively portrayed in popular media. So it makes for a perfect fall guy…the perfect bodily function that could be sending us to an early grave! According to the research conducted by the Esophageal Diseases Center at the Dallas VA Medical Center in Dallas Texas, the acid burns we might be accumulating in our throats may actually be cytokines. Now, don't think for a second that stomach acid doesn’t play a part in this equation. The only difference is now, the acid may not be the full answer.
As the research moved along, patients were issued PPIs in order to battle their acid reflux. Of course, the researchers removed the said patients from their regimens and predictably, the acid reflux came back. But much like in the TV show “House,” there was a new revelation discovered through the research. After steadily being on the PPIs, the “burning” of the esophagus was not consistent with what has happening before the PPI treatment. These changes were not consistent with a burning sensation up and down the throat, but more like an inflamed body part that was irritated. Much like some of my issues with my achilles tendon, its not because I actually injured the tendon per se, but I made problems come to light due to some bad shoes or running some trails I might not have been prepared. Rather than beg for some surgery or spend a whole lot of money on a brace or something, I started stretching the achilles more. Nowadays, when I suffer some problems, it usually means it is time to change the shoes out. Anyway, this new discovery has kind of turned 80 years of medical thinking on its head….but don’t think this is going change the future any time soon. Acid still is a central problem in the equation, for the exposure of stomach acid along the esophageal walls will excite the cytokines, which will in turn cause the inflammation. With one discovery comes a multitude of other studies to try and prove it wrong, and if it gets enough thumb ups in the reproduction department, then the very idea of creating a different type of drug to fight the problem could move forward.
Until further notice, the PPI prescription method will continue to be the first choice out of the gate, but the senior author Dr. Stuart Spechler. "Although this radical change in the concept of how acid reflux damages the esophagus of GERD patients will not change our approach to its treatment with acid-suppressing medications in the near future, it could have substantial long-term implications. We think that it is important for physicians to have an accurate understanding of the mechanisms underlying the diseases that we treat, especially one as common as GERD. Furthermore, our study should open up new avenues for novel GERD treatments.” Now here is the question for me…how will this affect me in the future? It is quite obvious GERD might be the gift I received from my father’s side of the family, and it might be high time for me to start considering some changes again. This means cutting out coffee, which might not happen any time soon. I tried it once already, and it was a pain in the butt!
Needless to say, this gives me something to ponder down the line. Let’s face it, one huge reason I decided to go into a plant based eating regimen was due to the problems within my own family. My mother had high blood sugar. My aunt nearly died from her diabetes complications and is on dialysis. My cousin nearly died from her diabetes complications as well. I have another cousin that is currently on medication and an aunt doing the same as well. So I have some things to ponder about the future. Now of course, the whole thing might get fast tracked and we might have safer, cytokine inhibiting drugs in the near future, but I’m going to hold my breath waiting. I need to keep walking this path and see where it takes me. So far I have been good, for the only time I have had any type of reflux has been the instances where I ate too many habaneros. But here was another sign of perspective for me. While helping out the friend of one of my parents move stuff out of his house, I got to meet the sad friend’s son. He was in bad shape; bad teeth, swollen legs due to poor circulation, poor fitness, extremely overweight, easily tired and rather dull and dry looking skin. I thought the guy was pushing 50, and then my mother told me he was 37! I really couldn’t believe it, for the difference between us were pretty much night and day. So for the next couple days or so, my own hang-ups about my weight and my flabby stomach will be out of my mind. Besides, I will be thinking about all of the days I have not been taking PPIs.
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Parsons Training is a Tucson leader in fitness and personal wellness training. Every personal trainer with this company designs and implements effective fitness programs for their clients; these programs serve as the foundation for good health, fitness, and wellness. Additional information about Parsons Training is available at http://www.parsonspersonaltraining.com
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Steve, a Parsons Training Client, went from 400 pounds to Running half-marathons, from lifting pizzas to lifting hundreds of pounds through training with us.