Health, Happiness and Hot Wings: My Laryngopharyngeal Reflux Journey

Did everything change for you when we went into the pandemic shutdown? It did for my family. We started online school and I started working remote. The pace when it all shifted was very stressful. A few months prior to all of the pandemic changes, my health world was turned upside down after a visit to my ENT. I was diagnosed with Laryngopharyngeal Reflux (LPR). I still can’t pronounce the name, but the diagnosis meant I had to make some swift changes to my diet and lifestyle.

LPR is a condition in which acid made in the stomach travels up the esophagus (swallowing tube) and gets into the throat. Ew, gross! It’s also not a fun experience. LPR is also called the “silent reflux” because many of the LPR symptoms are often more obscure than what you normally think of with heartburn symptoms, like burning in your chest. Instead, a person might experience hoarseness, coughing, soar throat, throat clearing or a feeling that a lump is in the throat. Like me, some don’t experience heartburn at all.

The symptoms can be subtle or pronounced yet mistaken for something else. The scary part of this disease is that the acid (pepsin) coming up and continually assaulting your throat tissue can cause serious health conditions over time, including throat cancer.

The doctor handed me a list of dos and don’ts, then told me to come back in 3 months. I cried. I also took a solid look at what my diet consisted of and how it was wrecking havoc on my body, mind and spirit.

Hot Wings and Beer

Oh did I love my hot wings and beer! Throw in a slice of pizza and it was heaven for me. My body, on the other hand, did not appreciate the combination.

I learned that one cannot live on hot wings and beer alone. It was fun while it lasted, but I had to give that up along with many other things I enjoyed to eat and drink.

The things I thought were healthy were not for someone with acid reflux issues. A tomato is packed with nutrients but is very acidic. An orange is a sweet treat loaded with vitamin C and is also very acidic. I loved my coffee with  Coffee Mate sweet cream every morning and had to say good bye to that as well. I don’t recommend quitting coffee cold turkey. The withdrawals are brutal!

I joke now about my love for hot wings and beer, but they were part of the issue with my overall eating and weight gain. I ate like I was still in my 20s. The impact was not only on my gut. It gave me brain fog and I felt sluggish.

I was at highest with my weight when this picture was taken in 2019. We had fun that day, but I didn’t feel well.

I was at the highest weight I had ever been at in my life, with exception to pregnancy weight gain. I didn’t feel all that great either. I had continual cravings for everything bad, like hot wings, beer, pizza, sweets and more. I couldn’t imagine giving all of that fun eating up and knew I had to.

New Day, New Diet

The initial shock of learning what foods I needed to cut passed and I dove into learning about LPR diets and lifestyle changes. I did a 180 on both. The hardest part of the shift was eliminating caffeine. After a couple weeks and forming new morning habits, I was fine with leaving coffee behind. My husband still makes morning brew and I love the aroma in the house.

I don’t like the word diet since it’s really just my eating lifestyle. Here’s a list of books that helped me get started and I still use regularly.

I have several books in my cookbook library now. I found these two authors are pretty aligned with the information they share about the disease, lifestyles changes and how to combat reflux with healing foods. Everyone has different food sensitivities and triggers. The important part is finding what works for you and your body.

It will really help to have support along the way. My hubs continues to be very supportive and tries all of my new recipes. Another great support I found was with Facebook groups. I joined a couple of LPR recipe groups and love them. I get inspired by new recipes people share and feel like I’m not alone when people share their frustrations with LPR. Find your tribe! They will help keep you motivated.

Getting Healthy Again

That’s me jumping rope!

It’s been about a year and a half since I shifted to my acid-friendly lifestyle with less acidic, high pH foods. I do enjoy a cocktail every now and then. I also completely fell off with my healthy eating and drinking around the holidays. I felt awful as a result. I picked back up with what is called the “healing phase” to get my body aligned again.

I’ve experimented with a lot of recipes. I failed at many recipes and also found a lot of great ones. I make soups, crackers, desserts, main dishes, side dishes and more that are all created for the acid-friendly lifestyle.

My whole family is eating better too. My symptoms have reduced significantly and I work on it every day. Some days are harder than others.

Food can be your enemy that will slowly destroy you from within or it can be the healing medicine your body uses to make you stronger. It’s up to you to decide which it will be.

Below are some of the suggested changes you’ll see associated with LPR and removing them from my diet helped me. I eliminated:

  • Caffeine. It sounds crazy to eliminate. It’s possible and it’s worth it.
  • Alcohol. You can also learn about the pH in alcohol to determine the best for low-acid enjoyment. For me, Tito’s vodka and fresh watermelon juice. Yum!
  • Fried foods, fast food, processed food. I don’t miss them! It just took some willpower and I don’t crave them now. I’ll still fry food at home with olive oil.
  • Citrus, tomatoes, garlic, onions, chocolate, mint. I found substitutes for all of these!
  • Soda. I didn’t drink it really anyway.

Whether you’re battling acid like me or want to create healthier eating habits, you can choose one change at a time to get started and see how you feel. I chose to cut many things at once and although it was hard in the beginning, I am glad I made the lifestyle changes. I lost 25 pounds pretty quickly as a result and then spent time working to build the muscle back up. Every day is a new day to try again.

Cultivating Happiness in Your Life

Some people are just born happy it seems. Others have a hard time with happiness. No matter where you fall, happiness is something that can be built upon each day. A healthy attitude of ‘can-do thoughts’ help you get there. It’s interesting how happiness and health go hand in hand. You really can’t enjoy one without the other. So how do you up your level of happiness? Below are a few things I do each day.

  • Set your mind to it. You can be happy. You can be mad. Whatever you make up your mind to be, you will be.
  • Practice daily gratitude.
  • Exercise every day. Even a short walk can put you in a positive mindset.
  • Laugh with your loved ones.
  • Make time for others.
  • Stop the blame game.
  • Journal your thoughts, aspirations, goals.

I’m not going to lie. I miss the hot wings and beer sometimes. I miss the freedom of eating whatever I want. I don’t miss how miserable I felt inside and out. When my sister passed away from ovarian cancer, I remember the Ovarian Cancer Coalition had a campaign with a saying that resonated with me. “It whispers so listen.” Your body will give you signs of distress and signs of wellness. It’s up to you and me to listen, take action and be vigilant. Subtle signs can be a warning for you to make a change.

LPR will always be with me and part of my evolved lifestyle. Disease, disability or trauma shouldn’t be what define us though. They can be the catalyst for change and new beginnings.

Stay well. Be Healthy.  🙂

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