We recently heard from a member who wanted to share the story of how she stopped taking PPIs once and for all. Her story is a great example of how educating yourself and taking charge of your health can lead to a dramatic improvement in how you feel. It also reminds us of the importance of weight management and adopting an anti reflux diet.
Erin is a busy mother who started to experience the symptoms of GERD when she was pregnant with her son. Her symptoms only worsened after gaining some weight, and when she learned she had osteopenia in her hip, she decided it was time to start making her health a priority.
This is Erin’s story.
I thought I would write in about my experience in getting off my PPI medication (Protonix). I am glad to say that I am FINALLY off all medicines and am symptom free for the first time in a LONG time!
I started having GERD symptoms when I was pregnant with my son
My reflux symptoms have varied over the years. I first began having symptoms when I was pregnant with my son 14 years ago. Throughout my pregnancy, it was horrible. I had to sleep sitting up. Otherwise, I would regurgitate and choke all night. It was all the pressure from the baby. It settled down about six months after I delivered, but it would flare up whenever I would eat too late at night, especially if I ate a trigger food.
Several years later I started taking PPIs to control my symptoms
Then, about seven years later, I started experiencing sharp, stabbing pains in my abdomen and was quite concerned. I had an endoscopy and was prescribed Protonix. My doctor told me about the long-term risk of osteoporosis and hip fractures, but he said that the risks of not taking the medication far outweighed the risks of bone problems. He did not say anything about the disease progressing. I took the Protonix religiously, and I was completely symptom-free for several years.
Learn more: Four reasons to kick your soda habit
Stress leads to weight gain and the return of my symptoms
I have been under severe stress at times since the birth of my son, and my weight has fluctuated a lot. Shortly after I started taking the Protonix, I started to gain weight. Over the course of four years, I gained close to 50 pounds. I began having GERD at night, so I went in for another endoscopy, and that’s when my doctor saw I had a hiatal hernia. I probably had the hernia when I was pregnant, too.
After that second endoscopy, I expressed concern about how long I had been taking Protonix because I knew of the long-term side effects. He ordered a bone scan and saw I had osteopenia in my left hip. He also did blood work that showed I was anemic and my vitamin D level was extremely deficient. I knew it had something to do with the PPI. My body just wasn’t absorbing the essential vitamins/minerals from my food. I made up my mind to lose the weight in hopes that the GERD would resolve itself.
I decide to get serious about my health – adopting an anti reflux diet
I had done lot of research about the long-term effects of PPIs and how they affect your digestion. Over time, your body stops absorbing the vitamins and minerals from the food you eat. I knew I wanted to stop the PPI, but I also knew I had a couple of other unhealthy habits I had to nix first, such as drinking soda and eating too many processed foods.
I decided that the first step I needed to take was to eliminate soda from my diet. I had already eliminated all the trigger foods, including chocolate, acidic, and spicy foods. Once I gave up the soda, I noticed how much better I felt in my abdomen…no more bloating and gas.
Learn more: 5 Steps to an Effective Acid Reflux Diet
Being 50 pounds overweight was NOT helping, so that became my next step. I adopted a low carb diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, and lean protein. I eliminated all dairy and grains. I drank a smoothie every day for breakfast. I lost 20 pounds on my own, and then I hit a plateau, so last August, I went and saw a personal trainer who gave me lots of nutrition/fitness advice. I managed to lose 30 pounds following his advice and training with him in just six months time. In total, it has taken me two years to lose 50 pounds.
Weaning off PPIs
I figured out on my own that the Protonix masked the real problems I had to deal with (losing weight and adjusting my diet). Once I had lost about 25 pounds, I decided to try to taper/wean myself of the PPI. I tried talking to my family doctor about it, and he said I would need to be on it for life. I refused to accept that.
Learn more: Get started on your path to relief
I started to taper myself off the PPI in October. I began by taking the PPI every other day for two weeks, then I went to every third day for two weeks. I sometimes took a Zantac, but for the most part, didn’t experience much heartburn. By the end of one month, I stopped the PPI completely and now I don’t even need Zantac. I was amazed at how smoothly it went. I had tried stopping the Protonix before by stopping cold turkey and by the third day of that, I was miserable because the rebound effect. Tapering off was the key to my success.
How I feel today
I have now successfully lost the 50 pounds of extra weight and I am medication and symptom free! Adopting an anti reflux diet and losing weight allowed me to stop the medication once and for all! I feel great! I wanted to share my story because I truly believe that more people can do what I did to restore their health naturally.
In my experience, the PPIs were effective, but in retrospect, I think the Protonix simply masked the real issue of needing to lose weight. I think the lifestyle changes like not eating late at night, losing weight, and making better dietary choices (including steering clear of trigger foods) worked better than Protonix ever could. Protonix simply masked what the real problems were.
We hope Erin’s story motivates you to take a look at your diet and lifestyle to see where you have room for improvement. While these changes can be difficult to make (and stick with!), they are a key part of improving your health long-term. Thank you, Erin, for sharing your story!