It’s plain and simple: I love food. My DVR is stacked with recordings of Food Network shows. It’s safe to say that I am 100 percent a foodie. Despite this, food does not love me. For as long as I can remember, I have had acid reflux. Sure, some people get heartburn after eating a specific meal, but I wish it was that simple for me.

In high school, I was nauseated every day. I had trouble holding down my meals. It didn’t matter if I was at home, school or a restaurant. It honestly seemed like I was throwing up at least once a day.

I would watch what I would eat and still have acid reflux. Even water would have me running to the medicine cabinet for a cure. The foodie inside of me was slowly dying –metaphorically, of course – and I didn’t like it.

I was living on Pepto Bismol and Tums and after more than a year and recommendations from friends I finally visited a Gastroenterologist, a doctor who specializes in that gastrointestinal (GI) tract and I was diagnosed with Gastroesophogeal reflux disease, which is commonly referred to as GERD.

acid reflux

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Most people at some point in their life will have their bouts with acid reflux and heartburn, but for people with GERD, there is constantly stomach acid forcing its way up through the esophagus. In addition to chronic acid reflux, side effects of GERD also include hiccups, which I suffer from at least once a day, and nausea.

My mom and I were relieved when we found out that there was finally a reason to why I never felt good, but with this definitive answer, I would have to change my eating habits. I was not a happy camper

One of the hardest things I had to do was give up apple juice. I lived on Mott’s and was really annoyed that my doctor didn’t want me to drink my favorite juice. She knew better than me, and still to this day as soon as I take a sip, I instantly have a burning sensation rise up through my chest.

acid reflux

Photo by Erin Grady

Everything I eat has to be in moderation. I have to stay away from tomato products like ketchup and marinara sauce. I used to love pizza, but now I can only eat it when I’m really craving it. Spicy foods are a no-go, so Chipotle is out of the question.

acid reflux

Photo by Audrey Mirabito

I can’t eat foods with a lot of fat in it, or I will have a bad flare-up. A hamburger sent me to the hospital one time. On top of that, dairy is tricky – mozzarella sticks are basically a death sentence for me. I’ve been lactose intolerant since I was 11 and, although I feel fine when I take Lactaid pills, my doctor said that will also aggravate my symptoms.

As painful as it is, I have to make choices about what I eat and drink. Once favorite foods are now only had once in a blue moon. My doctor told me I had to cut out caffeine and even gum, but those are two things I just can’t budge on.

At the end of the day, feeling good is more important than what I get to eat. Sure, sometimes I really miss my apple juice and a good slice of pizza, but I’d rather not have stomach problems.

In a way, being diagnosed with GERD was kind of a blessing in disguise. A lot of the food I was eating wasn’t good for me. I find myself eating healthier and feeling better physically. Although the foodie in me would be annoyed with substituting menu items in the past, now it’s second nature to me and if I’m ever in a foodie funk, I can just open Instagram.