Thriving with GERD (An Interview with Renee)

Renee HuntToday’s interview is with Renee Hunt. Renee is one of the key contributors to Kitchology platform helping with recipe development, nutrition, and wellness among others. Renee is finishing her Master in Nutrition and the author/manager of the great blog Renee shares her story with us.

  • What was your health challenge that led you to follow an elimination diet?

When I was 13 or 14 years old, I was diagnosed with Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).  I would experience heart burn frequently after eating and I actually thought it was normal. Doesn’t everyone get a little indigestion and burning in their chest after eating? It was made apparent to me that this was definitely not the norm, especially for a string-bean of a girl in her early teen years.

I was placed on numerous proton pump inhibitors, at very high doses I might add, for a number of years. I even participated in a clinical trial for a new “promising” drug that ended up failing me.  Despite the lack of results, I believed my symptoms to be manageable so I kept trucking along until my sophomore year of college.

The combination of school and social stress, parties, and an unbalanced diet landed me in the hospital with severe pain in my stomach and upper back.  There was so much erosion in my stomach and esophagus that tumors developed.  While benign, this was absolutely terrifying.

I saw a new gastroenterologist who decided during my first visit that an alternative approach was needed.  She suggested I try an elimination diet and together we determined which foods I could tolerate and which ones I could not.  It was a slow process but I finally began to heal and ditched my bottles of meds for good.

  • What changes (short term and long term) did you make?

While everyone is different, I found I felt my best when I followed a plant-based diet; I have been a vegetarian for many years now and have seen a dramatic improvement in my health. Other triggers that I completely eliminated in the beginning were coffee, citrus, alcohol (a feat for any college student!), dairy, meat and fish, and foods high in fat and sugar.

This limited approach to eating really did allow my gut to heal, but it was definitely not something I could do long term. The world is so much better with cheese!  Now, while I still follow a plant-based diet, I am able to enjoy some of these foods in moderation because my body was finally given a chance to heal.

  • Did you have any challenges?

Yes! Parties and happy hours were not as much fun. To be honest, they weren’t much fun before when I had to deal with the resulting physical pain. My roommates also had a hard time understanding why my diet suddenly became so limited.  At first, I felt the need to explain to everyone why I was “so lame” but I came to the realization that I didn’t have to justify my actions. I was improving my health and that’s where I shifted my focus. Oddly enough, I actually enjoyed the challenge of finding new ways to eat and I spent a lot of time making a mess in our kitchen.  My roommates didn’t like that much either….

  • What is you go-to feel-good meal?

Buddha bowls.  I like quick, easy meals during the week that require very little cooking or heat (especially in the summer).  I make a large batch of plain quinoa, bulgur, or brown rice and keep it on hand throughout the week.  Then I just add a hefty half cup to a bowl and zap it in the microwave.  Once steaming hot, I add thinly sliced raw veggies (whatever I can find) and the heat from the grain actually slightly cooks the vegetables.  I whip up a dressing of tahini, lemon juice, and garlic and pour that over top. Add some chickpeas or tempeh and my meal is complete.

  • What would you tell someone who is newly diagnosed or has similar challenges?

Think about your lifestyle and do not seek a quick fix. Be patient. Do a little research and seek support from others with the same diagnosis.  It makes such a difference to be able to connect with someone who knows exactly what you are going through.  Bounce ideas off each other, share your experiences, share recipes.  Kitchology is the perfect platform to do just that.

About Alain Briancon 12 Articles

Dr. Alain Briancon is the CEO and Co-Founder (with Iris Sherman) of Kitchology. He caught the startup bug in his forties and has been unable to shake it ever since.

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