In November of 2009 I received an email from Jean after she discovered this blog. With permission, I post Jean’s emails to me here because I believe they can certainly help someone else reading this blog if they face similar circumstances as Jean. Plus, Jean offered many helpful links for further research and information. Thank you, Jean.
Jean’s first email to me:
Hi Mary Ann,
Well, I was glad to see your post since it mirrored some of my own 'events' and research. Isn't it a shame that it's so difficult to get constructive medical help for digestive issues!
My own story is quite similar to yours, though never identified as 'acid reflux'. I have had several health issues crop up since menopause some 10 years ago. First, it was relentless weight gain that was unresponsive to diet and exercise (only gained, never lost). I did a lot of research and finally got diagnosed as sub-clinically hypothyroid and used Armour, which helped with numerous symptoms but not weight. Even with all the changes, I still do better on Armour than any of the synthetics. Obtaining Naturethroid around here is exceedingly difficult, and I haven't yet found a pharmacy willing to get it.
Then, after several years, I started having episodes of what I thought were lactose intolerance, followed by dairy intolerance and intolerance to beef....
In 2006, I went vegan in an attempt to reverse what doctors told me was a march into diabetes (successfully reversed by vegan diet). Eating vegan (no animal products) certainly reduced stomach troubles since plants apparently are easier to digest. But during that same period I also discovered that my adrenal function was very low.
My vitamin D levels were about 20, similar to yours. Took me several months of 5000iu/day to get into the normal range, and I currently take 10,000iu/day over the winter. (I'll see what my most recent numbers are after I get the results of this last week's tests.) I was aggravated that I had to argue my doctor into doing the D test, then discover it was so low since low D raises the risk for about 26 different cancers. See:
and a truly excellent video presentation at:
It's both informative and funny (ignore the dinosaurs and evolution references). The important info is about D.
In January of 2008, I had an extremely painful stomach episode, and eventually went to the ER as my heart rate and blood pressure were extremely high (scared the ER staff). After running about $9000 worth of tests (thankfully covered under our health insurance) they came bounding back to tell me they couldn't find anything particularly wrong and it must have been something I ate...." Well, golly, fellas, that's the best you can come up with?
Fortunately, I had just started working with a FNP who had a background in nutrition and who also has digestive issues. She immediately thought of low stomach acid and recommended Betaine HCL with Pepsin (I use Solaray or NSI 650mg) and, like you, that has provided real relief - but not all of the answers.
In my research, I've come across some info that you might want to check out for yourself. First, the Gastroparesis articles written by Dr.Bernstein do have application for low levels of stomach acid since the symptoms of the two disorders overlap. They are posted at:
The article are #8-17 though the reading order is reversed with the earlier articles being the higher numbers thus the first article is #17, etc. Articles 6, 7, 8, 9 are of particular interest and are short reads.
Next, I have come across the concept that raw daily green smoothies WILL help improve low stomach acid conditions. It's in the back of the book "Green For Life": http://www.rawfamily.com/prodlinks/gfl.html
I do know that when I use green smoothies I see/feel a nearly immediate energy response. Noticing that positive reaction and realizing that digestion was indeed a problem for me, I've shifted over to liquid vitamins. I currently use 'Lifetime Life's Basics Whole Food Concentrate' though there are a number of brands available. I've also shifted to liquid Calcium, B and trying liquid D - all in an effort to overcome the various deficiencies that have developed over time due to my poor digestion. I am happy to say that I saw an immediate improvement in energy levels after about 2 weeks or less using the liquid vitamins.
Lastly, exercises like walking are said to stimulate digestion, and since walking is hard for me I've been having good success by using my rebounder (mini-trampoline). Three minutes several times a day really gets the lymphatic system moving and seems to improve digestion too. It ought to be as helpful as the Flamingo stance in strengthening bone as well.
I now eat predominately vegan, but as I have low adrenal function, animal proteins are considered necessary to resolve adrenal issues. I have a lot of trouble digestion animal proteins (except fish and seafood) So...I eat a fruit smoothie in the a.m., my 'animal protein' (usually fish or shrimp) with lunch, and try to eat a light dinner (soup and salad). I've been considering grinding up cooked meat or pureeing it to get more protein into the day, but so far haven't actually gone to that length.
Eating vegan works very well overall, but it's hard to get the recommended amount of plant protein that is apparently needed for adrenal repair in a strictly plant-based diet.
I just wanted to share the info that I've found and congratulate you on your blog!
Jean’s second email to me:
Hi Mary Ann,
I just wanted to touch base with someone else that's diligently working on resolving digestive issues from the 'patient' side of the health care equation. It's actually quite surprising that there is so little general knowledge about using diet to correct digestion. Fortunately, I have the time and experience to do research, otherwise I'd be even worse off ;)
As I read others stories, I realize my own digestive problems pale by comparison. So many people are dealing with really, really severe digestive issues. It's somewhat frightening to realize the current medical system knows so very little about digestion and can offer so little in the way of real help. If I wanted to be guinea pig I'd grow fur! The person with digestive issues really IS on their own.
Keep in touch as you uncover new ideas.
Jean’s third email to me:
I agree that not all people with digestive disorders are ready for dietary change because we tend to like life as it is. There's a quote around that goes something like "it's easier to change a man's religion than his diet" which is too true to be humorous, especially for men.
Women tend to be more pragmatic about diet changes.
I've found that leading by example works best, along with open discussion on diet topics with friends and family. People understand that I eat mostly vegan for health and not political reasons so they feel less judged. I really don't expect people to change, but I make sure they have the info needed just in case they surprise me.
Just in case you hadn't already come across this info, one of the earliest dietary items I came across was related to Melvin Page, a dentist, and his work on balancing blood chemistry through diet:
Basically, variations of Page's work forms the foundation of many of our modern popular 'diet' books.
And it's pretty consistent across the digestive discussion boards that to resolve digestive issues one has to go back to 'real' food, preferably organic, and simplify, simplify. Basically, our internal 'ecosystem' is under assault and some individual's digestive 'ecosystems' are much more sensitive than others. When we eat we are engaging in internal ecosystem management, with all the problems of over population in some areas, under population in others, pollution, timing problems, damage control, etc.
I think the hardest dietary adjustment for me has been the need to go back to cooking from scratch (or nearly from scratch), and I really am not a great cook, nor do I enjoy cooking. But, cooking from scratch is the only way to limit )(*&^% in the daily meals.
Another hard adjustment is that the sequence of events in digestive disintegration are hard to pin down. So, just when you think you are onto something useful, you find out you are asking the wrong questions or following the wrong lead. Example: I thought I was developing food intolerances, when in fact the problem was actually low stomach acid. But I didn't know anything about Hypochlorhydria's connection to food intolerances as the books don't really discuss that aspect. Once I discovered Hypochlorhydria information, it became clear that Hypochlorhydria must have preceded my food intolerances. It's really hard to find out exactly which symptom leads to the cart and which symptom leads you to the horse, and reversing problems really depends on getting the cart behind the horse.
Keep up the good work!
Thank you Jean, for all the helpful insight and links. Jean is very right in her assessment that diet changes are hard to make, but they are worth the effort. And it is hard to figure out what symptoms are the cart and which are the horse leading the cart. However, I encourage us all to persevere, for our own health.