For this case study blog post, Natalia, one of the Holistic Nutritionists on my team, is sharing the exact protocol & plan one of her clients went through and the results they got - in their own words!
You can check out some past ones we’ve done here:
When Tatyana initially came to me she wanted to address acid reflux. She had been taking Pariet, a heartburn medication, for just over a year and was convinced it would be something she’d have to continue taking over the long term. Some of her other symptoms included weight gain, indigestion, bloating and gas. She had no known food sensitivities but suspected she was intolerant to lactose.
Here’s why Tatyana came to me, in her own words…
“Before I was seeing Natalia, I had been suffering from acid reflux and severe heartburn and been on medication for almost a year. I was taking the medication almost every day and was always in discomfort. This included losing sleep. A family member recommended beginning sessions with Natalia to help reduce the reflux problems and get off the medication.”
Before we started working together, I had her complete a very detailed intake questionnaire as well as a four day food and mood journal to get a better idea of where she was at. A typical breakfast might have been cereal with lactose-free milk, a bagel or rye toast with Kraft peanut butter and strawberries, snacks were often a baked good from the coffee shop, and lunch and dinner may have been takeout such as pizza, souvlaki or something homemade like a wrap. She rarely drank coffee and only enjoyed the occasional alcoholic drink, which was great because they are two things that can be irritating with reflux and can be hard to give up even if just for the short term.
The first thing we did from a dietary standpoint was focus on transitioning her diet away from takeout, convenience and refined foods and instead focused on more real, whole, nutrient dense foods. For example, her new breakfasts included high protein, low sugar green smoothies, overnight oats and eggs. Having protein at breakfast and moving away from carb-heavy breakfasts also helped to balance her blood sugar levels so she felt full longer and had less cravings later in the day, which made it easier to make healthier choices. Lunches and dinners were primarily one pot or one pan meals or under 30 minutes so they were easier for her to adopt. Some of the simple swaps included trading pasta and flours for legume based pasta or spiralized zucchini noodles, store-bought dressings for homemade dressings, Kraft peanut butter to natural peanut and almond butter, and focus on filling her plate with veggies. Instead of taking away all sweets I just provided her with healthier swaps for muffins, energy bites and cookies in addition to simple snacks like fruit and nuts and hummus and veggies. I provided her with weekly meal plans and recipes to support this. I also gave her guidelines for meal planning on the weekend so she could have healthy meals and snacks prepared ahead of time. We knew that this was an important part of helping her to stay on track when the week got busy.
It’s really important to me to educate my clients on why we are doing something so that when we are done working together they still have the tools to maintain this lifestyle. A common misconception with acid reflux is that it develops from too much stomach acid, when in reality it often develops when undigested food putrefies or ferments, leading to pressure and gas and a sensation of acid in the esophagus (more on that here). Antacid medication suppresses stomach acid production but you need stomach acid to digest food and to keep the stomach sterile and free of unhealthy bacteria. To get to the root cause of acid reflux, you have to make sure all food is being digested properly and that starts with actually stimulating stomach acid production (provided you don’t have ulcers). We removed common culprits like processed foods, junk food, dairy, gluten and refined sugars which are often difficult to digest and can lead to inflammation in the digestive tract and favour an overgrowth of unhealthy bacteria. Even lactose-free milk can be problematic for people with a dairy intolerance or compromised digestion because many people still have trouble with casein, another protein in cow’s dairy.
I also had her drink lemon water in the morning, drink more water in general and incorporate herbal teas like chamomile and dandelion teas, all of which can help to stimulate digestion to support healthy stomach acid production. I encouraged her to focus on mindful eating techniques like not eating in front of the TV, not eating on the run or while stressed, which seems odd but can impair digestion since digestion begins with the sight, smell and thought of food.
From a supplement standpoint, I had her take digestive enzymes before each meal in order to further promote adequate digestion. This can help your body break down food and assimilate nutrients more effectively. Processed foods and sugary foods favour the growth of unhealthy bacteria in the gut so I also had her take a probiotic to support a healthy microbiome. Acid reflux can be very inflammatory on the GI tract, so once I felt like she was in a good place with her diet and lifestyle, I had her take a supplement to support the repair and healing of the digestive tract to address any outstanding inflammation. Other than that, we didn’t have to include many supplements, which was great!
“After a few weeks of following Natalia’s suggestions on diet changes and supplements, I immediately noticed that I was feeling better. It was a hard lifestyle change, but Natalia was always helpful and supportive. And it has all been worth it! Presently, I have not had to take medication for 7 months and I feel so much healthier and happier. The lifestyle changes have become more natural to me and I am excited to continue this journey to see even more results, including weight loss and continuing to keep my acid reflux to a minimum.”
The important thing to note about Tatyana is that prior to working together she was experiencing a lot of discomfort, so she really put in an effort to make a change. The initial problem was that Tatyana didn’t know what a healthy breakfast or snack really looked like (because the information out there can be confusing), so once she understood how to build a more balanced meal and found recipes she liked, she was quick to adopt the changes. As she started to see results she was more motivated to keep going. Some weeks, in the summer or over the holidays for example, it was harder to eat healthy all of the time, but she jumped right back into her meal prep when she returned and didn’t beat herself up about it.
She’s now in a place where she can still enjoy the occasional pizza dinner but might pair it with a salad or some veggies, and no longer experiences any symptoms. She’s now been able to turn her focus into getting more movement on a daily basis and continuing to build healthy lifestyle habits. Furthermore, not only has she not had to take her medication for nearly a year, but she really only keeps her digestive enzymes on hand for dinners out or holidays!
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