At the time of writing this, it’s been about a year since I started suffering from laryngopharyngeal reflux. Anniversaries are great times for reflection, and I’ve found myself thinking back to how this all started for me.
Early Warning Signs
There are a few distinct episodes that I remember very clearly – the ones that made me realise that something relatively serious was going on – but if I’m honest with myself, there were warning signs before that. In the year or two before I was diagnosed with laryngopharyngeal reflux, I had plenty of strange little niggles that, in retrospect, were signs of trouble brewing.
I remember a couple of occasions where I ate a small but fatty snack, and was completely unable to eat any dinner afterwards – as if I was completely full. I also recall a few occasions where the morning after a fatty dinner, I woke up with what I thought was a terrible hangover, despite not having consumed much alcohol. I started noticing that I was belching all the time, even when I hadn’t recently eaten. That last, particularly unpleasant symptom seemed to occur most often at the gym.
There were also some more acute warning signs that I didn’t connect with my digestion. For instance, I went to the doctor complaining of chest pains and was told it was a stress-induced oesophageal spasm. It seems pretty obvious now that this had to have some kind of gastrointestinal component, but at the time, I just took the suggestion that it was entirely stress induced at face value.
As unpleasant as it is to write about, I think the biggest warning sign was the fact that my stomach was never entirely happy. I didn’t have any serious symptoms. I never wound up sprinting for the toilet or going for days without a visit, but my digestion seemed to constantly be oscillating between a bit too slow, and a bit upset. I was anything but regular.
Despite all these signs that something in my gastrointestinal tract wasn’t quite right, I didn’t immediately make any connections with what ensued just about a year ago.
The Onset Of LPR
The first specific episode I remember was coming home from a relatively late dinner out that involved a bit of wine. My wife and I thought it would be fun to make fruit smoothies for a second dessert with our recently acquired Nutribullet. We blitzed some bananas and berries and gulped them down. Twenty minutes later, I felt incredibly bloated and was belching uncontrollably, to the point where I was even regurgitating a bit of my smoothie. I had just eaten dinner, and that’s what I ascribed it to, but I remember being quite worried that I could react this way to a bit of pureed fruit.
At a later date, I remember coming home from a big workout at the gym, and making coconut flour pancakes topped with macadamia nut butter, bacon and a little bit of Canadian maple syrup, one of our favourite (relatively) low carb indulgences. Within 30 minutes of eating, I was incredibly uncomfortable. This now familiar, but at the time very perturbing, feeling of a welling up in my throat started to come on. I had no idea what was happening to me, so I didn’t even know how to alleviate the symptoms. I just freaked out, which I’m sure didn’t make things any better.
I think the final straw that convinced me to go to the doctor was after drinking what I thought was the healthiest possible breakfast smoothie. It was full of avocado, nuts, berries, a little bit of banana and some extra added fat in the form of coconut oil. My throat became so sore it felt like a stabbing pain. I remember feeling absolutely drained when it finally subsided, like I’d just been through a bout of torture.
That afternoon I took myself to the doctor. To his credit, he diagnosed me pretty quickly. That was the first time I heard the term laryngopharyngeal reflux. I walked out the door with the advice not to consume tomatoes, citrus, chocolate or coffee, as well as a prescription for Nexium, a common PPI.
I’m usually pretty careful about taking pharmaceuticals; I tend to do plenty of research before fulfilling a prescription, but I was so drained and desperate for help with this seemingly inexplicable issue, that I went straight to the pharmacy and took my first pill shortly thereafter. In retrospect, I wish I hadn’t, as the PPIs did anything but help, but that’s a story for another day…