Trading Tomatoes for Tums: Battling Silent Reflux

I’ve always been the one in the Fit-Bottomed group without dietary restrictions of any sort. Jenn nixes gluten; Kristen is vegetarian; Tish deals with lactose intolerance and acid reflux. And up until this point, I’ve been lucky. I joke that I’m the garbage disposal of the group; the goat who will even eat tin cans.

But that all changed about a month ago when I was getting over a cold and instead of getting better, I got a sore throat that I still have. Yep, a sore throat that has lasted more than a month. I’ve only had about two days where it hasn’t hurt most of the day — and even those days it kicks up with a vengeance about an hour before bed. For awhile I thought maybe it was residual from my cold. I took a break from working out to get as much rest as possible. I thought maybe it was from talking or yelling too much with/at the kids, so I rested my voice as much as I could. But when nothing was working, I headed to an ENT who diagnosed me with silent reflux. silent-reflux-585

Silent reflux is weird — you have acid reflux, but you don’t have the standard heartburn and acid-in-the-throat feeling. My heartburn is really mild, actually. Instead, the silent type of reflux gives you a sore throat, cough, constant throat clearing and a lump in your throat that won’t quit. I also get a random choking sensation that is quite fun, trust me. Heartburn and reflux are super common in pregnancy, but because I don’t exactly want to wait three more months for it to go away, I’ve been researching acid reflux trigger foods to see if I could curb the misery just a bit more. I shared quite a bit of what I’m doing to help myself out over on Fit Bottomed Mamas, but I’m going to specifically talk about giving up foods that trigger heartburn because I do not do well with eliminating foods from my diet! I now know why I live by the mantra “everything in moderation.”

A few common heartburn culprits include chocolate, spicy foods, citrus foods, tomatoes, garlic and onion. Go ahead and lump coffee in there too, and you basically have a list of many of my favorite foods. I mean, when I told Jenn about chocolate, she said, “But eating chocolate is basically one of the FBG principles!” It’s true. And I eat garlic and onion in everything, and tomatoes are a staple in my house. And because I can’t have red wine or alcohol, I allow myself a Diet Coke now and then as my guilty treat — which is a two-for-one caffeine and carbonation heartburn hit.

So while I’ve been steering clear of these foods, I have noticed a slight improvement — an improvement over just medication alone, for sure. I’ve had a few days where my throat is just mildly sore. And I can tell when I’m not on my best behavior (like when I splurge on chocolate-chip pancakes and coffee), I have a noticeable uptick in the severity of pain. I’ve also been eating smaller meals — not going back for seconds when I usually would and not eating much after dinner when Evening Snack is my middle name — and that has helped with the overnight coughing and choking.

I’m sincerely hoping this is just one of those blips that I can get under control with over-the-counter meds and diet — and that it’ll be one of those weird pregnancy symptoms that just goes away once the baby is born. I can’t imagine having to give up chocolate for the long term! But I’ll say it’s been a very good lesson for me in appreciating my health every day because you never know when a weird ailment is going to crop up. And it’s really made me have a crazy amount of compassion and sympathy for those who do have dietary restrictions.

Have you dealt with having to give up any of your favorite foods before? Have you eaten them and kicked yourself later? —Erin


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  1. Good luck to you!

    I’ve had heartburn similar to yours for years–it started, mildly, before I was pregnant with my first child, but definitely kicked into high gear while I was pregnant with her. I had an industrial-sized bottle of Tums with me all the time. It settled down after I had her. Then, during my last pregnancy, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, and while I still drank some coffee every day, my diabetes diet seemed to cut out whatever was triggering most of my heartburn, so that during my last trimester, I very rarely took any Tums at all. (And medicine, prescription-style, is just something I’d rather not do when Tums would do the trick.)

    Now, during my third pregnancy, I was back on Tums again until recently–I’ve been GD’d again, so I’m back on my diabetes diet, and the Tums have gradually made their way out of my daily requirements again.

  2. I have similar issues and when I treat myself to some soda I’m basically just prepared with tums . I know it’s bound to happen, but I don’t want to not give into a random craving here and there.

    Is that bad?

    Feel better!

  3. Do you get the sensation of something crawling up your throat and it triggers your gag reflux so you’re coughing and gagging at the same time? I thought it was my allergies but then I noticed it only happened after I had tomatoes or something spicy or if I was really full from dinner. I cut out anything acidic like tomatoes, citrus and soda (i know, bad) and it hasn’t happened since then. I always keep honey straws or throat drops around just in case. They used to help( in the past) to stop the reaction.

  4. Stefanie, as long as you’re prepared for the consequences! I’m definitely not being perfect, I know it’s just a risk sometimes! :)

    And Kerry Lee: Oh, the wonderful cough/gag? Yes, I totally get that too. I’m so worried I’ll have to cough in public and follow it up with a gag, but luckily that hasn’t happened yet. And since I’ve switched things up, it happens less often! The worst!


  5. I had been taking Prilosec for about 4 years every day. I hated having to take it. So in December 2014 I decided to stop taking it and figure out my trigger foods. fat content and carbonation are my 2 biggest triggers. Milk has the fat content but it also acts as an acid stabilizer which then causes my stomach to over produce acid. So no more milk or milk like products. I can still eat ice cream, cheese, and butter. Peanut butter has a high fat content and sent my stomach roaring. Thank goodness for PB2. Soda and other carbonated drinks weren’t hard to say bye to since I really don’t like them to begin with. The hardest for me to give up was oatmeal. It took me forever to figure out it was a problem because I had always heard oatmeal was good for heartburn. I tried everything to continue to eat it but the stuff that worked didn’t taste good or was too much work. The closer oatmeal is to raw the worse my heartburn is. The easiest on my stomach is instant packets or soaking rolled oats in water and lemon juice over night. But no matter what I always get at least a hint of heartburn. Chocolate gives me heartburn if I have too much. So a piece or 2 is ok. I’d rather stop eating all that stuff than be in pain and be dependent on meds. On top of all that I’m allergic to potatoes, bananas, and tomatoes. I also have to limit how much avocado I eat. I tell my trainer allergies and heartburn keep me healthy.

  6. My husband was diagnosed with silent reflux after having a persistent cough for months. He did several months on PPIs, which seemed to help, but aren’t really healthy to be on indefinitely. Unfortunately, he is really not motivated to change his eating habits, so the coughing continues. I can understand not wanting to give up your favorites, but I do wish he’d cut back on the “bad stuff” (for him, coffee, soda, and beer seem to be the biggest triggers) and maybe keep it down to the occasional indulgence.