Acid reflux disease? Lose weight, it will go away.

Jessie writes:

I’ve had stomach problems ever since I was a little girl. It was always hard to articulate to doctors because I didn’t know what heartburn was. I had severe pain in my throat, stomach, and often had diarrhea after eating. They checked me out for ulcers, problems with my colon, and eventually diagnosed me with irritable bowl syndrome. In my teens they started showing commercials for acid reflux medications, and I realized that’s what had been going on with me in the first place. I find out that not only did my grandfather have it, but his father died of esophageal cancer, due to complications from acid reflux.

So I went to the doctor, told them my history, explained what was going on, and asked for a prescription for the acid reflux medication. Instead of prescribing it, the doctor said “Well if you would just lose weight, you wouldn’t have this problem.” That was like a slap in the face. Never mind that there’s a history of it in my family. Never mind that I have records of a family member DYING from it, the reason I have acid reflux disease is because I’m obese. She marched me over to a BMI chart and pointed out that at 5’3 230 pounds, my BMI was 40. And somehow, if I were lose 120 pounds, my ailments would magically go away. I have never been more offended by a doctor in my life, and to add insult to injury she refused to prescribe the medication! I ended up buying the over-the-counter version and taking that. Low-and-behold, my heartburn went away, and I’m no longer at risk of my esophagus being eroded from stomach acid.

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  1. Please report her.

  2. Bull! My husband has acid reflux, and he’s been rail thin most of his life. I agree with liz, report that doctor immediately. It’s a serious condition that needs to be managed with medication and medical supervision, and your doctor had no right to dismiss you.

  3. I feel your pain on this one. I had reflux as a little girl all the time. Growing up in an italian family, we ate a lot of spaghetti sauce and it just burned my insides up! Anyway, I am 46 now, still have reflux and take a prescription medication. I have had the same speech about losing weight….yes, I’m fat, but I have had this for over 40 years! Took me a long time to get some help.

    I am to the point at this time in my life, where I don’t let the doctor get away with….”If you would lose weight!” What if I never do? I have lost HUGE amounts of weight 3 or 4 times…it always comes back. So, now what? Do not allow doctors to blow you off with the weight comment…make them find out what’s really wrong with you. Fat related or not, you have an issue. Tell them to fix it!

  4. Funny, I had worse reflux while trying to lose weight than I did while at a comfortable weight.

  5. Entangled

     /  September 9, 2009

    The attributing every which condition to weight drives me nuts. Not only is it harmful to those who are overweight and suffer from it, by ignoring that there are quite likely underlying causes and conditions can be treated without forcing unhealthy weight loss (which I consider most weight loss to be), but it also means that the condition gets ignored in those who aren’t overweight. I’m pretty thin and I deal with the same thing you do. It sucks – I’m sorry you’re going through it and wish I could smack your doctor upside the head for being insensitive AND bad at his job. A guy at my last job had it even worse — he was seeing specialists, trying to avoid getting more esophogeal damage. He was about 24 and stick thin, but must have had acid reflux for years by that point.

  6. Isn’t it amazing how today’s adipose tissue can reach back in time and cause problems all the way back in childhood? Sheesh.

  7. Yotbe

     /  September 9, 2009

    As a young teen, I had severe acid reflux for years. Ironically, I was thin at that time. And like you, I had no idea what it was until I connected it to heartburn ads.

    I was diagnosed with celiac disease (a genetic intolerance to gluten, found in wheat, rye, and barley) about three years ago. Ever since going gluten-free, my acid reflux has cleared up. I get occasional flare-ups from not eating enough, stress, or red wine.

    I’m mentioning this because celiac disease is frequently misdiagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome. And since it’s genetic, and your grandfather had acid reflux, it may be in your family.

    It’s a two-step test; a blood test (which is not 100% accurate), and an intestinal biopsy. If the symptoms match yours, ask your doctor to get tested.

    However, doctors are generally not up-to-date with the most current celiac disease research, and he’ll likely tell you you can’t have celiac disease because you’re not thin. Which I call bullshit on, as I was fat when I was diagnosed, and I know numerous others who’ll tell you the same thing.

  8. Piffle

     /  September 9, 2009

    Even if the doc felt you needed to lose weight, she should have prescribed the medicine until the weight was lost. Idiot.

  9. Time for a new doctor! Letting you continue to suffer physical damage because of a weight bias is not just cause for a new doctor, but cause to report said doctor.

    I have also heard that long-term use of some acid reflux medications can lead to other kinds of damage, so you should probably go to someone specialized in honest to goodness internal medicine.

    I hadn’t had acid reflux ever (skinny, or obese) until after a surgery. Years later, they discover a hernia (caused by previous surgery). Now with everything tucked back into place, the reflux is almost nonexistent, as well as the persistent pain in the surgical area for years. Please do not let this doctor get in the way of you finding doctors who know what they’re doing and how to help you.

  10. Chris

     /  November 20, 2010

    Americans have got to start losing weight…I have conveniently let myself gain 5 lb a year for the last decade…the dam Prilosec caused bone and joint damage due to the bodies inability to take on calcium with the lack of stomach acid…I am off it now and recovering…I would use that prilo stuff as sparingly as possible and try to lose weight and eat right…

    • vesta44

       /  November 20, 2010

      Chris – The problem with losing weight is that it’s not easy as “eat less/move more” like doctors have been telling people for years. Doctors have known since at least 1959 that diets don’t work for the majority of people to lose weight and keep it off long term and that repeated dieting does more damage in the long run than maintaining a stable weight. But they keep pushing diets because they don’t have anything else that works any better (diet pills and weight loss surgery can have even worse outcomes than diets) and have equated being thin with being healthy which is so not true (if thin = healthy, thin people wouldn’t get the same diseases that fat people do, thin people wouldn’t die of those diseases in the same or greater numbers than fat people, etc). So to just say “Americans have got to start losing weight” without having a safe way for them to do it and keep that lost weight off permanently – well, that’s irresponsible and damaging, to say the least.
      Any time you take a drug, whether it’s prescribed or over the counter, there are side effects that need to be discussed with your doctor before taking it and while taking it so that those side effects can be controlled, if at all possible, especially if you’re going to be taking it for a long period of time. I don’t imagine that the Prilosec completely rid your stomach of acid, if it had, you wouldn’t have been digesting any food at all. If you were still digesting food, then you were still absorbing the calcium that was in the food you ate (unless you didn’t eat enough foods high in calcium, and that’s not the fault of the drug, that’s your fault). If you had a problem absorbing calcium, not all calcium supplements are created equal and some are more easily absorbed than others – you’d have to google that, I don’t have the information right off-hand, but WLS survivors know this, it’s important for them to find the vitamin and mineral supplements that are most easily absorbed by their mutilated digestive systems.


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