In my last blog I explained how things have improved on the silent reflux front by changing my diet, but it’s been no easy feat. I wanted to share some of my tips to improve your general well-being and digestion or inspire you if you’re looking for gluten or dairy-free ideas.
You may have read about candida overgrowth, leaky gut, H Pylori infections, and so on. Most doctors will look baffled when you mention them and will try and distract you by quickly typing out a prescription for PPIs (proton pump inhibitors).
However, all of these things can be related to reflux or gut issues, so they are worth investigating. Make sure you get advice first before doing anything drastic with your diet – in my case I had to just get on and do it as I was getting nowhere fast, but thankfully perseverance appears to be paying off.
Having two young ones means I don’t always have enough time to spend making myself a wonderful breakfast, so I usually stick with gluten-free cereal and use coconut milk (the Koko brand has a good amount of calories in it and tastes so close to skimmed milk I can hardly tell the difference). Unfortunately oats (porridge) don’t seem to work for me as they feel too gloopy and stick in my throat. On weekends I sometimes have scrambled egg (and smoked salmon if I’m feeling indulgent) on gluten-free toast.
Mid-morning I’ll make a smoothie with lots of added nutrients. Papaya is amazing for digestion and really helps with my reflux (I don’t get that weird feeling at the back of my throat or feel like my airways are closing, basically). I’m still undecided about bananas, sometimes I feel they make my symptoms worse, but they bulk out most of my smoothies. I get a lot of my ingredients from Holland and Barrett and I’ve invested in a NutriBullet so I can whizz them up quickly (and the kids love them too).
Here is my favourite smoothie recipe:
- One banana
- A good portion of papaya
- A tablespoon of almond and coconut butter
- Large handful of Linwoods flax, sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds and goji berries
- A cup of coconut milk
(I’ve tried green juices. I know they are supposed to be great for you, but good Lord they are really grosse. Maybe I’ll give them another go soon).
Pasta: I really miss spaghetti bolognaise with tomato sauce. Sob. Instead I’ve swapped tomato-based pasta meals for the following…
- Carrot with sweet potato and butternut squash sauce (with a splash of coconut cream, herbs and apple cider or balsamic vinegar).
- Coconut-based creamy sauces (adding fish or chicken to it and herbs).
For an alternative to gluten-free pasta, I’ve discovered Ancient Harvest’s Lentil and Quinoa pasta – it’s expensive (£3 a box for about three decent sized portions), but it tastes great and the kids also really enjoy it, when I am nice enough to share some with them.
Salmon: I literally can’t get enough of the stuff! I have it with jacket potatoes, rice, quinoa (a great protein if you are gluten-free), rice (brown or white), or add it to pasta.
Meatballs: I only eat red meat around once a week now – red meat is quite acidic on the tummy and takes a while to break down (again, excuse my non-educated nutrition-speak). I use lamb, beef or turkey mince if I want to have something lighter. I am lazy and never use breadcrumbs to bind them together anyway, so they are super easy.
Fast foods: Sainsbury’s does a great gluten and dairy-free selection of foods, which is a God send when the kids are demanding my attention and I haven’t got enough time to cook a ‘proper’ meal. I’ll have chicken nuggets or fish fingers with a jacket potato or chips and lots of broccoli or kale. I can eat mayonnaise, so that helps if thing feel dry or I add a spoonful of coconut yoghurt to dip my food into.
Chicken: I love chicken with mash potato and veggies (using dairy-free margarine and coconut milk to mash it down). I also try to use coconut oil instead of olive oil where I can (read this article on Home remedies for life to find out why).
Hearty salads: Using quinoa as a base I’ll add pomegranate seeds, avocados (not too many as they can cause reflux too. I know, I know), white meat or fish, sweet potatoes, butternut squash and spinach or kale to bulk it out.
My mum (who happens to be a qualified chef) made me an amazing dressing that I drizzle over most of my foods. There was about two inches of olive oil left in the bottle and she added some mustard to it along with a good splash of reflux-friendly apple cider vinegar (which also helps reduce post nasal drip) along with a tablespoon of water, et voilà, a very lovely dressing.
I make a lot of soups, always adding lentils, chick peas or beans to it, using sweet potatoes to thicken the consistency and a splash of apple cider vinegar. I fill up a big bowl and have it with a gluten-free roll spread with humus to add extra calories. My favourites soups are:
- Courgette, carrot and coriander (using homemade chicken stock)
- Broccoli, carrot (carrot really helps reflux, especially raw carrot juice), celery and any other veggies I can find. Throw it all in, and hope it tastes okay at the end, is my motto.
- Coconut-based ice cream with fruit
- Gluten-free cakes or biscuits
- Sorbet is an option, but it makes my tongue feel weird. Does anyone else get that, or am I just really weird?
I used to drink peppermint tea every day, sometimes up to three times a day, not realising it’s one of the worst things for reflux. I now have chamomile tea or fresh ginger tea (with honey if I want to sweeten it). Otherwise it’s just water and more water (filtered if possible). I can’t drink alcohol or fruit juices anymore, but I hope this will change as my system starts to heal. When we last went out my husband said: “Well you’re a cheap date aren’t you!” Yes I am, and proud of it.
Because my condition is ‘silent’, i.e. I don’t get heartburn, if I do feel the acid rising to my throat I chew on Between! Dental Gum. It took a lot of research to find this product as you can’t get them in shops in the UK as far as I can see, just on that thing called the Internet.
I only can’t have regular chewing gum now because of peppermint making things worse, so these are naturally flavoured and contain bicarbonate of soda, which is known to help with reflux. I have to pay quite a lot for them (£25 for 12 packets, including postage, so around £2 a packet), but I always have them on hand when I’m eating out in case of any problems. And it’s good for my teeth, bonus.
And finally, of course I always keep ginger in my cupboard to make tea with (real ginger, rather than the bagged version) and a bottle of apple cider vinegar where I add one teaspoon into a cup of water and down it in one. It’s totally disgusting, but you can add honey to make it better.
Feel free to share your ideas with me, I’m always looking for more inspiration!
Medical disclaimer (i.e. please don’t sue me): I am not in any way medically trained in digestive issues, this is all from my own experience.