Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Book Review: The Acid Watcher Diet

Sometimes, in the medical world, determining the cause of particular ailments leads to a wild goose chase. I have experienced this before, am experiencing it now, and will probably go down this road again in the future. While I don't want such experiences to color my view of physicians or infuse me with a general distrust, it seems inevitable. I grow weary of floundering around in the dark.

For the past seven months, I have been battling a chronic cough and a constant need to clear my throat. About a month ago, I was attempting to take a vitamin when the pill became lodged in my throat. As I reached up to feel if it was actually still lodged there, my husband noticed a distinct lump in my throat. Weary of my constant coughing and throat-clearing, and alarmed at what might be a growth of some sort, he insisted that I see my primary care physician (a task I vehemently avoid because of my general squeamishness in medical procedures and my flagging confidence in medical personnel).

And so, the run-around began. Blood tests revealed that my thyroid levels were within the normal range, but an ANA test came back positive. The doctor ordered a thyroid ultrasound to examine the lump, but that came back normal. Because of the ANA test, and noticing the pervasive redness of my cheeks (which the doctor considered might be the butterfly rash of lupus, rather than the hereditary rosacea I had always thought it to be), the doctor referred me to a rheumatologist. Thankfully, the rheumatologist, after posing diagnostic questions, doubted a lupus diagnosis and merely found a UTI.

Yet, the chronic cough continues and the doctor doesn't seem to pay it much mind beyond associating it with asthma. Then, I happened upon the questions on the back cover of this book, The Acid Watcher Diet. "Do you suffer from abdominal bloating?" Check. "a chronic, nagging cough?" Check. "postnasal drip?" Check. "a feeling of a lump in the back of your throat?" Check. My interest was peaked. My parents both suffer from acid reflux and I had noticed, recently, a few occasions of bile coming up when I was lying down (the most classic symptom).

In The Acid Watcher Diet: A 28-Day Reflux Prevention and Healing Program, Dr. Jonathan Aviv highlights the lesser-known symptoms of acid reflux and acid damage and brings awareness to dietary solutions for the problem. He identifies the links between inflammation, weight gain (another troubling problem for me), and acid reflux. I never before really thought about the acidity of so many of the processed foods we are tempted to eat. It was eye-opening to learn the pH factor in different foods.

The book is broken down into three parts: A Diagnostic Tool for Assessing Acid Damage (including what you should know when you see your doctor); Food and Lifestyle Prescriptions (including the importance of fiber and an especially helpful chapter titled "Breaking Acid-Generating Habits and Establishing Acid-Reduction Practices"); and a 28-Day Healing Phase meal plan, Follow-up Maintenance Plan, and coordinating recipes. In the first section, I became convinced that my problems might be associated with some acid damage to my system from eating foods with high acidity. The second section reinforced some information I had already read about the microbiome, importance of fiber, etc. And, the final section, made me question whether I have what it takes to attempt this 28-day cleanse.

The most difficult challenges for me would be giving up coffee and chocolate, increasing my intake of raw vegetables (not my favorite way to eat them, but prescribed at a 1/2 cooked, 1/2 raw ratio), and consistently eating my evening meal a full three hours before heading to bed (since I'm an early-to-bed-early-to-rise person, this would mean eating before 5:30 and my husband tends to schedule our evening meal more toward 6 or 7). Still, I am intrigued and fairly eager to attempt this diet to see if it will eliminate the chronic cough, especially so when I read about the undetected acid damage leading to esophageal cancer. Many of the recipes (including easy-to-prepare smoothies, omelets, and fish/chicken dishes) sounded like something I could manage, and that's saying something since I'm fairly hopeless in the kitchen. The photo of elimination diet foods is appealing (from the Acid Watcher Diet website).

I'm all for using food as medicine. While I'm not ready to commit to the diet yet, I will certainly keep it on my radar and will probably check out the book again when I am more in a position to attempt it. I definitely plan on copying the list of safe foods. Even if I never implement the diet fully, I think that I gained quite a bit of knowledge about ways to be on the alert for acid damage and that could go a long way. The key is awareness or as the book likes to type it AWareness (emphasizing the acid-watching factor).

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