Chapter OneKEY #1
Eat to Live
By their estimation, Michael and Jane Stern have shared more
than 72,000 meals over the last three decades, which, according
to my math, means an astounding 6.57 meals per day.
Talk about togetherness.
Michael and Jane nosh on three squares a day and then some
because they're the authors of Roadfood and Two for the Road:
Our Love Affair with American Food. Their books have been
described as glove-box bibles for chain-weary travelers seeking
authentic barbecue or cheese-topped apple pie à la mode just like
Grandma used to make.
From their home base in Connecticut, the Sterns crisscross
the country one hundred days a year in search of the perfect diner.
They've logged more than three million miles on America's two-lane
highways, dropping in at roadside cafes and small town
restaurants to sample flapjacks, huevos grande, Philly cheesesteaks,
clam pizza, chili dogs, Cajun gumbo, garlic-and-shrimp fettuccini,
barbecue brisket, Maine lobster, and chicken fried steak. The
Sterns love discovering-and writing about-little-known
regional specialties like Grape-Nuts pudding, fried tripe, and pig's
ear. In the midst of their on-the-road research, this husband-and-wife
team somehow manages to eat an average of twelve meals per
day: four breakfasts, four lunches, and four dinners. They don't
count the afternoon stops for an ice cream treat.
As the Sterns are quick to say, it's a tough job, but somebody's
got to do it. Michael and Jane wake up before dawn so
that they're ready for the 6:00 a.m. opening of the next greasy
spoon on their list. Once their first Belgian waffle is under their
belts, it's on to the next roadside diner for a Denver omelet and
hash browns. "We can eat just about anyone under the table, so
the first few breakfasts of the day are no problem at all," they
boast in Two for the Road.
I'm expecting the Sterns to land an endorsement deal for
Alka-Seltzer or Pepto-Bismol any day now because I don't see
how you can eat that much processed, sweet-sauced, sugar-coated,
candied, sticky, salty, barbecued, battered, and fried food
without developing a major tummy ache. The Sterns' success-they
sell tons of books and are regularly featured on NPR's The
Splendid Table radio show-is testimony to the fact that we've
become a country that loves inexpensive deep-fried, greasy food
that's high in calories, high in fat, high in sugar, and-in most
people's minds-high in taste. Taste trumps health, no matter
how many calories or fat grams the food contains.
In my opinion, it's not hard to conclude that this type of
nutritional sustenance is an eight-lane freeway to poor health.
Don't folks know that they're steering themselves the wrong
direction on a one-way street? Aren't they aware that they're setting
themselves up for bouts of painful heartburn or acid reflux
by making poor choices in what they eat?
I guess not. In fact, I'm convinced that too many people coast
through life without thinking two seconds about the significance
of what they eat or the quantities they consume. Part of the blame
2 The Great Physician's Rx for Heartburn and Acid Reflux
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can be laid at the feet of modern media, which broadcasts alluring
and effective commercials for bacon-topped cheeseburgers on
ciabatta buns and the newest deep-dish, stuffed-crust, cheese-lover,
full-house, quadruple-meat, super-deluxe pizza. On the
print side, you can stroll into a supersized bookstore and scrutinize
hundreds of titles-many containing conflicting information-about
how to lose weight, eat right, and live a long, healthy
life. I'm afraid that many of the latest health books come and go
because people aren't looking at a single, constant source of good
nutrition and healthy living-the Bible.
I believe we can look to Scripture to be reminded about what
God created for food. My friend Rex Russell, M.D., compiled a
comprehensive list of foods created by God in his book What the
Bible Says About Healthy Living. I've listed them here, along with
the scriptural references. As you scan this list, ask yourself how
many people order these foods at a roadside diner:
almonds (Gen. 43:11)
barley (Judg. 7:13)
beans (Ezek. 4:9)
bread (1 Sam. 17:17)
broth (Judg. 6:19)
cakes (2 Sam. 13:8 [NKJV], and probably not the kind
cheese (Job 10:10)
cucumbers, onions, leeks, melons, and garlic (Num. 11:5)
curds of cow's milk (Deut. 32:14)
figs (Num. 13:23)
fish (Matt. 7:10)
fowl (1 Kings 4:23)
fruit (2 Sam. 16:2)
game (Gen. 25:28)
goat's milk (Prov. 27:27)
grain (Ruth 2:14)
grapes (Deut. 23:24)
grasshoppers, locusts, and crickets (Lev. 11:22)
herbs (Exod. 12:8)
honey (Isa. 7:15) and wild honey (Ps. 19:10)
lentils (Gen. 25:34)
meal (Matt. 13:33 KJV)
pistachio nuts (Gen. 43:11)
oil (Prov. 21:17)
olives (Deut. 28:40)
pomegranates (Num. 13:23)
quail (Num. 11:32)
raisins (2 Sam. 16:1)
salt (Job 6:6)
sheep (Deut. 14:4)
sheep's milk (Deut. 32:14)
spices (Gen. 43:11)
veal (Gen. 18:7-8)
vegetables (Prov. 15:17)
vinegar (Num. 6:3)
My guess is that the Sterns don't find too many of these
foods when they're doing their road warrior thing. What about
you? Are any of these staples in your diet? Do you have to think
hard to remember the last time you peeled a fresh orange, scooped
up a handful of dates, or supped on lentil soup? These listed foods
are nutritional gold mines and contain no refined or processed
carbohydrates, no trans-fatty acids, and no artificial sweeteners.
Since God has given us a bountiful harvest of natural foods to eat,
it would take several pages to describe all the fantastic fruits and
vibrant vegetables available from His garden.
For this reason, The Great Physician's Rx for Heartburn and
Acid Reflux relies heavily on my first key, "Eat to Live," which
can be summed up by this pair of statements:
1. Eat what God created for food.
2. Eat food in a form that is healthy for the body.
If you're following the standard American diet-a Danish pastry
or bowl of sugar-frosted cereal for breakfast; a rainbow-sprinkled
doughnut for a midmorning snack; a processed turkey
and ham sandwich, barbecue-flavored potato chips, and a diet
soft drink for lunch; a candy bar for an afternoon snack; a takeout
pepperoni pizza and garlic bread for dinner; and chocolate
chip ice cream for dessert-then you better get used to popping
those Tums because your heartburn and acid reflux aren't going
away anytime soon.
Your better course would be taking the first key of the Great
Physician's prescription to heart. Not only would "Eat to Live"
do you a world of good, but following these two vital concepts
will also give you a great shot to douse heartburn and put you
on the road toward living a healthy, vibrant life. "Let food be thy
medicine; thy medicine shall be thy food," said Hippocrates, the
ancient Greek physician and father of medicine.
Many heartburn sufferers, after being beaten down by this
affliction and seeking medical attention, follow their doctors' recommendations
and resign themselves to a dull diet of oatmeal,
egg whites, baked potatoes, broccoli, skinless chicken breast without
a scent of seasoning, and fat-free-and taste-free-dairy
products. I don't think you're doomed to eat bland or even non-acidic
foods when you're dealing with chronic indigestion or acid
reflux. In fact, some of the best foods you can consume are foods
that are acidic by nature. Here's what I mean.
Foods can be generally classified into acid-forming and alkaline-forming
foods, which is calculated when the foods are burned
and their ash is measured. Foods have a pH value range from 0
(most acidic) to 14 (most alkaline). A common misconception is
that if a food tastes acidic, it must form acid in the stomach, but
that's not always the case when it comes to heartburn. For instance,
acidic lemons, limes, and apple cider vinegar are actually highly
alkaline forming due to their mineral content. In fact, the aforementioned
are examples of foods or liquids that you could consume
because they can dilute stomach acid and reduce pain.
Other foods that you want to make sure you're eating are
fruits and vegetables with edible skins, whole grains, nuts, seeds,
and beans. These high-fiber foods-made up of indigestible
remnants of plant cells-have little potential to cause heartburn
because they move through the digestive system quickly prior to
elimination from the body. When food lingers too long in the
stomach, however, that can cause problems like bacterial overgrowth
as stomach acids work overtime. Eating fiber-rich foods
will keep things moving and could protect you from the more
serious affliction of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). In
2005, researchers at the Houston Veterans Affairs Medical Center
performed a study showing that high-fiber diets were protective
against GERD, regardless of one's body weight.
I also recommend the consumption of naturally fermented
or cultured foods that contain probiotics and enzymes, which
are part of the Great Physician's Rx for Heartburn and Acid
Reflux Battle Plan in the back of this book. In the meantime,
though, we need to talk about everything you put into your
mouth since that's a major key to dealing with heartburn. Every
time you take a bite of food, you're sending a protein, a fat, or a
carbohydrate into your gullet. Let's take a closer look at these
The First Word on Proteins
Proteins, one of the basic components of foods, are the essential
building blocks of the body and involved in the function of
every living cell, including those parked in the digestive tract.
One of protein's main tasks is to provide specific nutrient material
to grow and repair cells.
All proteins are combinations of twenty-two amino acids,
which build and maintain the body's organs, including the
heart, as well as the muscles and nerves, to name a few important
duties. Your body, however, cannot produce all twenty-two
amino acids that you need to live a robust life. Scientists have
discovered that eight essential amino acids are missing, meaning
that they must come from sources outside the body. I know the
following fact drives vegetarians and vegans crazy, but animal
protein-chicken, beef, lamb, dairy, eggs, and so forth-is theonly complete protein source providing the Big Eight amino
acids in the right quantities and ratios.
Tom Cowan, M.D., a San Francisco physician in private
practice, had an interesting take on this in the quarterly magazine
of the Weston A. Price Foundation, founded on the
principles taught by a man I deeply respect, Weston A. Price.
(Price was a Cleveland dentist who became a pioneer in urging
people to stop eating processed foods.) At any rate, Dr. Cowan
wrote that when it comes to heartburn, nearly everyone accepts
the fact that the burning sensation is caused by excess stomach
acid. Since protein foods are responsible for the stomach cells to
produce acid, conventional medical advice is straightforward for
heartburn therapy: eat less protein (i.e., fatty hamburgers) so that
less acid will be produced.
Dr. Cowan said there's another theory regarding heartburn,
which is that the stomach naturally produces acid in response to
eating any food, not just a protein like chicken or steak. This is
because stomach acid kills invading microorganisms present in
the food we eat, protecting us from infections occurring in the
gastrointestinal tract. "Furthermore, the very group of people
who lacks stomach acid, that is the elderly, is the group that
most suffers from GERD," Dr. Cowan wrote. "So in this case,
the solution is not to inhibit production by eating less protein,
but rather to increase protein-and fat-consumption so as to
give the acid something to do, which is to digest the protein."
I don't believe that you have to give up red meat when you
have heartburn and acid reflux if you're served the leanest, healthiest
sources of animal protein available, which come from organically
raised cattle, sheep, goats, buffalo, and venison-animals
that graze on pastureland grasses. Lean grass-fed beef is lower in
calories and doesn't contain as much fat as grain-fed beef.
As mentioned before, everyone agrees chicken and fish are
excellent sources of protein for those with heartburn problems.
That's good news because I'm a huge fan of free-range chicken
and fish caught from lakes, streambeds, or ocean depths. Fish
with scales and fins, caught in the wild, contain healthy fats,
vitamins, and minerals, and provide all the essential amino
acids. Wild fish, which is nutritionally far superior to farm-raised,
should be consumed liberally.
The Skinny on Fats
A century ago, he was the Dr. Atkins of his time. When Bertram
Sippy, a Chicago physician, treated patients with gastrointestinal
distress back in the early 1900s, he required them to drink small
amounts of milk and light cream to counteract stomach acids.
No fruits and vegetables. Adherents called it the "Sippy Diet,"
and doctors used it to treat heartburn until the 1970s when it
was universally shelved.
These days the conventional wisdom is that the consumption
of high-fat foods like milk and cream is double trouble
since these fatty foods need more time to break down in the
stomach, which prolongs the time that acid reflux can occur.
Regular full-fat milk and cheese are held up as examples of foods
that exacerbate heartburn conditions. This directive sums up
today's by-the-medical-book advice: when dealing with heartburn,
shun high-fat foods and increase fiber.
I'm all for increasing fiber, but I part ways with those who
declare certain foods containing what I consider to be healthy
fats off limits. You see, the problem with the standard American
diet is that people eat too many of the wrong foods containing
the wrong fats and not enough of the right foods with the right
fats. On top of that, there's a lot of confusion about fats in this
world because we hear how bad they are when, in fact, fats are
essential because they regulate insulin levels and trigger enzymes
that convert food into energy.
Eating healthy fats can have a protective effect against many
diseases, including the real heartburn-cardiovascular disease.
I'm referring to foods loaded with the following:
polyunsaturated fats (high in omega-3 fatty acids)
monounsaturated (omega-9) fatty acids
conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)
key omega-6 fats, such as gamma-linolenic acid (GLA)
healthy saturated fats containing short- and medium-chain
fatty acids, such as butter and coconut oil
It's worth noting again that these good fats are found in a
wide range of foods, including salmon, cod-liver oil, lamb, goat
meat, and high omega-3 eggs, dairy products derived from goat's
milk, sheep's milk, cow's milk and butter from grass-fed animals,
flaxseeds, walnuts, olives, macadamia nuts, and avocados. People
are often shocked to hear me say this, but this is why I say butter
is better for you than margarine. Organically produced butter
is loaded with healthy fatty acids such as short-chain saturated
fatty acids, which supply energy to the body and aid in the
regeneration of the digestive tract. Margarine, on the other hand,
is a man-made, congealed conglomeration of chemicals and
hydrogenated liquid vegetable oils.
Fats and oils created by God, as you would expect, are fats
you want to include in your diet. The top two on my list are
extra virgin coconut and olive oils, which are beneficial to the
body and can aid metabolism. I urge you to cook with extra virgin
coconut oil, which is a near miracle food that few people
have ever heard of.
The Truth About Carbohydrates
Of the different macronutrients-proteins, fats, and carbohydrates-carbohydrates
have the biggest effect on gastrointestinal
health. Carbohydrates, especially those from refined sources, are
high in hard-to-digest components such as complex sugars, phytates,