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Joan Isa: Hiatal Hernia, GERD, Indigestion

The fundamentals of the McDougall Program are simple yet often difficult to implement. Star McDougallers have either adopted the Program themselves by learning from our website and books or joining one of our programs. For personalized help, learn more about the 12-Day McDougall Program. For questions on whether a change in diet can help your ailment, learn more about our consultations.
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The Pains In My Gut Were Not In My Head!

joan_isa-2166323It feels strange to be discussing my constipation, gas and other previous digestive disorders with thousands of people! Nevertheless, I am so thrilled and delighted with The McDougall Program, that I am happy to share my story in the hope that others might benefit from my experience.

Ten years ago, at the age of 48, I developed a hiatal hernia. My gastroenterologist told me that there was nothing to be done about it, but to take acid-suppressors and hope for the best. As I don’t like taking any medications, I decided not to take them in the hopes that my constant heartburn would just go away.

For the following 5 years, I suffered with chronic heartburn, indigestion, acid reflux, gas and accompanying belching and burping. Whatever I ate seemed to just sit on my chest and give me discomfort. I had been a vegetarian for many years, but was still eating a lot of dairy and fish, and using salad dressing. The more heartburn I experienced, the more ice cream I ate to attempt to put out the fire in my chest.

Finally, about 2 years ago, I went back to my gastroenterologist and he put me on a strong acid inhibitor. My acid reflux had gotten so bad, it actually came up and burnt my throat, and I lost my voice three times! After six months on the medication, I returned to his office…miserable. The medication had not helped at all, so he doubled the dosage. Of course, I then got even more unpleasant side-effects from this stronger dose, and it didn’t relieve my symptoms. So the doctor ordered another endoscopy, as well as a colonoscopy. (The previous endoscopy many years before had diagnosed the hiatal hernia.) This time he found nothing serious, except for the hernia.

After another six months I was back in his office again! This time I had to endure a most unpleasant procedure involving a tube being put thru my nose and down my throat. I had to eat and sleep with this contraption in for 24 hours — he found nothing. I told him I was sure that something I was eating was causing all this distress. He said: “No! It’s all in your head, and I am going to put you on some Valium”. I said there was no way I was going to start taking a tranquilizer, and that there was nothing wrong with me other than the indigestion. I told him I was normally a very happy and well-adjusted person, and didn’t need Valium! He told me that he gives most of his female patients tranquilizers “because you women get so stressed about everything!” That was the last straw! I left his office in disgust, never to return.

I then turned to my last resort, and went to see a doctor practicing in “alternative medicine”. The first thing I said to him was: “Although I never eat anything spicy, there must be something I am eating that doesn’t agree with me!” He answered: “Nonsense! Digestive problems are caused by stress and not by food!” He encouraged me to persevere with the acid suppressor, and gave me Kava Kava, “a natural tranquilizer to calm your nervous stomach.” I took one Kava that night, and experienced such severe stomach cramps and spasms from it, that I almost went to the ER! Since then, I read online that Kava has been found to be a very dangerous herb, and can be extremely toxic to the liver!!! So much for calming my “nervous” stomach!

The following day I was at the health food store and happened to start a conversation with a woman who looked so well, I asked her if she was a vegan. She said she was. I then told her about my digestive problems, and that I was thinking about becoming a vegan. She said: “I follow one diet, and one diet, only – The McDougall Program. It just makes so much sense!”

I immediately went to the bookstore and got not one, but three of Dr. McDougall’s books, including “The McDougall Program: 12 Days to Dynamic Health”, and “The McDougall Program for Women”. That was one year ago, and I have never looked back! After about a week of strictly following the Program, I was sitting on my couch relaxing and enjoying a TV program, when I thought: “Something is different…something is missing…” and then I realized what it was… I FELT COMPLETELY AND BLISSFULLY WELL!!! What was missing was the indigestion, the gas & belching and that uncomfortable bloated feeling I had always had. The heartburn was gone, along with my lifelong struggle with constipation! It is so wonderful now, to be able to enjoy such delicious and nutritious food, and not be suffering with heartburn or the constant belching I had experienced after every meal. I also don’t miss being woken up in the middle of the night with heartburn!

Before going on the diet, I had also suffered for many years with sinus and migraine headaches and frequent head colds. These have all disappeared, along with the dairy! Also, contrary to what I had been led to believe, dairy does NOT prevent osteoporosis. I had very low bone density, even though I consumed such huge quantities of dairy products all my life.

Not only am I now full of renewed energy and high spirits, but I can eat as much as I like and not gain any weight. I have lost 20 lb. and now weigh just under 100 lb., which Dr. McDougall tells me, is the perfect weight for a 5′ 2″ small framed female. After six months on the diet my internist was also impressed that my previously “good” blood pressure dropped to an even lower 90/70, and my “normal” cholesterol went down to 135 mg/dl. My triglycerides are now a low 53 mg/dl, and of course my HDL, LDL, ratio, etc. are all excellent! My protein levels were completely normal, even though I had not touched any animal protein. This is my diet for my lifetime. I wish others could discover how easy it can be to become healthy!



Although it seems obvious that what you put into your intestinal tract will determine its health and function, most people miss this relationship entirely – even almost every doctor fails to see this connection, because of our education. Doctors and their patients are taught these problems originate from the mind (they are psychological problems) – not the gut. In medical school, I was taught ulcers and indigestion were due to “stress” and the treatment was tranquilizers. Irritable bowel syndrome (spastic colon) is said to be found in people with depression, hysteria, and obsessive compulsive traits – tranquilizers are the recommended solution. In my 12th edition of Harrison’s Textbook of Medicine I am told that chronic constipation is due to: “…voluntary suppression of call to stool (failure to initiate defecation)…during the period of toilet training in childhood, or later in life because of a sense of social impropriety…” (I would like to see someone on the high-fiber, dairy-free McDougall diet suppress their urge to defecate.)

The obvious truth is the inner contents of the bowel – the foods and their digested remnants – determine the health of the intestine. Because most people believe the American diet is normal, healthy nutrition they “can’t see the forest through the trees.” Change to a starch based diet quickly and permanently cures almost all of the illnesses of the intestine from the mouth to the distant end. For more details on the illnesses of the intestinal tract, read all of the issues of the 2002 McDougall Newsletter. Subscription is free.