GERD: A Teen’s Point of View
Jenna is a high school junior honor roll student with a busy schedule including competing with a top east coast marching band, National Honor Society and church youth council. She also happens to have GERD. Jenna shares her experiences with GERD and lactose intolerance.
What does reflux feel like?
The worst symptom of reflux is having food come up my throat after eating. Also, if I drink a glass of water and then bend over, I reflux the water into my throat. That feels really bad. I sometimes have heartburn and stomach aches too.
I get stomach aches everyday. Sometimes all it takes is eating a meal regardless of what I eat. Besides regular stomach aches I normally experience other symptoms a few times a week.
When you were a kid, do you remember having reflux?
I don’t have any memories of GERD when I was younger. It just seemed normal in my life. I guess it is something you get used to.
How do you manage your reflux?
I watch my diet really carefully. I can’t eat milk/dairy, tomato sauce, lasagna, orange juice or fatty foods like butter. I only drink soda once in a while and then I regret it. I stay away from juices, especially orange juice and lemonade. There is no way I would ever drink milk. Just the sight of whole milk makes me sick! I really like Stromboli, pizza and lemonade but then it causes reflux. Sometimes I just have to eat a little bit anyway.
My favorite foods are: salad, Pepperidge Farm Goldfish crackers and almonds. My favorite drinks are water, green tea and Vitamin Water.
I take over the counter acid reducer (Pepcid AC) and sometimes I take a PPI (Nexium) if I am in a lot of pain.
Do your friends know you have GERD?
Some of my friends know I have reflux. It’s no secret. Just not something I go around talking about.
Do you know any teens with GERD?
Yes. I do have friends with GERD. Also almost every teen I know with GERD is lactose intolerant so we share similar diets.
How does GERD affect your participation in sports, school, and activities?
I can’t bring my medicine to school, even over the counter medicine. I would have to keep them in the nurse’s office. It is a hassle to go to the nurse every time I need my medication. I just do without at school and suffer. I could get suspended just for bringing Tums or Lactaid pills in my purse or backpack. If I had the medicine with me, I would be able to take it when I needed it and concentrate on my work instead of my reflux.
What do you want teachers and the band director to know about GERD?
It is uncomfortable to sit still when I am feeling sick. It is hard to sit in a long class or stand still during marching band practice. Teachers don’t usually seem to know much about GERD. Especially in high school, teachers seem to think that GERD is an excuse to get out of class or long practices. They often think it isn’t a big deal and don’t understand that GERD is more than getting heartburn after a big meal.