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LucyGransnet (GNHQ) Mon 10-Aug-15 11:27:39

A fresh look at heartburn

Jessica Madge describes her determination to rid herself of acid reflux without resorting to medication.

Jessica Madge

A fresh look at heartburn

Posted on: Mon 10-Aug-15 11:27:39


Lead photo

"Could I get rid of my symptoms without taking drugs?"

At the age of 60, out of the blue, my oesophagus started playing up. I'd never had acid reflux symptoms but suddenly I had heartburn, a funny little cough and difficulty swallowing. For the first time in my life, eating lost its charm.

I remembered that my mother, in later life, complained of a hiatus hernia so I trotted off to my GP, who looked very bored and prescribed me a drug to reduce acid in my stomach. Was this it? I wondered. Did I have a hiatus hernia? Would I be on these drugs for the rest of my life? I looked at the official advice on managing reflux symptoms and it seemed rather general, with the same advice being offered for all kinds of indigestion: give up a long list of foods and drinks; try to prop yourself up at night; eat your evening meal early etc.

'Alternative' options seemed to be more of the same: give up lots of delicious things and eat more vegetables, preferably raw vegetables. I was already eating plenty of veg, thank you. Then there was the so-called 'acid diet' in which lemons are deemed to be 'alkaline'. This is an unfortunate hybrid between western alternatives and Chinese ideas about Yin/Yang - guaranteed to confuse if your problem is with real acid from your stomach.

Was this it? I wondered. Did I have a hiatus hernia? Would I be on these drugs for the rest of my life?

At this point I had a well-timed conversation with my son, a chiropractor. He adopted his guru voice and announced: 'It's something to do with your diaphragm mother and with all that yoga you've done, I'm sure you can sort it out.'

He directed me to his shelf of anatomy books and five minutes research confirmed that there's an inbuilt mechanical weakness at the junction between the oesophagus and the stomach. The valve-like mechanism that keeps acid in the stomach is naturally rather feeble and is easily damaged. The diaphragm is an integral part of this mechanism and if it's weak, it's all too easy for stomach acid to leak backwards and cause problems. But let's face it, apart from opera singers, not many people deliberately exercise their diaphragms.

So began a journey of exploration. How could I strengthen my diaphragm? What else could I do to improve the performance of this troublesome valve? Could I get rid of my symptoms without taking drugs?
The result, three years later, is a life free of symptoms. I can eat what I like and avoid the need for drugs - as long as I keep following my own advice.

Read more from Jessica Madge in her new book Reflux and Heartburn - The New Self-Help. Available as Kindle e-book and in print from Amazon. Other e-formats available on

By Jessica Madge

Twitter: @gransnet

durhamjen Mon 10-Aug-15 11:42:42

Not just opera songers. Any players of wind or brass instruments also need strong diaphragms.

Gemmag Mon 10-Aug-15 12:17:10

Do I have to buy the book?.
Can anyone tell me how I can strengthen my diaghpragm?.

rosesarered Mon 10-Aug-15 12:20:46

Actually, I just began to eat smaller meals, this had the added plus of losing weight and all the acid reflux vanished.

annsixty Mon 10-Aug-15 13:46:13

What a come on!! I actually thought I was going to learn something apart from "buy my book".

soontobe Mon 10-Aug-15 13:52:29

There are no customer reviews on the Amazon link to go by, either.

Alea Mon 10-Aug-15 13:52:51

Harsh annsixty

Riverwalk Mon 10-Aug-15 14:13:10

Jess is a long time GN poster so I'm OK with this thread.

We hear a lot from people who are complete strangers!

annsixty Mon 10-Aug-15 14:34:13

Well I was trying to be honest and I hoped to learn something from the blog as I do have a Hiatus Hernia. I did not expect a link to a book so if that is harsh I apologise. I am very seldom outspoken.

MiniMouse Mon 10-Aug-15 15:00:07

I agree with you annsixty. Very disappointing! I don't suffer from reflux, but I know someone who does and would have liked to know sad

Just advertising by any other name!

Grannyknot Mon 10-Aug-15 15:00:50

Hi jess I've recently had bouts of acid reflux and bought your book some time ago. It does make perfect sense and it gave me some pointers. Anyway my heartburn problems seem to have settled down, not least because I quickly worked out that e.g. I can't eat a starter, then pork belly, then a dessert, all washed down with wine, and then finish it with a cup of coffee ... and then go to bed! Doh.

Anyway ... my question is, is it not so that all types of exercise will strengthen the diaphragm? Thinking that perhaps my AR has improved because I am exercising more generally (Over 60s Dancersize - which means bopping to the likes of Neil Sedaka for an hour; and something called Fitness Pilates). So I'm thinking that the latter activities have contributed to the improvement in the digestive department. smile

Alea Mon 10-Aug-15 15:01:04

Without wishing to volunteer anybody to do anything, have you thought of PM-ing Jess to ask her more?
I see the Kndle version is very reasonable.
Wonder Soontobe whatsignificance you see or conclusions you are drawing from an absence of Amazon reviews?

Alea Mon 10-Aug-15 15:18:35

If a person has spent months or longer out of their lives writing a book, can you begrudge them something back for their expertise, knowledge, time, expense and effort anyway?
£2 something isn't much to pay for what might make a difference to your life, so don't just mutter "advertising" or " disappointing" in disgust!

MiniMouse Mon 10-Aug-15 15:23:11

I take your point Alea, but surely a blog is just that.

annsixty Mon 10-Aug-15 15:26:15

I did not know when I read the blog that Jessica Madge was the Jess M who was, at one time, very regular poster on health matters, however that would not have have altered my opinion and I wasn't aware that I had muttered "advertising" or "disappointed" and I certainly never expressed "disgust".

Alea Mon 10-Aug-15 17:07:09

I agree with you annsixty. Very disappointing! I don't suffer from reflux, but I know someone who does and would have liked to know sad

Just advertising by any other name

MiniMouse today 15.00

soontobe Mon 10-Aug-15 17:15:09

I dont think I would ever buy a book without at least one review.

Ana Mon 10-Aug-15 17:19:03

I didn't realise it was JessM either - how clever of you to have worked that out, Alea...(don't know how, though)

annodomini Mon 10-Aug-15 17:42:20

soon, don't you realise that if everyone felt the same as you, there would never be any reviews for anyone to read!

Alea Mon 10-Aug-15 17:47:30

Far From the Madding Crowd (paperback edition) no reviews
War and Peace (Kindle edition) no reviews

Can't be too careful can you?
Mind you so many so -called reviews are a misspelt retell ing of the plot or ungrammatical and barely literate, a "good" one like that would put me right off a book!

Alea Mon 10-Aug-15 17:48:13

Ana , the clue was in the name wink

Ana Mon 10-Aug-15 17:49:58

I think there might be more than one Jess with a surname beginning with M! grin

soontobe Mon 10-Aug-15 17:52:09

I still wouldnt buy any of them without a review.

soontobe Mon 10-Aug-15 17:53:51

I was thinking about buying the book as a christmas present. But I would need at least one review.

soontobe Mon 10-Aug-15 17:55:31

If I remained still interested, I would see if there was one at the bookshop so I could have a look through myself. Else no sale.