WHAT TO EXPECT: As part of a total gastrectomy, the sphincters at the top and bottom of the stomach are removed. The result can be a problem with reflux.
WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT: Reflux is probably one of the few aspects of post-gastrectomy life that does require some permanent adjustment. However, though you always have to make some adjustments, there is dramatic improvement over time. You will get to a point where it is an annoyance more than anything.
TIPS AND TRICKS:
Modify evening eating: Gary was originally told he needed to eat his final meal four hours before bedtime. This turned out to not be true.
We do eat our evening meal around 5:30 or so and go to bed around 9:30. But, we also have a couple of small cookies and a small glass of milk around 7:30. We do find that having this snack much later can cause Gary some reflux problems so we try to stay to this schedule.
However, when our social life or an evening activity require, we readily accommodate a different eating schedule. Especially now that it has been so long since Gary’s surgery, this does not generally cause a problem.
Get a wedge pillow and a recliner or IKEA Poang chair: Your surgeon will probably recommend that you sleep with your head raised. Don’t worry, this does not mean using a hospital bed. Gary started with the tallest wedge available which was 12 inches. Some time later, he changed to the 10-inch size. Finally, he is down to the shortest wedge which is only 8 inches.
Especially in the early months after your surgery, you’ll want a recliner. You’ll spend a lot of time not feeling good or not having much energy, times many of us take to the couch. However, unless you want to be a “couch potato with a wedge'” you’ll probably find a recliner a better choice.
For the long term, we stumbled on another option in a second hand store. For $15 we bought what we later learned was an IKEA Poang chair. We bought it because it was comfortable, but Gary figured out that this works really well when he just wants to rest or take a short nap.
At least where we live, they are readily available on Craigslist.
Use Prevacid or similar antacids: Gary’s surgeon recommended over-the-counter Prevacid. This is sold as a 14-day reflux cure, but Gary was instructed to take it as needed. Gary used it probably every day for a year but ultimately found he no longer needed it.
There are many kinds of antacids. Not all will be effective for someone without a stomach. Check with your doctor for a suggestion on which antacid to try.
Absorb reflux with Triscuits, Ritz crackers, or apple slices: Gary finds that when he feels a bout of reflux coming on, he can eat several Triscuits and that settles things right down. We remember reading that someone else kept Ritz crackers by their bedside and another person used apple slices.
Get back up: Gary used to have reflux fairly often after going to bed. He found getting up and sucking on life savers for thirty minutes or so settled things down. This happens infrequently now and he can sometimes fix things by just getting up and eating a few Triscuits and going back to bed.
Avoid foods that cause you problems: Gary has found that no specific food seems to be enough of a problem to warrant giving it up. This is one of those times when you need to figure out what your body can handle rather than just avoiding all acid-producing foods. And remember, just because a food causes you reflux once doesn’t mean it always will.