The Healing Power of Beer

As noted here in the past, I had horrible stomach problems for a good chunk of last year. This was diagnosed as “Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease” or “GERD,” which basically amounts to “Your stomach hurts.” After a number of deeply unsatisfactory appointments with a gastroenterologist, and some tests about which the less said the better, it eventually got better, and I haven’t had serious problems with it for a while now.

Wednesday, I aggravated an old shoulder injury playing basketball. I separated both shoulders (at different times) playing rugby, back in the day, and every now and then I do something to re-aggravate one of them. This was another deeply unsatisfying medical experience. Actual conversation with the orthopedic specialist at the college health center:

Me: What do I do about this?

Doctor: Well, when does it hurt?

Me: It hurts if I lift my arm above about here. demonstrates

Doctor: Try not to do that.

And people wonder why I say snarky things about pre-med students.

Anyway, I hurt my shoulder again on Wednesday. Thursday night, it was pretty sore, so I decided to take something for the pain. Kate has also been having horrible reflux problems, and has a much more classic set of symptoms than I do, and she mentioned that she had been given some prescription Naproxen, which didn’t upset her stomach. That’s what they gave me, back when I first injured my shoulder, so I said “Perfect,” and took one.

Big mistake.

Within a couple of hours, my stomach was right back to being as bad as it’s ever been. And really, I had almost managed to forget just how bad that was. Back when Nirvana was big, I remember some Cobain fanboy writing for a magazine attempting to excuse his heroin use by saying that he had terrible stomach pain, and nothing else helped. I thought that was the stupidest excuse ever for addiction, but you know, after a few months of my own stomach problems, I began to see the attraction.

(My shoulder did at least feel a little better. Or, at least, it hurt less than my stomach…)

The irritation didn’t really let up Friday, so I had to go the self-medication route, though I didn’t go all the way to heroin. The thing that works for me– one of two methods I found (no thanks to the medical profession) that consistently help– is beer.

You wouldn’t think that beer would help, given that both alcohol and carbonated beverages are on the list of forbidden foods that accompanies the GERD diagnosis, but it does. I have a beer or two, and it calms my stomach down. I discovered this by accident, when I went to a bachelor party for a friend from college at the very worst point of last year’s problems, but it’s worked consistently as long as I’ve had the problem. I drink beer, and I feel better, and that continues into the next day, as well– it’s not like I’m drinking myself insensible, only to pay the price for it later.

It didn’t completely fix things, but I felt a whole lot better last night, and while my stomach is worse this morning than it was Thursday morning, it’s worlds better than it was yesterday. I’m at least functional, which couldn’t really be said yesterday morning– I still can’t believe I made it through six months of feeling like that every day.

If the talking-to-the-dog thing doesn’t pan out, maybe I’ll try writing a diet book for heartburn sufferers… I suspect, though, that this is an idiosyncratic property of whatever is wrong with my stomach, and not something that generalizes well.

(The other reliable method for calming my stomach down, for those who care, is physical exercise– if I go for a bike ride, or play basketball for an hour, I feel better. This is also not really what you would expect from the GERD diagnosis, but it’s also been very consistent over the last year and a half.)