The Gut, Acidity, Digestion and Infection

It's a well-known fact that Cystic Fibrosis causes high acidity. I thought this was some major, revolutionary epiphany on my part. It's not. This is common knowledge in the medical community and the CF community.

Everyone knows this. They just mostly don't treat it.


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If you complain of GERD or chronic heartburn or something like that, they may treat that with prescription antacids. But they don't treat the high acidity caused by CF as an issue in its own right, much less as a major underlying cause of CF symptoms.

Back when I was on CF lists, I would talk to people and they would admit that their lung issues were worse if they failed to take their antacids that day. This is consistent with my experience.

Acidity causes inflammation and promotes infection. It does a lot of other awful things, but I'm trying to keep this short and approachable. If you can get the acidity under control, you will start being a lot less symptomatic.

So, that sounds nice and straight forward and you may find it to be nice and straight forward initially. If you are extremely acid, taking antacids or drinking alkalizing fluids, like diet tonic water, can get you some obvious short-term relief.

But it will only take you so far and you will eventually start running into problems.

The reason for this is because everything you consume has to pass through your stomach and if you lower the acidity of your stomach too much, you interfere with digestion. If you make your stomach too alkaline, it can cause vomiting and make it impossible for you to digest food.

Your stomach needs to remain reasonably acid while the rest of your tissues become less acid and you have to achieve this while passing most of the ingredients for this miracle through the stomach. It's a tricky thing to solve.

First step is to eliminate problem fats and oils. Fats and oils are very persistent. The body processes them very slowly. If you consume oils or fats that cause you issues, they will linger.

Eliminating highly inflammatory oils and fats will begin to bring down your acidity without screwing up your digestion. "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Just not sticking really bad stuff in your system to begin with is the easiest way to start fixing stuff without having to come up with miracle cures for how to counteract bad stuff without disrupting digestion.

I almost never eat anything deep fried. I avoid peanut oil like it's the fucking plague. I avoid canola oil.

Have I mentioned yet that peanut oil is the work of the devil? Let me say that one more time: NO PEANUT OIL. God.

If you have CF and you learn one and only one thing from this site, that should be "never again eat anything made with peanut oil." That will probably make you feel about 25 percent better all by itself without any other intervention. This stuff is awful.

I did my best to avoid peanut oil and all peanut products for about five years before I reintroduced carefully selected peanut products in small quantities occasionally. I can have dry roasted peanuts occasionally. I can have Reese's Cups once in a while. I can have organic peanut butter once in a while.

But NO PEANUT OIL. EVER.

My safe fats are real butter, ghee (clarified butter), moderate amounts of palm or coconut oil, and certain animal fats (like bacon). However, bacon is hard on the lungs and I couldn't eat it regularly until my lungs were in better shape. If my lungs feel like sandpaper, I don't eat bacon.

Given that I routinely eat at places like Taco Bell or Denny's, there are probably other fats I am consuming without knowing what they are. I don't go to certain restaurants, like Jack-in-the-Box or Chik-Fil-A, and I mostly don't eat deep fried food.

As long as I stick to eateries I know from experience are safe and stick to foods I know from experience are safe, I can have a seemingly "normal" life. It isn't obvious at first glance to other people that I live with a long list of dietary restrictions and I routinely tweak my diet for medical reasons.

In addition to avoiding problem foods -- and fats and oils aren't the only problem foods, but it's a good place to start -- you need to learn to eat alkaline foods. This is the way you get your system alkaline without screwing up your stomach acid.

You don't want to rely too heavily on alkaline drinks. They can help for a time while you are extremely, excessively acidic. But if you rely on them too heavily, you will make your stomach too alkaline.

You can look up "alkaline foods" lists online. You will find that they have contradictory information at times. You should use your food journal to help you sort out what works for you and makes sense to you.

Some foods I rely prettily heavily upon: apples, corn and lettuce. Those are things I try to include in my diet regularly to keep my system alkaline without messing up my stomach's ability to digest food.

This is a long term project. It took me quite a lot of years to resolve the high acidity. I've been doing this more than 18 years and it's only in recent months that I don't wrestle regularly with the issue of high acidity.

I went through a period where I had a big bowl of lettuce with lunch about three to five days per week. That was a major step forward in correcting the excess acidity.

If lettuce is not your thing, celery and cucumbers are the other two "super foods" for alkaline diets. I just don't tolerate cucumbers well in large quantities. I can't remember right now what they contain that I don't do well with.

Look up your own alkaline foods. You may not need to radically alter your diet. I didn't radically alter my diet at first. I just began eating a bit more of the alkaline foods I already liked and already ate.

I will note that although I eat a lot of corn, I avoid corn oil. It is also acidifying, though not as bad as peanut oil. I can have it occasionally without it being horrible drama, but I try to just not have it.

So, I eat a lot of corn chips, but I don't eat Fritos because they are made with corn oil and it causes me problems.