Bile reflux is real. Dare I say worse than regular ‘ole acid reflux. The fix for acid reflux is simple. It’s an antacid. Anti-acid. Get-rid-of-the-acid-acid. There is no such equivalent for bile reflux. Until now… 

Acid reflux is predictable and easily treated. If you have too much booze, spicy food and pizza right before bed, you can pop an antacid and a few minutes later your acid reflux is gone. Bile reflux on the other hand is a sneaky bastard. Sometimes you eat and you’re fine. Other times out of nowhere you get the worst reflux that feels like you just drank a bottle of Drain-o. The problem is unlike acid reflux, there is no pill you can take to reverse it quickly. That is until I discovered Pepsi.

“Pepsi?” You ask. “Yes, Pepsi.” I reply. Let’s back up a bit and it will all make sense in a few paragraphs. When you have a stomach, it’s lined with gastric cells which produce hydrochloric acid. The acid these cells make is there to aid in digestion. The cells of your stomach are also specifically suited to this caustic acidic environment, so the only time the acid bothers you is when it refluxes (comes out of) the stomach into the esophagus (swallowing tube). The esophagus doesn’t have these special acid resistant cells, so it burns. Hence indigestion. Heartburn. Whatever you want to call it. 

When you have a stomach and eat a meal, the food gets churned in this acid mix until it becomes a paste called chyme. When it’s the perfect consistency, the chyme gets squirted out into your duodenum, the first part of your small intestine. There your gallbladder and pancreas release a juice filled with enzymes that further break down the food and fat for digestion. This juice also helps to neutralize the acidic slurry your stomach just squirted out since the duodenum doesn’t have the specialized acid resistant cells your stomach does. If you go back to high school chemistry this is an example of the acid base balance. The stomach produces the acid and the pancreas and gallbladder provide the base, otherwise known as an alkaline solution. The two solutions cancel each other out and what you’re left with is a neutral, pH balanced solution. 

The problem is after a total gastrectomy you don’t have a stomach. Duh. That’s what a total gastrectomy is. Without the stomach you don’t have the acid and while I’m sure the pancreatic bile enzyme mixture is less alkaline, it’s still alkaline. Alkaline solutions still burn, just in a different way. An example of an everyday alkaline solution is Bleach.

There have been countless times I’ve eaten a lovely carb loaded meal and wanted to take a post meal nap, leaning back on my couch to fall asleep only to be awakened by a caustic slurry that bubbles up and burns like nothing I’ve ever felt before. It has been so bad at times I’ve been left scrambling looking for anything to drink to help with the burn. It turns out Pepsi is my secret weapon. The pH of the hydrochloric acid in your stomach is about 1.5 to 3.5, which is pretty acidic. But did you know that Pepsi is also pretty acidic? Its pH is 2.39. Crazy right? The same is true of Coke, who’s pH is 2.37. The lower the pH, the stronger the acid.

Thanks Science New for Students for the picture.

So what does this mean? When you have bile reflux, AKA alkaline reflux, if you drink an acidic solution, it will neutralize your reflux, thereby getting rid of that bleach like burn you get from bile reflux, making a neutral pH balanced environment. It works. Really well in fact. So well, I always have a Pepsi in the house as my anti-alkaline or antalkaline. Yes, I’m making up new words now. Whenever I feel my bile reflux coming on, or when it sneak attacks me, I just take a few swigs of Pepsi and feel much better. 

Your antalkaline doesn’t have to be Pepsi. It’s whatever you like that’s acidic. It can be Coke, Dr. Pepper, RCA, or any other dark soda. All the dark colas are all equally acidic (just check out YouTube if you don’t believe me when I say they are acidic). Actually, your antalkaline can even be orange juice, but it’s not quite as acidic as the dark colas, clocking in at 3.5 pH. If you’re reading this and are post-gastrectomy, make sure to get a diet soda to avoid the dumping syndrome your sure to get with fully loaded soda and if you’ve recently had your post gastrectomy try to get a caffeine free version. That said, if you need relief and you only have a caffeinated version available, I’m sure a few swigs of caffeine should be okay.  

So next time you get bile reflux, reach for the Pepsi and feel the relief. Leave a comment below and let me know what you think and if it helps.