The Rod Blog

04 August 2006

The Rod Belch is National News!

Woo hoo! Much excitement tonight!
Anne & Claire are down the coast. Claire for a performance, Anne to do some work.

I was just preparing for bed, and went to fetch the crossword for my nightly wind-down ritual...and guess what! I spotted the Sydney Morning Herald, there's the Health & Science section - and it's has my story in it!

I sent this off a couple of weeks ago, and forgot about it. They didn't tell me they were going to publish it, so it was a bit of a surprise. That means the Rodblog has been on national radio and newspaper.

Okay, brag, brag, but I'm excited. I even got my own cartoon.

But I know that Rod's law says that every ego boost is invariably followed by an ego boot of the same proportion. This means that within the next few days I will do something that makes me feel like a complete git, and then everything will be back to normal. Balance restored.

The SMH story is reproduced for your pleasure. Originally titled "On with the Wind".


I never thought there was such a thing as a life-threatening belch until I discovered gastric reflux. Family members learned to recognise the signs. It probably starts with a facial expression which fortunately I can’t see. Then walk away with hand on stomach, emitting a long buuuuuuuuuuuuuurrrrrp. On a bad day it’d go on for minutes, to the point where I’d feel nauseous.

People experience reflux in a variety of ways, and it seems remarkably common. Basically, it’s caused by an ineffective valve at the top of the stomach, allowing gastric acid to escape. You’d expect to then encounter heartburn, as the acid tries to digest your oesophagus, but for some reason I almost never get this.

Being a man, I put up with this for ages before seeking medical advice. The specialist explained that I am swallowing air as my body produces its own natural antacid – saliva. Simply eating often helps too, since it also absorbs the acid.

But eating – there’s the rub! What do you eat? Launching into my favoured comfort food – cakes, alcohol, beer, fatty food can make it worse. This is where I and my condition are at war. I can’t resist daring it to bite.

One day I made a deep incursion into Reflux territory. Beer, chips, and a small salvo of malt whisky. Bad move. The reprisal was not particularly swift, but it was merciless. The next day I was a misery of searing stomach pain. Reflux let me know it would not tolerate such transgressions without consequence.

Subsequent examination revealed an oesophageal ulcer, but thankfully no “Barrett’s oesophagus”. Good thing: you don’t want a visit from Mr Barrett because it can be a precursor to cancer.

Thankfully the ulcer healed quickly and, to my delight, I have discovered that I can tolerate the occasional nip of whisky. A glass or two of beer is usually fine, and I have become good at judging the signs of when I can push it.

One of the drugs that is supposed to help me sounds like it belongs in a nuclear research facility. The technical blurb for omeprazol casually calls it a “proton pump inhibitor”. This simply means that it suppresses the secretion of stomach (hydrochloric) acid.

It sounds weird to have no stomach acid, but apparently with a modern diet, you don’t need it anyway. I certainly have never noticed any side effects, and internet research has convinced me that it’s pretty safe. So even though I always avoid drugs if I can, I have few qualms about popping these when the belches are looming.
Oddly enough, studies have shown that a drug like this means you are more likely to suffer colds. Fewer bugs survive the acid journey through the stomach.

In the early days I was nearly driven mad by the endless gassy episodes, to the point where I even investigated surgery. The specialist told me the old-fashion O-ring around the top of the stomach is, well, old fashioned and not recommended.

Then I discovered a thing called “fundoplication” where the surgeon wraps the oesophagus with a portion of the stomach, helping to tighten the seal. A variant is called the “toupee wrap”, which only goes part way around.

The former sounds like a mathematical procedure; the latter like Turkish take-away. They both sound like hospitals, pain, and expense. Besides, I was concerned about other possible consequences of this internal tweaking, so I decided to give it a miss.

These days the reflux and I live in an unsteady truce. I still lob in the occasional naughty, and by some weird logic of its own, it either ignores it, or pays me back double. And then on other days it, even though I’m good, it’ll bung on a turn just to let me know who’s boss.


  • I'm squeamish and never knew medical stories could be so witty and entertaining - no wonder the SMH published. BTW, hope their fee pays for the medication... Meanwhile stay fit and good luck beating that weird logic!

    By Anonymous Jenny A, at 5:07 pm  

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