A scientist should always be careful not to place to much stock in the result of an N=1 (there is only one subject) study or case report. If something works for one person, it does not mean that that thing will work for many other people. Nonetheless, case reports are interesting and can lead to larger, more generalizable studies. Moreover, if you happen to be the positive result in an N=1 study, your experience could be the most meaningful outcome that matters to you.
Over the weekend I received an email from a friend who had recently tried switching to a paleo diet. With her permission, I post her email below.
Subject: thank you!!!!!!!!!…
“I owe you a big thank you for suggesting Paleo, the longer I am on it the better I feel. I forgot what it is like to be healthy! I have been off of my Prilosec for 6 weeks now! (first time in 7 or 8 years with no acid reflux problems, despite the higher fat diet)! And the dark circles under my eyes which have always driven me crazy are starting to look better (I have done a little more reading, and they can be caused by grain allergies as well, who knew!) My sister is starting it tomorrow.”
Wow. I asked if I could share this experience with the Dan’s Plan community and she wrote back:
“for people with acid reflux, I noticed that the first 2 weeks, my reflux was actually a little bit worse than normal. I had always tried to be a healthy eater, and I think eating more fat and red meat than ever before initially caused my problems to spike (trying to stay eating low fat while also eating low carb was just making me too hungry). But once my body adjusted to everything, I noticed I have no problems at all any more (which is huge!). But I couldn’t go off my prilosec completely until about 6 weeks in. So I would say if you are trying to promote it for acid reflux suffers warn them that it may initially get slightly worse before it gets better. And I would recommend a 6 week or 2 month trial rather than 30 days.
But yeah it is really frustrating, because any time I told my doctors I had acid reflux they told me to eat less fat and less red meat. I told them I had almost eliminated fried foods, and only eat red meat about once a week, but every doctor I talked to just insisted that I must not be eating as low fat a diet as I claimed. Then they just wanted to up my reflux meds, which isn’t great for you long term. Now I eat all the red meat I want and I have never felt better. I was hoping that the Paleo would help my IBS (which it has), but I didn’t expect this much progress on my acid reflux.”
This is actually the second case in which someone I know who has had serious problems with acid reflux has solved those problems by eating paleo or eliminating gluten from their diet. And guess what? There is some real, published science out there to support this (see here and here for abstracts). So “patients,” listen up! You might be able to control your acid reflux with diet instead of meds. Researchers, listen up too! There might be opportunities to conduct some interesting clinical trials in this area.