Thursday, February 19, 2009

Last Call (The Day the Beer Stood Still)

"It's just not fair." It's a phrase I've mumbled on more than one occasion. For instance, I intone this whenever I hear the final tally on Tiger Woods' endorsement deals every year. Or A-Rod's salary. Or a Ned Spindle promo. Or watching The Weather Channel and finding out what the temperature is in January. Recently, though, I've muttered this at least 3,438 times since Wednesday, February 11th. It's the day I stopped drinking beer.

Like many, I suffer from acid reflux. In fact, my reflux has been so bad over the past 10 years that in 2006 I was forced to get the Nissin Fundoplication surgery, a procedure I referenced in an earlier blog entry. However, I really never felt completely healed. Something never felt quite right. The "burning" generally associated with typical acid relux had been pretty much laid to rest, but something was awry. I always feel "clogged up", with an incessant amount of throat-clearing. It's always been an annoyance, but I felt like it was starting to affect my work. So, last week, I visited yet another ENT. After performing a "videostrobe" (a ghastly little procedure whereby a metal rod with a camera on the end is inserted on top of your voice box, immediatly thrusting you into "gag-reflex mode") which I've had done a half-dozen times, the ENT came back in to the room, shut the door, and sat down. Hey, I've watched House, so this couldn't be good.

He turns on the video of my voice-box and points to several densely-reddened areas. "See that? This is reflux damage, but it's not acid-reflux. It's non-acid reflux, sometimes called 'silent reflux', and it's taking its toll." I stared at the video, and then finally mumbled, "Uh, but isn't this why I had the Nissin surgery, so I wouldn't have to deal with stuff like this?" He then went on to explain that this condition, called laryngopharyngeal reflux, or "LPR", is really much more dangerous than regular acid-reflux, and much more difficult to treat. Sure, you can take the "purple pill" a couple of times a day. But, the only way to really eliminate this bile-like substance from jumping up in to one's esophagus and lubricating the voice-box is to instigate some basic lifestyle changes. And these changes, invariably, have everything to do what we drink and what we eat.

So, I said to him, "Well, I know all this. See, the last ENT I saw showed me the same film, a re-run of my densely-reddened vocal folds, and he told me I had to give up salsa and all my favorite tomato-based products. So I did. And he told me I had to give up citrus, so I did that, too. And I gave up chocolate, and mint, and spicy Mexican foods, which I dearly love." He seemed impressed. "And," I said, "I gave up coffee, too." Now he was really impressed. "10 days of sheer caffeine-withdrawal misery, Doc. So why do my vocal folds still look like tenderloin?" He proceeded to hand me a series of LPR brochures and asked, "What about carbonated beverages?" I paused, and said, "Yeah, sure, I haven't had a Diet Coke in ages." He sat back down. "What about alcohol?"

Damn. "Well, I know red wine is a no-no, as is single-malt scotch, so I haven't had those in months." He nodded. "What about beer?"

Is this what it's all come down to? My nightly pleasure of a couple of well-crafted ales turns out to be the LPR culprit that prevents me from healing my seared vocal cords? "Ok, you can't be serious. I've given up ALL of these things. Are you saying that a couple of beers is causing me all this grief?" He handed me my new Nexium prescription and replied, "That's exactly what I'm saying. In order for the true healing process to begin, you have to be rigid and vigilant in doing these dietary changes. Sure, once the healing has occurred, you might be able to start re-introducing some of these things on a limited basis. But even then, it's no guarantee. We just don't know enough about this LPR to be sure. But you owe it to yourself to do whatever you can do in order to facilitate the healing. The stakes are higher for you"

So, I've been in mourning since February 11th. I've silently driven past Randall's Liquors on my way home, a place I'd usually pop into a couple of times a week just to see if any of the items I've read about in Beer Advocate had made their way on to the shelves. I've been eating earlier in the evening, in order to obey the "no-food-at-least-three-hours-before-bedtime" LPR mantra. And, I must admit, on my way upstairs from the studio, I have opened my beer refrigerator occasionally just to stare at the bottle of Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA that my wife bought for me. Who knows...should sufficient healing take place, perhaps that will be my "welcome back" reward.

Until then, hoist one for me, lads. The 'fridge at the Matt-man's pub may be closed for some time.

* Why not grab your favorite beverage, cop a squat, and groove to some DEMOS at

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