GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) is a condition characterized by an irritation to esophageal mucosa caused by refluxing of stomach contents back into the esophagus, aka. “Heartburn”. Signs and symptoms of GERD include reflux, indigestion, difficulty or pain with swallowing solid or liquid foods, cough and chest pain. There are many different conventionally considered causes of GERD including: inflammationof the esophagus, side effects of medications, hiatal hernia, overeating, high/lowstomach acid (hyper/hypochlorhydria), obesity and pregnancy. Other things to consider when determining the origin of this condition include food allergies or sensitivities, low gastrointestinal enzyme production, mental/emotional imbalances, presence of pathogenic microorganism overgrowth (Helicobacter pylori inparticular), alcohol or substance abuse, spinal misalignment, too-tight clothes syndrome and eating hygiene. Chronic and severe cases of GERD can lead to achange in the cellular lining of the esophagus in some patients which is a pre-cancerous condition called Barrett’s esophagus. Approximately 10% of patients with GERDdevelop Barrett’s esophagus which can develop into esophageal cancer. This is one of the reasons that concerns with reflux are readily addressed.
The conventional standard of care offered to patients suffering from reflux symptoms include Proton pump inhibitors, histamine antagonists and antacids – all of which act to reduce the amount of acidpresent in your stomach. The problem with this approach is that it is relying on the assumption that the cause is low stomach acid, when in fact it can beanybut not limited to the aforementioned list of causes. Because of this, eachcase of GERD must be approach individually. Labs can be completed to determine any abnormal blood/stool/ breath chemistry and a comprehensive intake by a professional healthcare practitioner should be completed to determine the distinct clinical picture.
Once the origin of dis-ease is determined, there is a plethora of treatment options to consider including: eradication of bad bacteria and repopulation of good bacteria, dietary modifications, vitamin/nutrient supplementation, botanical and enzyme therapy, acupuncture, hydrotherapy, spinal manipulation, homeopathy, mind/body medicine and exercise. All of thesetherapies share in common the goal of addressing origin of disease instead ofmasking symptoms as well as working WITH your body to stimulate the innate abilityto resolve dis-ease.
Some easy at home remedies can include preceding all meals with a tablespoon of Apple cider vinegar which has been shown to increase the amount of digestive enzymes produced by your pancreas which will help in the breakdown of food. Eating bitter foods (arugula, radicchio, brussel sprouts,turnips, etc) or consuming bitter botanical formulations (gentian, dandelion,fennel, ginger) can have a stimulating effect on the stomach helping to empty foods into the intestines therefore reducing likelihood of reflux. Avoiding icewater with meals will ensure adequate blood flow to the stomach as well as not exercising right after a meal. Also, it is important to consider that the stomach is the first large organ to “take in” from the outside world and therefore many emotions are held there, particularly related to worry, nervousness and anticipation (butterflies in your stomach) – so addressing mental/emotional concerns and encouraging stress relief is important.
Contact a Naturopathic physician with Blocks of Health with additional questions or concerns and don’t take the Purple Pill for an answer!