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General Description

More than 100 million people in the U.S.A. today suffer from long-term, recurrent gastrointestinal problems. One of the more common digestive disorders is Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). Although over-the-counter medications are available for the treatment of GERD, many of these remedies do not have long-term beneficial effects and many people need to see their doctor for stronger medications, while others may even need surgery to alleviate symptoms. Changing your diet can have significant beneficial effects on GERD and prevent the need for invasive treatments.

More than 35 percent of adults in the United States are thought to be suffering from GERD. Although this disorder can affect people of all ages, it has been shown that the risk increases as people age and tends to rise dramatically after age 40.

Symptoms

  • A burning sensation in the chest; this can also sometimes be felt at the back of the throat and may leave a bitter or sour taste in the mouth
  • Pains or tightness across your chest
  • Difficulty or discomfort swallowing
  • Sore throat or hoarseness
  • Dry, unproductive cough
  • Regurgitation of bile or food
  • Feeling of a lump in the throat
  • Nausea and/or vomiting

Causes

  • Stomach Abnormalities
  • Smoking
  • Poor Diet
  • Enzyme Deficiency
  • Some Medications
  • Genetics
  • Heliobacter Pylori (h. Pylori)

How is It Diagnosed

  • Endoscopy
  • Biopsies
  • Esophagram
  • Throat and Larynx Examination
  • Esophageal Acid Test
  • Esophageal Manometry Test
  • Gastric Emptying Test
  • Acid Perfusion Test

Traditional Treatments

  • Antacids
  • Histamine-2 Blockers
  • Proton Pump Inhibitors
  • Coating Agents
  • Motility Agents
Companion Conditions
  • Barrett’s syndrome
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Ulcers
  • Strictures
  • Hiatal Hernia
  • Sliding Hiatal Hernia
  • Para-esophageal Hiatal Hernia
  • Hoarseness of the Throat and Dry Cough
  • Asthma
  • Inflammation of the Lungs
  • Sleep Problems

Alternative Treatments

Nutritional Therapy

Apple Cider Vinegar

Eating raw and organic vegetables is a great way to increase your intake of digestive enzymes. Kevin Trudeau, author of More Natural Cures Revealed; Previously Censored Brand Named Products that Cure Disease, recommends taking one tablespoon of raw apple cider vinegar  immediately before each meal to help digestion and eliminate acid reflux.

Papaya

Papaya is a nutritious fruit that is rich in vitamins A, C, E and K, carotenoids, antioxidants, Leutine, magnesium, copper and fiber. It also contains protein-digestive enzymes papain and chymopapain. These enzymes help to reduce inflammation. According to Dr. Lytton-Benard, Yale University, people who have problems digesting meals that are high in protein can benefit from eating fresh papaya or by taking papain supplements. These digestive enzymes can also benefit GERD sufferers who may have nutritional deficiencies due to impaired digestive processes.

Digestive Enzymes

Digestive enzymes are vital to the body’s absorption of food. They are each specially designed to break food substances down into simpler nutrients that can be easily digested. Although raw fruits and vegetables contain digestive enzymes, they have only enough to help digest that particular food; they have no extra to help with systemic support of your body. This means that our bodies must produce the rest of the digestive enzymes we need. If you are suffering with a digestive disorder such as GERD then your gastrointestinal system is already working overtime to compensate for nutritional deficiencies and in this case it may be advantageous to take a digestive enzyme supplement. Plant based enzymes are more active than other forms. The four most common plant based digestive enzymes available in supplement form are protease, lipase, amylase and cellulase. Many plant-based enzymes are produced from aspergillus, which is a type of fungus.

Enzymes are derived from aspergillus through a fermentation process and are purified compounds which no longer contain any living aspergillus cells. They have a long record of safe use in the food industry. These enzymes can be taken with and between meals to help digestive processes. They are natural to the body and only leave the digestive system when they have expended their activity. In his book Digestive Enzymes, Jeffery Bland explains how digestive enzymes work, how different methods of cooking affects their bioavailability and how they become depleted as we grow older. He also recommends how to make the most of enzyme supplementation.

Folate (Folic Acid)

Folic acid is vital for the production and maintenance of new cells. Because of impaired absorption, people suffering from GERD may be deficient in folate.  Folic acid can also help prevent certain forms of cancer and heart attacks. As a daily supplement the recommended daily intake of folate for adults is 400 micrograms. Natural food sources include oranges, lentils, lima beans, spinach, asparagus and beets.

Gamma Oryzanol

Gamma oryzanol is extracted from rice bran oil and other grain oils such as barley and corn. Marshall Editions, 1000 Cures for 200 Ailments: Integrated and Conventional Treatments for the Most Common Illnesses, recommends taking 150mg of gamma oryzanol three times a day on an empty stomach to help repair the whole of the digestive system as well as improve the central nervous system’s digestive control.

Garlic

When chopped and allowed to react with oxygen, garlic produces allicin which has a wide range of health benefits including anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Studies have also shown garlic to have the natural ability to reduce inflammation and may alleviate acid reflux. Dr. Joseph Mercola, founder of The Natural Health Center, recommends adding two cloves of raw garlic to meals every day. If you dislike the flavor, garlic can be taken as a supplement. The suggested daily dosage for adults is 200mg.

Glutamine

Glutamine is an important source of nitrogen for the cells in the small intestine. It helps promote healthy gastrointestinal function and protect the lining of the stomach and intestines. It is also an important antioxidant. It can improve the symptoms of Crohn’s disease by easing inflammation and preventing ulcerations or lesions in the gastrointestinal tract. It can be added to your diet by means of food sources or a daily supplement. As a supplement the recommended daily intake for adults is 3-30 grams divided into separate doses. Natural food sources of glutamine include oats, wheat, beef, chicken, salmon, tuna, herring, cod, hard cheese, milk and eggs.

Green Drinks

As well as containing many of the essential nutrients your body needs, green drinks are also high in fiber which means that they aid absorption of nutrients from food and help prevent constipation. Another important factor about green drinks is that they are rich in chlorophyll. According to Dr. Robert Young, author of The pH Miracle for Weight Loss, "chlorophyll helps your blood deliver oxygen throughout the body, making stronger blood and thus stronger cells."     

There are a number of green drinks and supplements available. These include:

  • Barley grass
  • Wheat grass
  • Spirulina
  • Chlorella
  • Blue-green algae
  • Liquid chlorophyll

Melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone produced by the brain’s pineal gland, which helps to regulate the sleep cycle. The gastrointestinal tract secretes even more melatonin than the pineal gland so it is not surprising that recent studies have shown a connection between this hormone and GERD. The studies suggest that inadequate sleep could lead to an increased risk of GERD due to insufficient production of melatonin. Dr. Jonathan V. Wright, M.D., author of Your Stomach; What is  Really Making you Miserable and What to Do About It recommends 6 mg of melatonin after dinner to relieve symptoms of heartburn.

Probiotics

Probiotics are dietary supplements containing live beneficial bacteria. They are highly recommended if you are suffering from GERD. There are more than 400 different species of microbacteria living throughout the length of the human gastrointestinal tract. Although some of them are pathogenic, many are beneficial if not essential and help to maintain good digestive health by breaking down food and assisting with the absorption of nutrients. Often GERD sufferers have an imbalance between the friendly and pathogenic microbacteria and the harmful bugs start to overpopulate the digestive system. This causes inflammation, acid reflux, ulcers and poor nutrient absorption. Probiotic supplements contain live beneficial bacteria. Taking them on a regular basis can help to replenish and rebalance your bacterial ecosystem. They can also help to reduce the risk of other complications that may arise from GERD. To be most effective it is recommended that the probiotic supplement have a high content of live bacteria. The usual measurement for probiotics is Colony Forming Units or CFUs. This refers to the number of live bacteria present in each serving. The typical daily dosage recommendation is 20 billion CFUs but can be up to 50 billion

Vitamin D

Dr. Joseph Mercola, M.D., stresses the importance of vitamin D for the treatment of heartburn and acid reflux. He explains that although sunshine is an ideal source of the essential vitamin, more than half of the United States does not have adequate sunshine for most of the year. In this case a vitamin D3 supplement is vital for stomach health.

 

Alternative Therapies

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a form of ancient Chinese medicine in which very fine needles are placed at specific points along the body – known as meridians. Practitioner claims that these points on the surface of the skin are conduits for the flow of qi or life energy and that they connect directly to the internal organs. In a healthy body the qi is balanced and flows evenly through the meridians, balancing and cleansing. When the body is unhealthy, the flow of energy becomes blocked. The placement of acupuncture needles is believed to unblock the energy and revitalize the organs. Studies have shown some promise with the use of acupuncture for the treatment of GERD.  The stimulation of certain acupuncture points inhibits esophageal relaxation by up to 40 percent.

Yoga

Because yoga is more than just an exercise program it is beneficial to total health. Not only does yoga increase flexibility and balance it is also efficient at helping the body improve its absorption of nutrients and to eliminate toxins. Practicing yoga may be highly beneficial for GERD sufferers.

  • It can help your body digest food more efficiently
  • It will help you improve your lifestyle and promote a healthy routine
  • It will improve your quality of sleep
  • It will tone your muscles and organs to prevent GERD
  • It will improve gastric and intestinal motility
  • It will improve your emotional wellbeing
  • It will reduce stress levels

Wellness Program

Lifestyle Changes

  • Exercise – Regular exercise is beneficial for overall health but moderate exercise can also help to alleviate some of the symptoms of GERD. A number of studies have shown that GERD sufferers who engage in regular exercise experienced fewer symptoms of GERD than those who did not. It has been suggested that exercise can help control GERD symptoms by reducing excess body weight and promoting healthy metabolism. People who are obese are twice as likely to experience reflux symptoms and almost three times as likely to develop esophageal cancer as those who maintain a healthy body weight.
  • Stress Reduction– Eliminating stress in not as tricky as you may think. Even during the most challenging times of your life, you can control stress levels. If you are suffering from GERD this is particularly important because elevated stress levels can trigger heartburn and acid reflux by producing excessive amounts of stomach acid.
  • Develop Healthy Eating Habits – There are a number of simple but important dietary changes you can make in order to reduce the symptoms of GERD. These include:
  • Only eat when you are hungry
  • Do not drink liquids while eating solid food
  • Do not over eat
  • Incorporate as much raw food into your diet as you can
  • Leave an adequate space between meals
  • Don't miss meals or eat on the run
  • Eat small meals frequently throughout the day rather than having three or four large ones
  • Don't eat during the last two hours before bedtime
Talk with your Doctor

Why do you think GERD is the cause of my symptoms?

What tests are used to diagnose GERD?

How are other conditions eliminated?

Which tests do you recommend for me and why?

What treatments are available?

Which treatments do you recommend for me?

Will these treatments have any adverse effects with medications that I am already taking?

How should I change my diet?

How should I change my lifestyle?

What complications may I develop from GERD?

 

Dealing with the Emotional Challenges of GERD

Though GERD is not caused by emotional problems, its symptoms can be worsened by them. GERD also comes with its own set of emotional challenges such as being able to function on a daily basis at work or at home with the family. Your emotions can become severely strained if you have been dealing with GERD over  a long period of time, have little support or are caring for an adult of infant with GERD. If you are suffering yourself, you may want to consider joining a support group it can be very beneficial to know that you are not the only person experiencing these symptoms and a support group is also a good place to exchange information and coping strategies. If your experience of GERD is making you anxious or depressed, you may want to consider asking your doctor to refer you to a therapist. He or she can be very helpful when you need someone to listen to you and to advise you how to cope with symptoms of anxiety or depression.

Remedies

Homeopathy is an alternative therapy which treats patients by means of  heavily diluted preparations that cause effects similar to the symptoms. The aim of this therapy is to stimulate the body to heal itself. Mark Stengler N.D., a naturopath from La Jolla, California, says that the correct homeopathic remedy can usually cure acid reflux problems. The four most common homeopathic remedies for acid reflux are:

Arsenicum album

This remedy is recommended if you are feeling restless, you are having chills and are constantly thirsty, or if you have a burning sensation in your stomach or chest.

Nux Vomica

This remedy is recommended if you are feeling stressed, you are easily irritated and have tension in your neck and shoulders.

Lycopodium

This remedy is recommended if you are suffering from gas and bloating or acid reflux that burns your throat.

Pulsatilla

This remedy is recommended if you are experiencing nausea along with heartburn and you are experiencing acid reflux, particularly after eating fatty foods.

You should seek the advice of a qualified homeopath before taking any preparations.

Herbal Remedies

Aloe Vera

The intestinal cells need regular nutrients in order to maintain a high immunity barrier. One of the most important nutrients for this purpose is the amino acid L-glutamine. Aloe Vera is rich in L-glutamine and so can enhance cell regeneration throughout the intestinal lining.  Leigh Erin Connealy, M.D., specialist in integrative medicine, recommends an aloe vera leaf supplement in combination with slippery elm, okra leaf and licorice root for GERD sufferers who are being weaned from their prescription antacids to help attain a full recovery.

Black radish (Raphanus sativus)

Black radish is an ancient vegetable of the mustard family. Its juice is extracted and used to promote liver function and bile production and can reduce the effects of acid reflux and heartburn. It also contains a high fiber content that encourages regular bowel movements. Studies on animals have shown that by increasing the flow of bile, black radish improves the digestive processes, specifically the digestion of fat.

Bromelain

Bromelain is a combination of enzymes found in the stem and leaves of the pineapple plant. It helps the body absorb protein and so is beneficial to the digestive processes. It can also help reduce inflammation of the esophagus and intestinal lining. The suggested dosage is 250-750 mg, taken two or three times a day between meals.

Fennel Seed (Foeniculum vulgare) 

Fennel seeds are a great supplement to help combat the symptoms of heartburn and acid reflux. The Health Sciences Institute recommends fennel seed to help relieve gas, bloating and gastrointestinal tension. The suggested dose is 600mg per day before meals.

Fenugreek Seed

Fenugreek seed is an Indian herb.  The seeds, stems and leaves are used for cooking because of their flavor and nutritional value. The seeds are rich in carbohydrates, proteins, Vitamin A and C, iron, calcium and minerals. This enables it to provide the body with energy and fiber as well as preventing constipation, improving digestion and stimulating the functions of the liver, spleen and gallbladder. According to Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., C.N.S., author of The Most Effective Natural Cures on Earth, fenugreek also balances blood sugar levels.

Flaxseed (Linum bienne)

Flaxseed or linseed is the seed from the flax plant. It is rich in fiber and omega-3 fatty acid which both help to soften and bulk the stool and facilitate the elimination of waste. Flaxseed also cleanses the colon and continued use may help prevent colon cancer. It has the added benefits of lowering cholesterol and triglycerides. Jean Reinhardt-Martin’s book, Flax Your Way to Better Health, not only reveals the fascinating history behind flax, but also tells you where to find flax products and how to make your own meals with flaxseed.

Ginger (Zingiber officinale)

Ginger acts as an anti-spasmodic, helps prevent vomiting, and improves the tone of intestinal muscles. It also has a mild anti-inflammatory action. Ginger is available in many different forms. Though more research is currently needed, preliminary studies indicate that ginger is effective in reducing symptoms of IBS. In his book Herbs for Health and Healing, Peter Corn recommends peppermint tea blends that also include soothing herbs such as mallow and burdock root.

Licorice

Licorice root supplement can help to repair stomach lining that has been damaged by acid reflux and also to prevent ulcerations of the stomach lining. Nutrition expert Mary Bove recommends deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) before meals to soothe and heal inflamed esophageal tissue, help with digestive processes and prevent constipation. The suggested dose is 350mg - 1,000 mg three times per day with meals.

Mastica

Mastica is the resin extracted from a type of Greek pistachio tree. It has been used for centuries to treat a wide range of gastrointestinal disorders. It can also be used to treat Heliobacter pylori – the pathogen that causes ulcers. Although it eradicates harmful gut bacteria, it does not affect the beneficial bacteria that populate the intestines. It may also increase the protection of the stomach lining and reduce inflammation.

Peppermint (Mintha piperita)

Peppermint, particularly in combination with caraway oil, is able to soothe the muscles of the stomach and stimulate the production of bile, which the body uses to digest fats. This enables food to pass through the stomach quicker. As outlined in New Choices in Natural Healing, edited by Bill Gottleib, the active extract from peppermint oil in this case is believed to be menthol. Several studies have shown that enteric-coated peppermint capsules are beneficial for the treatment of  ulcerative colitis symptoms including stomach pain, gas bloating and diarrhea. The enteric coating on the capsules prevents the peppermint oil from coming into direct contact with the stomach lining, which means indigestion and heartburn are avoided. Capsules should be taken as needed.

Slippery Elm (Ulmus fulva)

Slippery Elm has been used for centuries to treat a number of ailments including inflammation. Phyllis A. Balch, CNC, author of Prescription for Herbal Healing: An Easy-to-Use A-Z Reference to Hundreds of Common Disorders and Their Herbal Remedies, considers slippery elm to be beneficial for GERD because it contains mucilage. Mucilage is a thick substance that turns to gel when mixed with water. This coats the stomach and intestinal tract and can ease symptoms of heartburn and reduce inflammation caused by acid reflux.

Turmeric (Curcuma domestica)

Turmeric is a tropical plant of the ginger family. In Eating Well For Optimum Health, Andrew Weil describes how the active ingredient, curcumin, has been extracted from the dried root and used for centuries in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine and how beneficial it is for reducing inflammation. The suggested daily dose for adults is between 180-500mg taken in 3-4 doses.

 
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