You've just enjoyed a southwest burrito at your favorite restaurant. Now, you're feeling as if someone has lit a fire in your upper abdomen and the flames are reaching up your throat. That's acid reflux. It's triggered when stomach acid backs up into your food pipe (the esophagus). Acid reflux (commonly called heartburn) is a painful and aggravating condition that affects about 60% of the adult population in a given year. A more persistent and serious condition, Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) afflicts as many as seven million Americans.
A variety of symptoms accompany reflux - not everyone has them all. People with GERD typically experience symptoms from intense irritation to burning pain in the lower mid-chest or behind the breastbone. Other common symptoms are stomach ache, nighttime cough, and inflammation. Persistent reflux can erode tooth enamel, damage the lining of the esophagus, cause sore throat/laryngitis, interfere with swallowing, and increase risk for diseases of the esophagus.
ACID REFLUX AND GERD SYMPTOMS INCLUDE:
- Heart burn
- Dry mouth
- Bitter taste in mouth
- Waking up choking or coughing in the middle of the night
- Hoarseness upon arising or throughout the day
- Gum irritation, including tenderness and bleeding
- Bad breath
- Regurgitation of acid or foods
- Bloating after meals and during bouts of symptoms
- Black stools
- Belching after meals
- Hiccups that are difficult to stop
- Difficulty swallowing (possible sign of narrowing esophagus)
- Unexpected weight loss
- Discomfort worsens when bending over, or laying down
- Chronic throat irritation, soreness and dryness
You may be familiar with prescription and over-the-counter medications for reflux disease, such as proton-pump inhibitors and antacids. At best, these drugs only mask symptoms, providing short-term relief rather than getting to the root cause. From a holistic medicine perspective, possible underlying causes of GERD range from the food you eat and pregnancy to factors such as imbalances in stomach acid (not producing enough stomach acid contrary to mainstream medicine beliefs), food sensitivities, magnesium deficiency, hiatal hernia, H. pylori infection, overuse of antibiotics and stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine.
To get to the root cause of GERD, a holistic physician may test for food sensitivities, evaluate your diet and lifestyle habits, and consider a number of other possible causes. Once the underlying cause has been determined, your doctor may recommend diet changes, herbal and homeopathic remedies, as well as nutritional supplements and physical therapies such as abdominal massage and stress management techniques. Your doctor will use therapies and help you make changes that will restore balance and health to your gut.
HERE ARE A FEW FOODS THAT CAN MAKE ACID REFLUX & GERD WORSE:
- Carbonated beverages
- Energy drinks
- Artificial sweeteners
- Fried foods
- Vegetable oils, including canola oil
- Spicy foods
- Processed foods
- Corn and potato chips
- Tomatoes and tomato products
- Creamy/oily prepared salad dressings
- Mint and peppermint
Below are a few of the supplements and lifestyle changes that can help you maintain a healthy gut and reduce your risk for heartburn and GERD.
GINGER: Treats various gastrointestinal ailments, including heartburn. It acts as an anti-inflammatory, which can reduce irritation in the esophagus.
LICORICE ROOT: Helps increase mucus production and digestive activity, protecting the stomach and esophagus from acid. Licorice root has been known to increase blood pressure in people diagnosed with hypertension. Be sure to discuss use of this supplement with your health practitioner.
PROBIOTICS: Helps maintain balance in the digestive system between good and harmful bacteria.
DIGESTIVE ENZYMES: Take one or two capsules of a high-quality digestive enzyme at the start of each meal. They help foods fully digest and nutrients absorb properly.
KEFIR: Kefir and yogurt help balance healthy bacteria in the stomach, aiding in digestion and soothing the digestive tract. Select products that have live and active cultures that have been fermented for 24 hours.
BONE BROTH: Made from organic grass-fed beef, slow cooked to extract essential compounds for 48 hours with a couple tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to draw out the collagen, glutamine, proline and glycine.
APPLE CIDER VINEGAR: ACV helps to balance stomach acid and lessen the symptoms of acid reflux. Mix one tablespoon of raw apple cider vinegar with a cup of water and drink five minutes prior to eating.
ADOPT HEALTHY HABITS: Exercise 30 minutes daily. Boost your diet with whole, fresh fruits and veggies, fermented foods, and organic meats. Drink 6-8 glasses of filtered water daily. Maintain a healthy body weight and don't overeat. Properly care for other medical conditions such as diabetes. Don't smoke or overuse alcohol, as this can trigger and aggravate reflux.
Other supplements to discuss with your health care provider include melatonin, HCl with pepsin, L-glutamine and a magnesium complex.
Remember, supplements alone do not address underlying lifestyle habits and health conditions that cause GERD. It's important to work closely with a holistic physician to understand the root cause and your best individualized treatment.
An Asian spice well-known for its sweet and zesty zing, ginger has been shown to reduce pain and inflammation and support metabolism and digestion. As a digestive aid, this knobby, horn shaped root has been used in traditional herbal medicine to nourish and warm the digestive organs including the mouth, stomach, pancreas, and liver. Ginger stimulates production of enzymes in all digestive pathways. It also aids in the breakdown of starches and fatty foods. Herbalists have long used ginger to heal upset stomach, diarrhea, nausea, and morning sickness.
Modern herbal medicine practitioners often prescribe ginger to prevent and treat nausea and vomiting associated with pregnancy, cancer treatment, motion sickness, after surgery and for indigestion. Researchers aren't sure of the exact physiological processes that make ginger effective, but current research indicates that compounds in ginger bind to receptors in the digestive tract and help minimize sensations that create nausea and indigestion. Ginger may also facilitate digestion, reducing the time food sits in the stomach.
There are many preparations for ginger including ginger chews and lozenges, fresh or dried tea infusions, capsules, and extracts. And here is a great recipe for healthy homemade Ginger Ale, prepared with a freshly grated ginger.
- Mars, B. & Fiedler, C. Home Reference Guide to Holistic Health & Healing. (2015) p.186. Beverly, MA: Fair Winds Press.
- Johnson, R.L., S. Foster, Low Dog, T. and Kiefer, D. National Geographic Guide to Medicinal Herbs: The World's Most Effective Healing Plants. (2012) p.140; 158-160. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic.
- WorldsHealthiestFoods.com. Ginger. Accessed October 4, 2016.
- Borrelli F, Capasso R, Aviello G, Pittler MH, Izzo AA. Effectiveness and Safety of Ginger in the Treatment of Pregnancy-Induced Nausea and Vomiting. Obstet Gynecol. (2005) Apr;105(4):849-56. PMID:15802416.
- Hoffmann, D. Medicinal Herbalism. The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, Healing Art Press 2003.
- Ginger Root Supplement Reduced Colon Inflammation Markers, University of Michigan Health System, 11 October 2011.
Whether you need to soothe your toddler's upset tummy or your own serious bout of indigestion, a sweet and zesty ginger chew can ease the symptoms. The key to making ginger chews is freshly grated ginger, more potent in enzymes than pre-packaged ground ginger. Look for a rhizome that is firm, smooth and free of mold. If the outer skin is tough, instead of tender, be sure to peel that off and discard, then shred the ginger for this recipe.
- 1/4 cup shredded fresh ginger root - packed
- 3/4 cup organic cane sugar (brown sugar works too)
- 1/4 cup pure honey (raw honey optional but not necessary here)
- Coconut oil
- Candy thermometer
- Parchment Paper
Grate ginger root, pack it down into a 1/4 measuring cup, and add to water in a saucepan and simmer until half the liquid has evaporated (about 30 minutes). Strain and discard ginger. Reserve 1 cup of ginger decoction. Grease a small glass dish (approx. 7×4 inch) with coconut oil. Cut some parchment paper to fit the bottom of the pan and cover it with coconut oil too. Pour ginger decoction into a large clean saucepan. Add sugar and honey over high heat until it reaches 260 degrees or passes a water drop test, which is the preferred method.
Water drop test: Get a cup of VERY cold water and drop a small amount of syrup in. Use a spoon to retrieve your candy. You'll be able to feel if it's too soft or just right. Remember… you want it chewy… not runny or hard.
When temperature is reached or syrup has passed a water test, pour candy into pan and let sit for 30 minutes. Turn dish over and remove parchment paper from the bottom of the candy. After coating a sharp knife in coconut oil, or running it under HOT water, cut the candy into small strips (1/2 x 1 inch). Wrap in extra parchment paper for storage. If the candy gets stuck in the pan, use a spoon and scoop out bits of sticky candy to mold and wrap. This will take a little extra work, but the chews will be exactly the same.
Adapted from Vintage Remedies recipe.
L-Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid (protein building block) in the body; as such, it has a wide range of functions. Critical for removing excess ammonia (a common waste product in the body), glutamine supports the immune system, muscle and organ growth and repair, as well as brain and digestive functions. It's also been shown to protect against the breakdown of the mucous lining in the gut. Most glutamine is stored in muscles, followed by the lungs, where much of this protein is made.
On a typical day, our body makes enough glutamine to meet ordinary needs. However, when we're under stress (emotional or physical - from heavy exercise to mental illness, injury or surgery), we may not produce enough glutamine to address the stress hormones flooding our body. That's when taking a supplement comes into play. Additionally, a glutamine supplement is often helpful for individuals with medical conditions such as GERD, leaky gut, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), where their glutamine levels may be consistently low.
L-Glutamine supplements are usually in pill form, but you can also find a powder version which should be mixed with a cool liquid. It's critical to remember: Always use cool, never hot foods or liquids. Heat destroys glutamine. Unless otherwise recommended and supervised by your health practitioner, a glutamine supplement is not recommended for children under age 10 or for people with kidney or liver disease, or a history of seizures. Proper dose is crucial to how well L-glutamine works. Always consult with your holistic practitioner before adding a supplement such as glutamine to your diet.
Cumin is a seed-derived spice with a nutty-peppery flavor that packs a punch from the moment its aroma seeps into your senses. Immediately, Cumin activates the salivary glands which kicks-off the digestive process. Known as jeera in Ayurvedic medicine, cumin is native to the eastern Mediterranean area and is used in cuisine from many parts of the world, including Tex-Mex, Eastern, and Indian. The seeds have been used in folk medicine since antiquity to promote digestion and treat flatulence, diarrhea, indigestion, bloating and gas.
Medicinally, cumin is recognized as a carminative, which means that it soothes digestive irritation, such as gas, and thereby improves digestion. Due to its essential oils, magnesium and sodium content, cumin can also provide relief for stomach ache and irritable bowels. Current research shows that cumin's beneficial effects may be due to the spice's ability to stimulate secretion of pancreatic enzymes, which are necessary for proper digestion and assimilation of nutrients from food. Adding to its nutritional potency, cumin also contains flavonoids and antioxidants, which are beneficial to overall health.
It's best to cook with whole cumin seeds that you grind with a mortar and pestle. Packaged cumin powder is more convenient but it loses its flavor faster than whole seeds. Whole seeds will keep for a year, when stored in a cool, dark place, while powder should be used within six months. For enhanced flavor, roast cumin seeds before using them.
- "Curcumin v. Cumin: Not the Same." Accessed on October 4, 2016.
- WorldsHealthiestFoods.com: Cumin. Accessed on October 4, 2016.
- Agah, Shahram et al. "Cumin Extract for Symptom Control in Patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A Case Series." Middle East Journal of Digestive Diseases 5.4 (2013): 217-222.
Doctors of Chiropractic (DC) have long been known as the doctor you choose when you hurt your back. Today, chiropractors can do much more than just treat pain after an injury. With specialized training, chiropractors are able to address diet and lifestyle changes, teach mind-body practices, and offer a more holistic approach to helping patients manage a variety of health conditions, including digestive disorders.
Chiropractors view health from the philosophy that misalignments in the spine (called subluxation) create interference in how the brain and nervous system communicate with the rest of the body - muscles, glands, and organs - resulting in symptoms of illness. Therefore, your DC focuses on identifying (through x-ray or other images) and correcting these misalignments.
The theory behind how chiropractic works for digestive disorders is that subluxation interrupts communication between nerves and the gut. Restoring communication promotes healthy mobility of the muscles in the digestive tract. It also promotes proper secretion of digestive juices and regulation of hormones important to gut health.
Chiropractors restore normal function by using hands-on therapies called adjustments to correct the subluxation in the spine and other joints that may be affected. They may also use massage and corrective exercises, depending on the condition. This approach honors the body's innate ability to heal and aims to reduce/eliminate symptoms, restore healthy function, and enhance quality of life.
Chiropractic may be an important adjunctive treatment in managing digestive health concerns for some people. A review of research published between 1980 and 2012 indicated mild to moderate improvements in report of patient symptoms for a variety of digestive conditions, including irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, GERD, and colitis. Other studies did not find significant improvement in patient symptoms. There is a need for more well-designed clinical studies in order to make definitive statements about chiropractic treatment for digestive disorders. As with other treatments where research is still emerging, individual patient considerations play an important role in how someone responds to a treatment.
The information offered by this newsletter is presented for educational purposes. Nothing contained within should be construed as nor is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. This information should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider. Always consult with your physician or other qualified health care provider before embarking on a new treatment, diet or fitness program. You should never disregard medical advice or delay in seeking it because of any information contained within this newsletter.