Healing Acid Reflux Naturally
Acid reflux is triggered when stomach acid backs up into your 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 stomachache, 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.
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. At worst, they suppress stomach acid which is essential for proper digestion, keeping infection away and nutrient absorption. From a functional medicine perspective, possible underlying causes of GERD range from the food you eat to factors such as imbalances in stomach acid, food sensitivities, hiatal hernia, overuse of antibiotics and stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine.
To get to the root cause of GERD, Dr Fenske may test for food sensitivities, evaluate your diet and lifestyle habits, work on improving digestion and gastric function, evaluate GI ecology, and consider a number of other possible causes. Once the underlying cause has been determined, Dr Fenske may recommend diet changes, herbal remedies, as well as nutritional supplements and stress management techniques.
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.
Aloe Vera: Soothes the irritation and supports healing.
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.
Digestive Enzymes: Improve digestion to decrease heartburn.
Probiotics: Help maintain balance in the digestive system between good and harmful bacteria.
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 between meals. Consume smaller meals and eat at least two hours before bed. Maintain a healthy body weight. Don’t smoke or overuse alcohol, as this can trigger and aggravate reflux.
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.
Stomach rumblings are caused by wave-like muscular contractions (peristalsis) at the walls of the stomach and small intestine. These are normal digestion movements, however the process is louder and more noticeable when the stomach is empty as the sound is not muffled.
Food for Thought . . .
“To insure good health: Eat lightly, breathe deeply, live moderately, cultivate cheerfulness, and maintain an interest in life.” – William Londen
Zap Indigestion with Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
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.
Seeds for Good Digestion: Cumin (Cuminum cyminum)
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 for improving digestion and treating 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.
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