Tuesday, February 22, 2011

End the Suffering of Heartburn/GERD

  "I'm tired of this hearburn. My MD tells me it's GERD, Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease and I should take pills to handle it. I hear I'll have a 40% greater chance of pneumonia if I take them. Isn't there a safer way?When we have digestive distress and mainstream medicine has us believe we have few ways to deal with it. Actually, there are more ways to a healthy tummy.
 Heartburn, or GERD for gastro-esophageal reflux disease is a big problem in this country with a total of 61 million Americans having heartburn at least once a month. 19 million have symptoms weekly and over 9 million have daily symptoms. ,  . The costs of GERD medications are over 12 billion dollars a year3. The effect these medication are designed for is to reduce the level of acidity in the stomach It can be an occasional minor irritation after a meal or a serious pain that can result in damage to the esophagus.

  This is a potentially minor problem that has been played into a major moneymaker for pharmaceutical manufacturers as can be seen by the money spent above.
   The mechanism of heartburn, or reflux is a mechanically simple one. The ring of muscle called a sphincter at the lower end of our esophagus constricts to prevent the contents of our stomachs that are under pressure from pushing back up into the esophagus. The pressure in the stomach is caused by the muscular action in digestion of the stomach and the chemical reaction of the enzymes and hydrochloric acid that are expressed by the stomach for that purpose. The muscular tension of the sphincter provides the key to a proper seal between the burning content under pressure of the stomach and the sensitive tissue of the esophagus. If there is a poor seal between the stomach and the sphincter, acid-laden material washes onto the esophagus, causing burning and pain.

   What determines the amount of contraction and seal of the sphincter?
Strangely enough, the level of acidity in the stomach is the governing factor. That is to say, the greater the level of acidity, the tighter the sphincter.

   This seems very logical, the more potentially dangerous the contents of the stomach the tighter they should be locked away. So when there is leakage from the stomach to the esophagus, it is actually because there is not enough acidity in the stomach to trigger the tightening of the muscle, or there is too much pressure on the abdomen for the muscle to handle. In the former case, where there is too little acid, it may simply be because there has been too much food consumed too quickly for the stomach to produce sufficient acid, or too much fluid intake has served to dilute the acid level. These are simple lifestyle issues solved by eating more slowly and drinking less during a meal.

   The more problematic is when heartburn is chronic, meaning there is either too much pressure on the abdomen or there is too little acid production. The more serious problem is lowered acid production. If the stomach is not producing sufficient acid to tighten the sphincter, then all the GERD medications are simply treating the symptom, the burning of the esophagus while increasing the cause, lowered stomach acidity. It is a great formula for having a client for life instead pf taking care of a problem.

    A common safe and easy naturopathic answer for GERD is to enhance stomach acidity with a plant-based hydrochloric supplement, betaine hydrochloride. This raises stomach acidity to increase sphincter tension and promotes natural stomach acidity, so it only needs to be used short-term to promote long-term stomach health.

  In the case of excess abdominal pressure, both the sphincter and the esophagus can be affected, with the esophagus actually being pushed upward towards the throat, which is called a hiatal hernia. This of course compounds any acid reflux issues. In this case Bowenwork can release excess abdominal pressure in a few visits, and the client can be instructed in self-care maneuvers to restore balance to the esophagus and digestion.
     Sontag SJ. The medical management of reflux esophagitis. Role of antacids and acid inhibition. Gastroenterol Clin North Am 1990;19:683-712.

2    Hinder RA, Libbey JS, Gorecki P, Bammer T. Antireflux surgery. Indications, preoperative evaluation, and outcome. Gastroenterol Clin North Am 1999; 28:987-1005,viii.

3    Siepler J.K, Trudeau W.L.Treatment Options for Gastroesophageal Reflux disease: Scientific      
Review California Healthcare Foundation  2004

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