GERD is a shortened name for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, also known as acid reflux or heartburn. It occurs when the acid of the stomach refluxes (moves into) the esophagus.
This causes damage and irritation to the esophageal lining. In people who are generally healthy, the lower part of the esophagus does not open to allow stomach acid into the esophagus.
However, in those who have poor eating habits, live a stressful lifestyle, and have practiced few ways to mitigate inflammation, GERD is more common.
Heartburn – or the burning sensation which can radiate from the mid to upper chest into the throat and even the mouth, means the esophagus is not operating as it should.
Symptoms associated with GERD are also more than just a burning sensation in the chest and throat, and can include:
- chronic bronchitis
- sore throat
- upper respiratory distress
What Causes GERD?
The underlying cause of GERD is multi-faceted. It is thought to be a stress-driven disease from a natural health perspective.
The acidic toxins of our bodies from eating spicy and oily foods, drinking too much caffeine, having irregular eating and sleeping patterns, and being highly stressed take their toll. These acidic toxins then simply start overflowing into parts of the body where they don’t belong.
We need an acidic environment in our stomachs to properly break down food, but this acidity obviously does not belong in the chest and throat.
By calming the acidity in the body overall, and changing the pH back to a healthy state, GERD is less likely to occur.
There have also been links established to GERD and Helicobacter Pylori and Candida Albicans. If you have symptoms for any one, make sure you treat them along with GERD.
How to Diagnose GERD?
An Endoscopy is recommended followed by consultation with a local physician.
Should you be worried about GERD?
GERD in itself is a very common disease and one should not be too worried about it. However, if left untreated, the symptoms can continue to grow and cause gastritis and increase bacterial presence which can sometimes lead to other diseases. Thus, the right treatment is absolutely necessary along with maintenance on diet to stop the problem from increasing further.
How long does it take to cure?
Provided you have the correct treatment option available, which helps develop the internal linings and regulates the stomach pH along with destroying the h pylori and other bacteria, treatment can take anywhere between 6 months to 1 year based on your lifestyle.
As the disease starts to heal, one may assume it is gone completely and start taking normal diet. However, these bacteria and disease is known to go in bouts. This means that somedays the disease wont feel like its there, and thus switching to a regular diet can be harmful. A conservative diet for 1 year is advised along with proper medication to rid the disease completely.
When our bodies are in an acidic state from diet, stress, lack of exercise, environmental toxins, etc., our cells are starving for oxygen.
Our ideal pH level is around 7.4; this is when the cells can get all the oxygen they need. As we move away from this number and become more acidic, the disease state is more likely to occur.
Unhealthy bacteria, viruses, and molds start to flourish inside of us, and our immune system starts to attack itself to save our larger organs – GERD is a symptom of this attack.
However, allopathic medicine approaches GERD treatment from a different perspective.
GERD Treatment Options
Allopathic Remedies for GERD
Allopathic medicine sees GERD is the root disease, but has no cure for it. It is simply believed to be the backup of stomach acid or bile into the esophagus – no further explanation is offered.
Allopathic medicine does not offer a reason for the valve that normally keeps food and acid out of the esophagus to become weak or begin malfunctioning. It simply warns that the constant back-up of acid and bile into the esophagus can cause a precancerous condition and other complications such as bleeding, and esophageal narrowing.
The cures offered, therefore, are meant to reduce acid in the stomach, which is needed for the proper digestion and assimilation of nutrients from food. Or, they simply attempt to lessen the burning sensation.
These medications usually include:
- H2 blockers (both prescription and over-the-counter)
- Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs)
- Promotility agents (stimulate the muscles of the gastrointestinal tract)
Most of these medications include side effects ranging from headache and diarrhea, to abdominal pain, gas, bloating, and headache. Others can cause fatigue, restlessness, and bowel movement problems.
Natural Remedies for GERD
Most natural remedies for GERD start from a prevention perspective and realize that the weakened esophagus is a symptom of a greater imbalance in the body. Though simpler solutions will aim to calm the symptoms, many therapies will suggest diet and lifestyle changes that will help to change the underlying acidity which is likely causing the esophageal valve to weaken.
Traditional Chinese Medicine for GERD
From the TCM perspective, the gallbladder, pancreas, liver, and spleen work to aid the stomach’s digestion. When these organs function improperly the digestive system becomes imbalanced and acid reflux and heartburn occurs. This again – is due to the imbalance of a set of organs due to underlying conditions in the body – not simply a “broken valve” issue.
GERD and heartburn is also viewed as being caused by emotional stress disrupting the chi, or vital energy flow. Its very nature – a burning sensation of the heart often means that unexpressed emotions are trying to find a way out.
More specifically, the stagnation of qi leads to acid reflux. This is caused by stress, which stimulates the cranial nerves (vagus nerve) that control the stomach. Your gut-feeling that something isn’t right – that’s usually right on. But when we are stressed we start to ignore the enteric nervous system’s messages, which are bound up in the vagus nerve’s communication to many other parts of our bodies.
Various secretions which control the stomach’s acid and various gastric fluids ensues, as well as stomach muscle contraction.
TCM therapies which attempt to address these multi-faceted issues include acupuncture, herbs, Tai Chi and Qi Gong to minimize stress, as well as moxibustion.
They are often successful at lowering gastric acid, adjusting esophageal pressure and balancing the functions of the digestive organs.
Herbal remedies are many-fold. Some attempt to calm the stomach, soothe the nervous system, and lessen acidity. Others aim to balance the organs systems and increase qi with high antioxidant levels. Some common herbs used for GERD include:
- Fennel (a digestive aid)
- Licorice root
- Green cardamom
- Aloe vera
Other Suggestions for Treating GERD Include:
- Chew gum. This can stimulate the salivary glands before meals. The creation of saliva in the mouth tends to allow acid build up in the gut to be diluted.
- Sit up. Simply changing your position may help with symptoms as it makes the acid have to work against gravity to try to splash into the esophagus.
- Eat a banana. This fruit contains natural antacids that can calm acid without overly diluting it. Apples do the same due to naturally occurring pectin.
- Start moving. Exercise cures almost every disease. If you live a highly stressful life, skip the high impact cardio, and just get some moderate exercise instead. It reduces inflammation, keeps us alkaline and lowers stress, which we’ll talk more about in a moment.
- Drink gingerroot tea. This remedy is especially popular among pregnant women who suffer from GERD due to the pressure on their abdominal walls due to a growing fetus. You can simply make your own ginger tea by cutting off several large pieces of ginger root and letting them simmer in hot water. Try drinking your tea about 20 minutes before any meal to lessen the symptoms of heartburn.
- Abstain from smoking and alcohol. These two things – especially in combination are notorious for making our bodies overly acidic, and can weaken your esophageal valve considerably.
- Add mustard to your diet. Mustard and mustard seed is extremely alkalizing. If you feel heartburn is creeping in – munch on a few mustard seeds to reduce the symptoms.
- Eliminate trigger foods. Some foods that are spicy or oily may aggravate your GERD. Notice when you have an episode right after eating certain foods, and try to eliminate them from your diet.
Possibly the Most Important treatment: Reduce Your Stress
You may have noticed that GERD is always worst when you feel stressed. Stress, is in fact, one of the most common triggers. “Stress can affect many gut functions, and we know that patients who are under a lot of psychological stress suffer from more severe reflux symptoms, without necessarily having more severe reflux,” says Mitchell Cappell, MD, PhD, the chief of gastroenterology at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich. “We live in stressful times and heartburn is incredibly common,” he says.
This stress causes us to by hypervigilant, and it’s no good for our digestive system. We also know that stress causes a whole cascade of physiological symptoms, from hormonal changes, to muscle contraction, which can contribute to GERD.
Some of the simplest, most cost-effective (or free) ways to reduce stress include:
- Laughing at funny movies, or telling jokes with friends
- Getting outdoors, spending time in nature
- Deep Breathing
- Mindfulness Exercises
- Eating stress-reducing foods (eliminating sugar, adding magnesium)
- Slowing down
- Scheduling fewer things in your day
- Delegating more tasks to others
- Making love
- Reaching out to friends or a counselor
- Turning off the television
- Listening to uplifting music
- Taking a walk
- Listening to the early signs of stress in your body
- Getting more sleep
GERD is a disease with a deep-seated root cause, but it can be cured, and not just band-aided with over-the-counter and prescription antacids. Start eating better. Get plenty of sleep. Exercise, and reduce your stress. Your body will start to repair the esophageal valve that is causing the problem of acid reflux. No more GERD!
Herbal Medicines for GERD
There are two natural, herbal medications made by Grocare which help in gastritis treatment: Acidim and Xembran.
Acidim helps balance the pH of the entire intestinal systems & abdomen seamlessly.
Xembran is a bacteriostatic to eliminate H pylori and other harmful bacteria from the body.
ACIDIM regularizes the amount of acid in the stomach. Thus, digestion is completed. ACIDIM also increases gastric motility, thus allowing digested food to get expelled from the stomach. Hence, food doesn’t ferment and release gas, the stomach is empty and the discomfort ends.
XEMBRAN stops growth as well as kills H. pylori in the stomach. Xembran works along with the body’s defense mechanism to eliminate the harmful bacteria. Acidim and Xembran together help in gastritis treatment and also help to repair and restore the stomach lining without any side effects.