Gastric Reflux or GERD
Medical Treatment vs. Natural Treatment
Gastric reflux is an extremely uncomfortable condition in which excess acid from your stomach travels up your esophagus into your throat and mouth. This can be caused by a burp or more commonly when you put your body in a reclining position, usually when you are trying to go to sleep.
The acid in your stomach is a very important part of the digestive process. When food enters the stomach, it alerts millions of tiny proton pumps to secrete acid to begin the digestive process. The other purpose of this acid is to destroy any bacterium that accompanies the food. By doing this, when your stomach empties its contents into your upper intestine, any bacteria that was in your food is destroyed and this prevents intestinal infections such as diarrhea. In some cases, after the stomach contents have emptied, excess stomach may slosh against the stomach walls causing very uncomfortable heartburn and in the worst case this excess acid goes up your esophagus, burning cells along the way and may cause nausea or vomiting when it enters your throat and mouth. This condition is not normal and can be treated medically with the use of drugs or naturally by a change of diet and digestive enzymes.
Within a few moments of describing your symptoms to your physician, you will probably be given a prescription for a new class of drugs known as proton pump inhibitors. The very first one was Losec® (omeprazole) and since then many companies have brought out similar drugs with the names Nexium®, Prilosec®, Prevacid® and Pariet® all of which are chemically related and close relatives of the original omeprazole. They are very expensive and they suppress the symptoms for a while. They work by actually shutting down nearly all your proton pumps in your stomach so that barely any acid is produced. Since only about 10% of digestion is done by your saliva and stomach acid, this will not have any overall effect on your digestion. It simply means that your digestive enzymes in your upper and lower intestines and your normal flora bacteria will have a little more work to do. The danger is that the food that does empty into your upper intestine may have bacteria that was not destroyed by your stomach acid and that leaves you susceptible to intestinal infections. Therefore the number one side-effect of taking these drugs is painful cramping and diarrhea.
The next medical treatment is one in which the cause of your problem is blamed on a stomach bacteria known as Helicobacter Pylori (H.Pylori) which they claim is the principle cause of gastric ulcers, We all have these bacteria in our stomach; however the rationale is that our stomachs keep on secreting extra acid to try and destroy this bacterium. Whether you are perfectly healthy without any symptoms or have serious stomach problems, everybody will test positive for this bacteria. The test was originally developed by the manufacturers of Losec and the treatment is two weeks treatment of antibiotics along with their Losec. After you have used up the antibiotics, supposedly you are better but it is recommended that you continue with the Losec for the rest of your life, just in case the dreaded H.Pylori comes back.
Recently there have been severe outbreaks in hospitals and chronic care facilities caused by a bacterium known as Clostridium Difficile (C.Difficile). This is a very resistant bacterium that causes severe colitis and diarrhea. The reason this infection has become so prominent is that when hospitalized patients are given a multitude of drugs for their condition, a proton pump inhibitor is added to the mixture just in case the cocktail of drugs upsets their stomach. The reduced acid in the stomach cannot destroy the hospital borne C.Difficile and the patient suffers horrible diarrhea and may possibly develop severe colitis. It is so typical of the medical profession to prescribe a drug for a certain condition and then prescribe even more drugs for the subsequent side-effects rather than withdraw the drug.
The best way to treat gastric reflux naturally is through the use of digestive enzymes. If you swallow a broad spectrum digestive enzyme which contains specific enzymes for specific food groups, for example, lipase for fats, lactase for milk products, protease for proteins and so forth, you can effectively change the way your body digests food. Plant enzymes, unlike our own, start to work at a PH of 4.5 which is the PH of the acid in your stomach. By swallowing two of these enzymes at least five minutes before a meal, they will be present and activate when the food enters your stomach. The fact that there is a separate enzyme for every type of food signals the stomach that acid release is not necessary. It takes a while for your stomach to get the message but within a few days your stomach stops secreting acid and allows the digestive enzymes to do the work. Of course, if you forget to take your enzymes and start to eat, your body will revert to the old method and stomach acid will be released. Since the enzymes are only specific for all the food groups you may ask what if there are bacteria in the food? What happens then? In this case your stomach has the natural ability to recognize an infecting bacteria and stomach acid will be released in order to try and destroy the infecting organism. To further protect yourself, you may take an acidophilus product after your meal and these probiotics help your body protect itself against invading bacteria which may enter the intestine and colon.
Another natural treatment for gastric reflux is the use of Aloe Vera Juice or Gel. This substance acts as an anti-inflammatory and is usually taken either straight or mixed with water daily in the morning. It can also be used at night symptomatically.
Very often your stomach will secrete acid when you are under a lot of stress. Stress always attacks the weakest point of your body and if your stomach is prone to ulcers or gastric reflux, stress will enhance your symptoms. The natural way to relieve stress is through exercise, either aerobic or through stretching, Pilates, yoga or whatever type of exercise you can do safely. This is the most natural way to alleviate your stress and reduce your symptoms. When pharmaceutical companies do studies on their drugs, they actually compare the daily use of their drug to two weeks of bed rest. That is because if you stayed in bed for two weeks or lived on a deserted island with no stress for two weeks, all your symptoms would disappear.
Finally, think about the food that you eat. You may have a love for certain types of hot spicy foods but they may not love you back. You should keep a very honest two week diary of everything you put into your mouth and describe your symptoms daily. If you did this very scientifically you may be able to pick out those foods which cause the most gastric distress. Sometimes a change of diet alone can be enough to alleviate all of your symptoms.
Finally, if you are a smoker, quit. There is nothing more harmful to stomach ulcers or gastric reflux than the chemicals in a cigarette. I know that quitting smoking is very difficult for an addicted smoker but in the case of gastric reflux it is a necessity.
Always remember that in order to maintain a state of good health we should encompass both traditional medicine and natural remedies and use whatever is necessary. In the case of gastric reflux you should try every natural treatment that you can to stop your symptoms and help your digestive system. However, if none of the natural treatments work, then you should consider the prescription drugs as an alternative. I say this is not because I am so concerned with the symptoms of gastric ulcers but because of the consequences. If excess acid is left untreated and continues to destroy cells in the lining of the stomach, esophagus and throat, it could eventually lead to cancerous growths in these areas. Gastric reflux is not just an uncomfortable condition. It is a severe physical problem that must be treated either one way or another.