How to manage GERD naturally
GERD stands for gastroesophageal reflux disease and feels like a burning hot lava attack on your throat. But is it a disease? Big pharmaceutical companies have given it a disease nomenclature so that they can treat it with drugs. These drugs do help buffer the acidity so your throat feels relief, but the end result of a stomach without proper acidity leads to far worse problems. Let's talk about a sure fire way to end the burning attack in the esophagus with a demulcent and how to manage GERD naturally.
The stomach is most efficient when it has a very acidic medium of 1.3-3 on the pH scale where 7 is neutral and 1 is very acidic. In fact each number on the pH scale is a power of 10 greater, so a stomach acid of 3 is 10,000 times more acidic than the neutral environment of the esophagus. A strong acidic wash in the stomach is necessary to:
- Breakdown proteins into amino acids the body can use
- Cleave vitamins and minerals from the proteins
- Kill bacteria, viruses, and unwanted microorganisms in the food
- To signal the pancreas to send in digestive enzymes
- To signal the gallbladder to send bile for fat breakdown
If the five priorities of digestion don't occur, these problems may occur...
- Large protein particles make their way to the intestine undigested and putrefy
- The body lacks energy, deficient in essential vitamins and minerals
- Opportunistic bacterial, viral, and fungal infections may take hold of the body
- Pancreatic distress develops and slows down digestion
- A gallbladder attack due to congestion of bile that isn't released
It seems logical to take an antacid when the burning sensation occurs. The burning pain is obviously acidic so we reach for something to neutralize the acid. The neutral esophagus then feels relief with a neutral reflux, however the reflux is a symptom of a root problem. Why is the stomach tossing back up the food in the first place? The answer is in our bodies innate intelligence.
Our digestive system knows when the food is not broken down completely and thus may contain viruses, overly large particles, or insufficient nutrients to signal the pancreas and gallbladder to further break down fats in the food. The stomach in an effort to protect the lower digestive tract tries to vomit the slurry back up the esophagus. Not a fun reaction, but the bodies innate intelligence acting to protect itself.
Add this to the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) failing to completely close from stress, and voila, the food has a straight path back up into your mouth.
For proper digestion, we need to promote a healthy stomach environment so we can avoid the GERD and stomach viruses. We need the acid to complete digestion so we don't want to stop the natural process with meds. Here are a few natural ways to keep your food moving in the right direction.
Digestion Starts in the Brain
When you smell the food you're about to eat, see the beautiful colors and begin to imagine eating it. You should feel your stomach begin to "growl", that's the stomach acid that is necessary for proper digestion to occur. The digestive juices form when we're relaxed and not under stress. It's about sitting down and enjoying your meal, and not about shoving a protein bar in your mouth on the way to work.
Chew Your Food
Saliva has enzymes in it that begin to break down the carbs in your food. For some of us, who live on refined carbs, and eat them by the bag while watching a highly stimulating game, you can imagine how little is properly digested. We chew twice, swallow the food whole, and never give the stomach a chance.
Relax and Enjoy Your Food
When your body experiences stress, it produces cortisol, a hormone that kicks in our fight or flight response and brings digestion to a halt. When people say they can't eat under emotional stress, they're using their intuitive intelligence. Nobody can digest under stress, the body simply doesn't work that way. In order to digest properly we must RELAX, eat slow, and enjoy our food.
Note: refined sugars and artificial sweeteners create the same stress in the body.
Processed foods are often dehydrated and have little to no water content. We need water to flush the food through to the large intestines where it facilitates elimination and the rest is reabsorbed for use in the body. Try to drink at least half of your body weight in ounces every day of pure clean filtered water.
If you're doing everything above and still feel like you suffer from digestive fire, try these aids.
- A bitters tonic can be purchased at most health food stores which is exactly what it says: a bitter elixir made from herbs that stimulate gastric juices. These tonics can be pricey, but are helpful right before your meal.
- Add a splash of apple cider vinegar to a small glass of water and drink that right before your meal. Fresh lemon juice could be added to your water with the same effect.
In the event of an acid reflux attack, the quickest way to eliminate the fire is to use a demulcent. Demulcent herbs coat the esophagus and stomach with a slippery, mucous like film that can quelch the fire in a matter of minutes. Try one of these in your next flare up:
Demulcents for GERD relief
- Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (I know really?, just call it DGL) - yes it tastes like black licorice, but this is the alternative medicine world's favorite, and it works great!
- Mallow - If mallow were made into marshmallows, we wouldn't eat them anymore. With it's pretty pink flowers, this herb has an amazing soothing effect on acid burning. Open a capsule into some water and sip your pain away.
- Slippery elm - comes in a tea, a throat lozenge, and an herbal capsule that can be opened and poured into a bit of water too. Great for general sore throats too.
- Chamomile tea - works for some, licorice root tea, or meadow sweet tea, but do not drink peppermint tea, as it can relax the LES which should be actively closing the food out of the esophagus.
You Are What You Eat
The quality of the food you put in your body really does matter. Since proper digestion begins with the brain and the sight of food, you should be delighted by the beautiful colors of your food. My favorite is to shop leisurely while wandering around a farmers market on the weekend.
As for the GERD, let's try a demulcent and a few natural remedies first to see if we can't get that stomach growling and flushing south only please. For starters close your eyes and imagine your favorite holiday meal, smell it cooking in the kitchen, and when you feel hungry, go eat something delicious.