GASTROESOPHAGEAL REFLUX DISEASE (GERD)
Is it your imagination or are the commercials for heartburn and reflux multiplyinglike rabbits? I’ve recently seen a statistic that up to 40% of adults suffer fromreflux also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). What is GERD?It is a chronic condition caused by the backflow of acid, bile, enzymes, and foodinto the esophagus. GERD can be triggered by overeating, certain foods andbeverages and lying down when the stomach is still full. It occurs because thevalve between the stomach and the lower end of the esophagus – called thelower esophageal sphincter- fails to close properly. It is aggravated by anythingwhich increases pressure in the stomach or decreases pressure in theesophagus. Symptoms can be as mild as minor discomfort to severe chest painthat feels like a heart attack. Common symptoms are heartburn, burning in thethroat and an acid taste in the mouth. The danger is that over time, stomach acidcan erode or cause ulcers in the lining of the esophagus. When these heal thescar tissue may narrow the esophagus making swallowing food more difficult.
There is also a possibility of progression to Barrett’s esophagus—severe damageto the esophageal lining which is linked to an increased risk of esophagealcancer.
The stomach exudates can also reach the upper esophagus and trachea,causing or worsening a variety of conditions, such as asthma, chronic cough,sinusitis, pneumonia, and others.
Common treatments are antacids, like Tums or Maalox, H2 blockers such asZantac and Tagamet or proton pump inhibitors like Prilosec. All of these areaimed at decreasing the amount of stomach acid secreted. The down side ofthese medications is they interfere with the normal digestion of food and theabsorption of vitamins and minerals.
It is important for GERD patients to stop smoking. The nicotine in cigarettes actsas a vasoconstrictor to decrease blood flow to the stomach lining. This increasesthe risk of stomach and esophageal ulcers, and increases acid production. Inessence, if you continue to smoke, you are actively reversing everything you aretrying to accomplish by taking GERD medications—in addition to increasing yourrisk for illnesses such as cancer and heart disease.
is an extremely promising natural remedy for managing the
symptoms of chronic heartburn and GERD. Derived from the citrus oil contained
in orange peel, d-limonene produces fast-acting yet long-lasting relief of the
symptoms of gastric distress. In clinical studies, distilled and purified d-limonene
has demonstrated an impressive ability not only to reduce heartburn symptoms,but also to resolve them completely for six months or longer, following a period oftreatment as brief as 14 days.
Lifestyle changes recommended to help alleviate GERD
weight, avoiding fatty foods, quitting smoking and avoiding all tobacco products,
sleeping with the upper portion of the body elevated, avoiding eating within three
hours of bedtime, and avoiding consuming large quantities of liquids with meals,
eat smaller meals, and limiting aspirin, ibuprofen and other nonsteroidal anti-
inflammatory drugs. Digestion is also aided by gentle exercise like a walk around
the block (the evening consitutional) after dinner and by maintaining erect
posture. Many people with sedentary jobs tend to slouch which increases the
pressure on the stomach and the lower esophagus.
Dr. Martens is a family physician specializing in natural medicine andhomeopathy in Wheaton. For more information or to make an appointment, call(630) 668-5595.
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