GERD is the Word
Heartburn, now labeled Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease seems to have become the latest American epidemic. Let's talk about where it comes from and some alternative approaches to reducing or possibly solving the root cause. Let's begin with a little anatomy. Your stomach has two openings. At the top is the cardiac sphincter. At the end is the pyloric sphincter. Inside the stomach are gastric juices. Here's the (very simplified) digestion process:
1. Eat healthy food.
2. Stomach fills with acid.
3. Acid tells the cardiac sphincter to close.
4. Stomach digests protein, which requires a lot of acid. 5. Acid cues pyloric sphincter to open and allows the food to enter the small intestine, where pancreatic enzymes continue digestion. Sounds easy enough. So, why is it that one third of all Americans are suffering with heartburn? We don't always eat healthy food, that's for certain. But sometimes GERD erupts on an empty stomach. Sometimes it ravages us after taking medications. Often times it strikes in the middle of the night.
According to Dr. Marlene Merrit LAc, DOM (NM), ACN, in her article "The Purple Pill Myth", Acupuncture Today June, 2011, the problem lies in TOO LITTLE ACID in the stomach. You see, it's the acid - at the right level, which creates the chemical reactions required for healthy digestion. If your stomach is too alkaline the cardiac sphincter (the entrance to the stomach) can't close, which is why the gastric juices are able to recess into the esophagus - OUCH! Without the proper acid, the stomach cannot fully digest, and in turn, the pyloric sphincter cannot open to allow the food to pass. The food inside begins to putrefy. You likely experience pain and constipation in addition to the heartburn.
Alternative suggestions for improving your digestion:
1. Try living without ant-acids. According to Dr. Merrit, you actually do not want to reduce the acid in your stomach to such a great degree.
2. Eat small healthy meals.
3. Reduce your stress level. Stress interferes with the rest-and-digest portion of the nervous system.
4. If you are suffering from GERD, try a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in warm water 1/2 hr. before meals. If your acid reflux diminishes, you'll know for sure you needed more acid in your stomach.
5. If the vinegar helps but isn't enough, Dr. Merrit recommends taking a supplement such as Zypan by Standard Process.
6. For further information, please feel free to ask me for a referral to a Dr. of Chinese Medicine in your area.
*Disclaimer: This article is not a replacement for medical advice. You may prefer to follow the advice of your Western medical physician.