Natural Remedies & Treatments For Acid Reflux | Natural Remedy For GERD

What Is GERD?

Gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD is the medical term for what we know as acid reflux. It is a condition in which the liquid contents of the stomach regurgitate into the esophagus causing inflammation and damage to the esophageal lining. The acid that is regurgitated most often consists of acid, bile, and pepsin. Stomach acid is used in the digestion of food and can be a major irritant to the esophagus due to its tendency to damage tissues. Unlike the lining of the stomach which has a thin layer of protective mucus, the lining of the esophagus has no defense against stomach acid and other harmful substances.

Interestingly, reflux of the stomach's liquid contents into the esophagus occurs in most normal individuals probably as frequently as in patients with GERD. In patients with GERD, however, the refluxed liquid contains acid more often, and the acid remains in the esophagus longer.

The body has mechanisms to protect itself from the harmful effects of reflux and acid. Three such mechanisms are recognized.

Most reflux occurs during the day when persons are upright. In the upright position, gravity causes the refluxed liquid flows back down into the stomach.

In addition individuals have a natural reflex to swallow whether or not there is reflux. Each swallow carries any refluxed liquid back into the stomach.

Lastly, the salivary glands in the mouth produce saliva, which contains bicarbonate. With each swallow, bicarbonate-containing saliva travels down the esophagus and neutralizes the small amount of acid that remains in the esophagus after gravity and swallowing have removed most of the liquid.

But at night, when an individual is not upright and the production of saliva is reduced, the reflux causes the acid to remain in the esophagus longer and causes more damage.

The most common symptoms of GERD are heartburn, regurgitation and nausea. Chronic GERD may lead to ulcers, strictures, Barrett's esophagus, cough, asthma, inflammation of throat and larynx, infection of lungs, and fluid in the sinuses and middle ears and even cancer.

Generally, GERD is diagnosed primarily by its symptoms. It symptoms are relieved by taking antacids or acid blockers then the diagnosis may be confirmed. But other tests like upper GI series, pH probe or upper endoscopy may be ordered.

Acid suppression continues to be the mainstay in the treatment of GERD. The drug therapy aims at reducing the amount of acid and improves abnormalities in muscle function of the lower esophageal sphincter, the esophagus and the stomach. However, the symptoms re-appear as soon as the drugs are stopped. Surgery is considered in extreme cases but has not been found to be of much help. However, most cases are mild and are better managed with a holistic approach that starts with lifestyle changes such as:

1.      Elevating the upper body in bed at night.

2.      Changes in eating habits like smaller and earlier night meals.

3.      Avoiding foods that promote reflux such as chocolate, caffeinated beverages, alcohol, peppermint, fatty foods.

4.      Stop smoking.

5.      Taking probiotics and natural herbs which aid in digestion.

6.      Chewing gum stimulates production of saliva and increases the rate of swallowing helping to neutralize the acid.

7.      Eliminating stress, regularizing sleep cycle.

So what is GERD? From the holistic point of view, GERD is a warning sign of a major internal imbalance that needs to be properly addressed. Therefore, alternative treatments (e.g. homeopathic remedies, herbal remedies, dietary, detoxification and lifestyle changes) that fix the internal cause of GERD, have considerable advantage over most conventional treatments that merely touch the surface of this condition.

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