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GERD/Heartburn


Introduction

GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease) or Heartburn is a burning sensation in the stomach and/or chest. The most common cause of this symptom is due to a weakened gastrointestinal mucosal membrane that has become highly sensitive to stomach acid. This mucosal structure may break down and become weakened by prolonged stress, poor digestion, medications and/or food allergies. GERD may also occur as a result of a poorly functioning esophageal sphincter muscle that allows a backwash of acid into the esophagus. The most common traditional treatment of GERD is the use of antacids to suppress stomach acid production. This approach is very deceptive because the symptoms may appear to go away, however the underlying cause of the condition is being ignored. Furthermore, antacids will further compromise the gut ecology b/c of an over suppression of stomach acid, which may ultimately lead to symptoms of poor digestion (gas, bloating) and bacterial overgrowth. In addition, excess use of antacids may produce dangerous mineral imbalances. For example, the excess sodium in antacids can aggravate hypertension and the excess aluminum has been implicated in Alzheimer's disease. *Natural treatment focuses on rebuilding the gastrointestinal membrane with specific nutrients that stimulate mucosal cell production and heal the gut lining.

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Considerations

The early symptoms of angina and heart attack sometimes mimic those of "acid stomach." If symptoms persist, if the pain begins to travel down into the left arm, or if the sensation is accompanied by a feeling of weakness, dizziness, or shortness of breath, emergency medical help should be sought at once.

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Common Symptoms

Burning sensation in the stomach or chest after eating; belching, excess gas and bloating; difficulty swallowing and a full feeling at the base of the throat; hiccups and regurgitation; pressure behind the breast-bone; raised blood pressure; diarrhea; inflammation and gastro-intestinal bleeding, usually with a stomach ulcer; mental confusion and nerves.

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Common Causes

Weakened gastrointestinal mucosal membrane; food allergies; poor functioning of esophageal sphincter; overeating; obesity; chronic stress, estrogen dominance may weaken the gut membrane; food allergies; leaky gut syndrome; digestive enzyme deficiency; constipation from a low residue diet and too many refined and acid-forming foods; reclining after eating; tobacco.

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Natural Treatment

The symptoms of GERD are often remedied naturally by identifying the root cause. Traditionally, the approach to exploring GERD involves diagnosing a structural malfunction such as poor closure of the lower esophageal sphincter or an overproduction of acid. While some cases of GERD may present in this fashion, most cases have more to do with the integrity of the membrane that surrounds the gut. The gastrointestinal mucosa has a protective membrane that serves to protect the stomach from irritation, boost immunity and prevent foods from traveling into the bloodstream. In many cases of GERD, the membrane weakens or breaks down which causes a hypersensitivity to acid or food components. The most standard way to alleviate symptoms is to reduce acid and/or remove acidic foods, however the most effective way to treat GERD is by rebuilding the gut membrane. A GI Panel is a valuable tool in determining GI membrane health as well as other gut ecological elements that may be exacerbating symptoms. Food Allergy Testing may also be helpful in identifying food antagonists. A personalized nutrition program (online or in person) will bring together all of the necessary components to ensure gut health. Contact the EB Nutrition Dietitians to determine the gi restorative plan that is right for you!

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References

Page L. Healthy Healing: A Guide to Self-Healing for Everyone Eleventh Edition. Traditional Wisdom, Inc; 2000.

Rister S. Healing Without Medication. Laguna Beach, CA: Basic Health Publications, Inc; 2003.

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