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Gerd has become a household word. Its important to remove the cause of Gerd rather than just treat the symptoms. It is the most common digestive disorder in America, affecting 20% of us at least once a week. More than 60 million prescriptions for Gerd were filled in 2004, and over $13 billion was spent on acid stopping medications in 2006.
This incidence may be underestimated because of over-the-counter antacids that permit us to self medicate, without reporting our problem to a doctor.
Once food lands in your stomach, a ring of muscles at the bottom of the esophagus should prevent the food and acid from moving backwards. If it doesn’t close well, acid can leak back into the esophagus, causing heartburn.
We are told that obesity, cigarettes, alcohol, and hiatus hernia can all increase our chances of Gerd. Asthma bronchodilators, seasickness medication, high blood pressure beta-blockers, Parkinsonism’s dopamine drugs, insomnia sedatives, and antidepressants, all make Gerd worse.
You may feel a burning pain in your chest under your breastbone and feel food is trapped behind your sternum. The pain is worse at night, relieved by antacids, and results in nausea after eating. A chronic cough, wheezing, hiccups, hoarseness, change in your voice, and sore throat, can also be symptoms.
To prevent heartburn, your doctor recommends you stop alcohol, carbonated pops, caffeine, chocolates, fatty foods, regular fat dairy products, peppermint, spearmint, and of course spicy foods.
You are told to avoid bending after eating, quit wearing a tight belt, avoid eating three hours before bedtime, start eating smaller meals, lose some weight, reducing your stress, and sleep with your head raised about 6 inches.
You start taking antacids after your meals, but this does not relieve the pain for very long. Then you upgrade your meds, and start taking over the counter drugs and prescription drugs as Prilosec, Nexium, and Prevacid, Zantac, and Axid. This helps, but once you quit taking the medications, your symptoms get worse. Since these drugs are now available over-the-counter, you also have no warnings about the dangers of these drugs.
Your doctor then suggests looking down into your stomach with a thin tube with a camera on it to identify the cause and check your swallowing tube for damage. You are told you have inflammation of your esophagus, and if things keep getting worse you may need an operation to narrow a possible hernia of your diaphragm, a biopsy will be taken, and the upper portion of your stomach will be wrapped around the weakness of your lower esophagus. You are told, if your symptoms continue, you could get Barrett’s disease, which leads to cancer, (both are very rare).
You follow your doctor’s recommendations, and find the medications cause your mouth to be dry, you have some hair loss, diarrhea, trouble sleeping, and are gaining weight. Your iron supplements are blocked by the medications. If you have allergies to foods, dyes, or preservatives, things can get worse. Other serious side effects can occur as: hallucinations, depression, and occasionally yelling of the weight of your eyes.
You take antacids to cover the problem of neutralizing your stomach acids but this is only a temporary fix. Most of you will take Prilosec, Prevacid, or Nexium to relieve your symptoms. The powerful acid suppressors lead to atrophic gastritis (an absence of stomach acid). You read that these drugs can cause gastrin hormone to be released, which is linked to cancer.
Most drug ads suggest you have too much stomach acid. On the contrary, stomach acids decline with age and 30% of people over 60 have little or no acid secretions. When you have Gerd and heartburn, you almost always have very low acidity.
STOMACH ACID IS IMPORTANT
Stomach acid is there for a reason. It is essential to absorb nutrients (protein, carbohydrate, fat, minerals, vitamins) and protects you against infections, including H. pylori, which is the primary cause of gastric and duodenal ulcers.
Gastric acid consists of HCl, and reduces your stomach contents to a pH of 1 to 2. The acid is secreted at the top of the stomach by parietal cells. This acid acts as a barrier against bacteria to prevent infections, and it’s important for the digestion of food.
The acid breaks down protein in the stomach and also helps calcium and iron to be absorbed. A lack of calcium results in hip fractures. This acid environment also destroys most organisms, and hence infections of the bowel are prevented.
To maintain a normal level of stomach acids, natural herbs as gentian and dandelion can help by releasing digestive juices. Slices of apple have been known to relieve Gerd. Herbs as grapefruit seed extract, garlic, oregano oil, and peppermint oil all help if there is bacterial overgrowth. Probiotics, glutamine, and ginger tea also work.
Capsules of Betadine Hydrochloride containing pepsin and plain Betadine Hydrochloride capsules are also available. Check with your doctor before taking them.
Drug companies are not interested in curing you because that’s not profitable. It’s much more lucrative to sell drugs that you have to take the rest of your lives to promote lifestyle changes that would cure the problem.
Its important to remove the cause of disease rather than just treat the symptoms. Stomach acid is important for the absorption of protein, carbohydrates, fat, minerals, and vitamins: the acid also protects you against infection, especially H. pylori.