Thank you for your question about your wife's GERD, or Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease, affecting almost half of North Americans to some degree. How does her doctor feel about her trying herbs in addition to her medication? I encourage open communication with her current provider.
Let's talk about what is happening and what helps. The main symptom of stomach acid and bile regurgitated up from the stomach to the esophagus is heartburn. It is important with a new diagnosis to rule out the possibility of a heart condition, as stress, inappropriate foods, or a sedentary lifestyle can cause these different conditions to be confused.
Frequent heartburn (a burning, unpleasant sensation in the chest) is defined as twice a week or more. Other symptoms of GERD include food sticking in the throat, which may be due to a complication of untreated GERD when inflammation causes thickening or narrowing of the passage from mouth through esophagus to the stomach. It is aggravated by excess weight, sometimes pregnancy, and leaning over or exercising too soon after eating. GERD can even cause symptoms of hoarseness or asthma.
While you don't mention which medication your wife must take, and though antacids may relieve some symptoms, the problem is often not excess stomach acid, but immune dysfunction with inappropriate g.i. bacteria aggravating a condition worsened by sensitivities to common foods: high fat foods (meat, ice cream, butter), refined sugar (excess breads, cake, pastries, soft drinks with the added insult of carbonation), or hot, spicy foods. Some people find spices do not make heartburn worse but tomato products or citrus can increase discomfort.
- The absolutely safest and most proven treatment is to chew more carefully and eat smaller portions, even 4-6 small meals a day instead of 3 large meals.
- Increase fiber: eat an apple (rich in the fiber pectin) instead of drinking juice. Women need approximately 35 grams of fiber daily; men - 38 grams. That can be done easily by adding cooked chickpeas or black beans to salads and switching away from packaged foods generally.
- Add soothing, antacid foods that help your immune system and reduce GERD symptoms, such as cranberries and blackberries in season, the spices ginger, cinnamon, and cardamom (great sprinkled on morning oatmeal), carrots, kale, and your favorite steamed or raw green vegetables. Everybody is different, and you can experiment with whole foods that suit you best.
- Try giving up alcohol, coffee, and if your wife is a smoker, that is a clear cause of heartburn to give up!
- The herbs commonly used include aloe (Aloe Vera), rich in healing gycoaminoglycans and related soothing compounds, found in our best selling Colon Cleansing Kit a good kick-off to eliminating build-up in the whole digestive tract (drink plenty of water and consult your wife's physician).
Follow-up with the right types of flora can be as simple as taking our Friendly Bacteria Replenisher Probiotic. Stronger ones are on the market, but with GERD, stronger is not always better...we like to start slowly and easily. In addition, or instead, I have seen great results for people using Meadowsweet (Filipendula Ulmaria), which normalizes stomach acid with safe anti-inflammatory salicylates. Though we often read that mints are contraindicated (bad) for people with GERD, I have never found this in years of practice. A cup of peppermint tea, sipped slowly, does not automatically relax the muscle that usually prevents stomach acid from gurgling up into the esophagus. Peppermint tea helps relieve gas and digestive problems such as bloating from poorly-digested food.
There are lots of "proven" GERD formulas available, but I believe individualizing the care of your wife is the more certain way to find her best health naturally. Thank you again for your question.
Do you have your own question for our Herbalists? Click here to submit it now!