Stomach problems such as indigestion and heartburn make life miserable for millions of Americans. Although some of the remedies for these and other stomach problems that crowd drugstore shelves provide short-term relief, they do not address the underlying causes of common digestion problems—and may even make them worse.
Medications Can Exacerbate Stomach Problems
For example, antacids and H2 blockers such as Zantac or Pepcid change the pH (acidity) of the stomach, either by binding with stomach acid or blocking acid production. They may relieve the pain of heartburn, but they also impair digestion—in particular, the digestion of protein. Chronic use of these drugs also allows the overgrowth of H. pylori bacteria, which can infiltrate the stomach lining to cause ulcers.
In fact, some of the drugs for stomach problems are far more dangerous than the condition they’re intended to treat. Take Propulsid (cisapride), for example. This drug, prescribed to treat nighttime heartburn, was linked with numerous reports of heart rhythm abnormalities and over 100 deaths. The potential for serious heart problems and fatalities from this drug was so great that it was pulled from the US market.
Folks, there’s simply no reason to endanger your health to find relief for stomach problems. There are safe, natural solutions that do more than simply relieve symptoms—they actually heal the digestive tract and promote overall good health. Let’s look at some common gastrointestinal problems and the therapies I recommend for dealing with them.
The Heartburn of Stomach Problems
One of the most common digestion issues is gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), often referred to as heartburn. GERD occurs when digestive juices flow in the wrong direction: out of the stomach and back up into the esophagus. Unlike the stomach, the esophagus has no protective mucosal lining. When stomach acid refluxes into the esophagus, it can cause inflammation and pain so severe that it can be mistaken for a heart attack.
Eliminate Heartburn Triggers
Overeating is often to blame for stomach problems such as heartburn, but certain foods and beverages are especially problematic. The worst culprits are spicy and fried foods, chocolate, alcohol, caffeine, and carbonated soft drinks. The best cure for heartburn is prevention. That means eliminating these heartburn triggers from your diet, chewing food thoroughly, eating slowly—and knowing when to stop.
It takes about 20 minutes for the signal of fullness to reach your brain, so if you’re gobbling down your food in half that time, you’re more likely to overeat. Remember that digestion begins in the mouth, not the stomach. The simple act of savoring each mouthful will go a long way toward preventing indigestion.
Another helpful digestion tip: Drink at least eight, 8-ounce glasses of pure filtered water every day. Water will soothe your esophagus and flush out stomach acid.
Avoid Nighttime Reflux
To avoid triggering reflux during sleep, wait at least two hours after a meal before lying down. Elevating the head of your bed four to six inches is also useful.
You might also want to try sleeping on your left side, as recent research suggests that heartburn symptoms are more pronounced in patients who sleep on their right side.
Spell Relief D-G-L, Not A-N-T-A-C-I-D
Health & Healing subscriber J.S. had a hiatal hernia and suffered with severe acid reflux for years. He was prescribed drugs, but his abdominal pain persisted. On his own he tried deglycyrrhizinated licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra), or DGL, and within six hours his pain disappeared. He threw out the drug, started using DGL tablets before each meal and at bedtime, and he remains symptom-free.
Unlike drugs that alter pH and simply mask the burn of acid reflux, DGL actually helps heal the esophagus. What’s more, it works on the stomach lining itself, improving the quality and quantity of the protective mucosa. If you are taking Tagamet, Zantac, or other drugs, discuss with your doctor the possibility of substituting DGL. For chronic heartburn, chew one DGL tablet 20 minutes before meals. For occasional symptoms, use when needed. To order the brand we use at the Whitaker Wellness Institute, call 800-810-6655.
Tame Indigestion With HCl
Indigestion has been referred to as “the remorse of the guilty stomach.” What many folks call “acid indigestion” is far more likely to be due to insufficient gastric acid secretion, rather than an excess. Forty percent of Americans don’t produce enough hydrochloric acid (HCl) to properly digest their food, resulting in bloating, cramping, and pain. And as we age, our bodies produce even less HCl.
Supplemental HCl may be your ticket to healthy digestion. At Whitaker Wellness, we use betaine HCl and instruct our patients to begin by taking one capsule with a meal, then increase the dose by one capsule with each subsequent meal until a warm sensation is noted in the upper part of the stomach. This indicates a slight excess of HCl and is a signal to cut the HCl dose by one capsule. Don’t take more than five capsules under any circumstance. If you take five and notice no change in sensation, continue taking four to five capsules per meal, as supplemental HCl can only enhance digestion. (If HCl worsens your symptoms, stop taking it and see your physician.)
Soothe Stomach Problems With Herbal Tea
A traditional balm for an upset stomach is chamomile. Tea from the flowers of this common plant has a pleasantly relaxing effect and also relieves indigestion, heartburn, flatulence, and other stomach problems.
Peppermint tea has a similar effect. Steep for five to 10 minutes, and sip slowly. It’s a soothing end to a meal.
Solutions for Stomach Problems Recap
So there you have it, several tried-and-true solutions for some of the most common stomach problems. If you have natural remedies of your own to share, please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.