GERD

A New Approach for Managing GERD and Heartburn

This month I wanted to write about a unique and little known supplement for heartburn and GERD. Digestive enzymes, probiotics, and DGL licorice are all helpful for managing GERD, but there is another supplement ingredient I’ve discovered and have been doing some research on which I believe could be a great help for GERD and heartburn sufferers.

The ingredient I’m talking about is called alginate, also known as algenic acid. It’s an extract from brown algae that absorbs many times its weight in liquid, making a natural gel substance. When that algae gel is combined with natural buffers like sodium bicarbonate and calcium carbonate and used after a meal, it is actually able to make a gel-like raft that blocks acid reflux into the esophagus.

When the alginate reaches the acids in the stomach, it makes a pliable gel. At the same time, the calcium carbonate and sodium bicarbonate (also known as baking soda) produce bubbles in the algae gel which make it rise to the top of the stomach, so it is literally floating on top of the contents of your stomach.

By making this floating stomach acid raft, it prevents those stomach acids from coming back up the esophagus, which is what happens in acid reflux, GERD, and heartburn.

It sounds a little strange, and but if you think about it, it makes sense. One of the main reasons so many people suffer from acid reflux is that naturally as we age, the muscle at the bottom of the esophagus known as the esophageal sphincter can weaken, so it doesn’t close all the way. When this happens, it allows acid to begin to travel back up the esophagus from the stomach, causing pain and damage over time.

When this gel raft is formed, it can last several hours in the body (which means that it is effective for that amount of time) before passing through the intestines and being digested like any other fiber.

Research has been done on alginate and its gel barrier method for preventing acid reflux, and when compared with PPIs, other acid blocking drugs, and antacids, it’s been found superior in both safety and effectiveness (here’s a link the abstract of one of those studies on Pub Med). There are no side effects, drug interactions, or toxicity that has been found from using this method since you are not actually taking a drug or anything that is necessarily changing what the body naturally does, but are just preventing acid from going where it shouldn’t be going anyway. It’s very much like fencing a dog in your yard- you aren’t stopping Fido from doing whatever he likes to do in your yard, you’re just preventing him from running in the street.

This alginate combination has been the subject of over fourteen different studies as well as a meta-analysis that examined each of the studies done on these nutrients at Duke University. The results showed that the alginate based supplement was more effective than placebo or antacids. In the studies, the people who took the alginate supplement were 4.42 times more likely to have a complete resolution of their symptoms than the placebo group.

I don’t know why alginate based supplements aren’t more well known, since the research is sound, but I’m happy to be able to share the information I’ve come across, since I think it could help a lot of people.

The supplement we’ve found that has this impressive alginate combination that we carry at the store is called Nutrisec by a company called Nature’s Plus. It’s a chewable tablet that is meant to be taken after a meal or 30 minutes before bedtime to prevent reflux when lying down to sleep at night, which is a very common issue for people with GERD. If you use it before bed, wait a half hour before laying down so the raft has time to get into place so it can work properly.

I’d very much recommend trying it, especially since it has been shown to cause no harm, and that it seems like something that might really help if you’re dealing with acid reflux, GERD, or heartburn. It’s definitely worth a try!

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Supplement Spotlight: Manuka Honey for Skin, Digestive Issues, and More

This month’s supplement spotlight is on manuka honey, a very potent type of medicinal honey.  Manuka honey has been gaining popularity, even among mainstream physicians, due to its antibacterial and healing properties.

Manuka honey is the only 100% natural food shown to have antibacterial effects, due to a compound known as methylglyoxal that forms naturally in manuka honey.  Other honeys can occasionally have levels of that antibacterial compound, but only in small amounts.  According to scientific research, the amount of antibacterial methylglyoxal must be at a minimum of 100mg/kg to reliably inhibit harmful bacteria.  Manuka honey can have as much as eight times that amount.

Because of its strong antibacterial and healing qualities, manuka honey is fantastic for topical use- for wounds and burns, as well as an assortment of skin issues- from acne to eczema and more.  To use in a skin care regimen, one can apply manuka honey to the affected areas for twenty minutes before washing with gentle soap and water.  Manuka honey has even been shown to be beneficial in fighting staph infections.

Manuka honey can also be used internally for a wide variety of ailments.  It can help to balance bacteria in the gastrointestinal system, reduce plaque in the mouth as well as soothing oral sores and ulcers.  Manuka honey is also good for the immune system and is fantastic for sore throats.

Another interesting use of manuka honey is for gastritis and GERD.  A few teaspoons a day can be very healing to the digestive tract.  I have several customers who have used it for digestive issues at the store with impressive results.  It even has been shown to help with healing stomach ulcers by killing H. pylori bacteria. 

Manuka honey is unique from other types of honey in that it is only made in New Zealand, from the manuka plant that flowers for only two to four weeks each year.  Two thousand honeybees make 10 million trips to make just one jar.  The nice thing about manuka honey is that it is only beneficial, there are no negative side effects or interactions with medications when using it. 

It’s important to note it’s important to look for quality brands of manuka honey.  There are numerous places and websites selling “fake manuka honey”.  Manuka honey is only sourced from New Zealand and should be rated with a “UMF Factor”, a rating on the potency of the healing properties of the honey- the higher the UMF number, the more potent the honey is.  

Healthy Q & A: Natural Relief for GERD

Q:

I have GERD and have been dealing with it for years.  I’ve heard there are some natural things that might help with it, so do you have any recommendations for things that can make it easier to live with?
 
 
A:  

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is a chronic digestive disease where acids from the stomach flow or reflux back into the esophagus.  Signs of GERD include acid reflux and heartburn.  When acid reflux or heartburn occur more than twice or three times a week, or interferes with daily life, doctors often diagnose it as GERD.  

Unfortunately once GERD begins, it is usually a life-long condition, where a person would work on managing the symptoms rather than trying to cure the problem.  GERD is unable to be cured in most cases since it is caused by a weakening of the lower esophageal sphincter muscle, which keeps acid in the stomach and out of the esophagus.  

Since GERD is a problem that needs lifelong treatment for most people, it’s helpful to find natural products that can help manage the symptoms rather than medications if it all possible.

Digestive enzymes are especially helpful for those suffering from heartburn and GERD.  A major contributing factor of GERD is indigestion or overeating.  A large amount of undigested food sitting in the stomach is a recipe for digestive troubles.  Our bodies naturally produce the enzymes needed for digestion, though as we age the amounts of those enzymes decrease. Cooking and processing foods destroys the enzymes in the foods we eat, so adding an enzyme supplement helps to replace those enzymes.  People taking acid blockers, which are commonly used for GERD, especially need to supplement with digestive enzymes since reducing the amount of acid in the stomach further impairs the body’s ability to digest food properly.

Look for an enzyme that is high in protease, the protein digesting enzyme.  Pancreatin is an especially good choice for people with GERD.

Another supplement that can be very effective in treating GERD is DGL licorice.  DGL stands for deglycyrrhizinated licorice. Licorice naturally contains a substance which can increase blood pressure, but DGL licorice has that substance removed, so it can be taken by people with blood pressure problems.  

DGL licorice comes in chewable tablets, and helps to treat GERD by supporting and stimulating the mucosal lining in the esophagus.  It helps to heal and protect the esophagus from the acid which is refluxed into the esophagus with GERD.  Since it works to protect and heal the esophagus, it also helps to reduce the pain and burning associated with heartburn and GERD.

A chewable licorice supplement might sound gross to some.  I for one cannot stand the taste of black licorice, but DGL is available in delicious flavors which can make it really easy to take. The company Enzymatic Therapy even makes one that tastes just like german chocolate cake. DGL licorice should be taken 20 minutes before a meal, and chewed thoroughly since the enzymes in saliva help it to work more effectively.

There are several other supplements which can be beneficial in addition to enzymes and DGL licorice.  Probiotics or “good bacteria” supplements can help to support and balance the body’s digestive system.  Aloe vera juice is also very soothing to the digestive tract.  

The nice thing about the supplements I’ve listed is that they work by supporting the body’s own ability to heal itself and to work properly instead of simply masking symptoms or being a “quick fix” like an antacid would.

Other suggestions which can help those with GERD would be to make sure to chew food thoroughly which aids digestion.  Smaller, more frequent meals with increased amounts of raw fruits and vegetables can also help with reducing the symptoms of GERD.  

Healthy Q & A: Natural Remedies for Indigestion and Heartburn

Q: I have problems with indigestion and heartburn a few times a week.  I usually just take an antacid (although sometimes it doesn’t really fix it).  Recently I read that antacids were not really great to take.  Is there anything you would suggest as an alternative?

A:  Heartburn and indigestion can be an uncomfortable thing to deal with.  Antacids would not really be something I’d recommend, however, since there are a number of other things which would probably work better and be healthier as well.

The first thing I’d say is that for most people who take antacids, they are not taking one or two, but closer to a handful to quell their symptoms.  The trouble with this is that excess calcium is not a good thing (antacids are usually made from calcium carbonate).  The body can only absorb about 500mg of calcium at one time, so taking more than that at a time can raise blood calcium levels, and when taken at excessive dosages on a regular basis can lead to kidney stones, arterial calcification, and more.

Next, it’s interesting to note that in many cases, indigestion and even heartburn is caused by a lack of stomach acid, rather than an excess like it may seem.  Hydrochloric acid (HCL) is produced in the stomach and is needed for the proper digestion of food.  With age, the amount of HCL present in the body decreases.  There is an easy test to see if your indigestion and heartburn caused by not enough HCL; next time you have digestive troubles, try taking a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice mixed with some water.  If it makes the indigestion go away, you need more stomach acid.  If it makes your symptoms worse, then take care to avoid supplements which contain HCL.  If it does help, taking apple cider vinegar with meals would be a good idea to enhance digestion- I would particularly recommend Bragg’s apple cider vinegar- it’s the best apple cider vinegar I’ve ever used. 

Digestive enzymes would also be a good idea.  Digestive enzymes help the body to break down food more easily.  Both our bodies and the foods we eat contain enzymes, though our body’s own natural enzymes decrease with age, and cooking food, as well as storage methods of our groceries, reduce those enzymes further.  Supplementing with digestive enzymes at meals will just help the body to digest foods easier, helping to prevent both indigestion and heartburn. 

People who have frequent indigestion or heartburn will often take digestive enzymes with each meal.  Other people, myself included, will take them only as needed, e.g., when you eat a meal at a restaurant and you know you’ve overdone it.  In a case like that, digestive enzymes can just give your body the boost it needs to digest the rock in your stomach.  We also have digestive enzymes available that contain additional HCL for people with low stomach acid.

Aloe vera juice is another supplement which can help with heartburn as well as a variety of other digestive problems.  Aloe is very calming and healing to the digestive tract, and for many people, taking ¼ cup morning and night can relieve a host of digestive issues.

The last supplement I’d recommend is actually called, “Stop Acid Reflux” by Caleb Treeze.  It’s a mix of apple cider vinegar, ginger, and garlic (which I know sounds kind of awful, but it’s actually a refreshing taste) that is said to stop acid reflux in 60 seconds.  I’ve used it and was amazed how well it worked. 

Finally, if your heartburn persists or grows worse, be sure to speak with your doctor to rule out any more serious problems. 

Health Q and A: Help for Heartburn

Q:

I’ve been having heartburn a lot lately.  I’ve been taking a lot of antacids, but don’t think that’s really great for an everyday thing.  Do you have any suggestions of natural things that could help?

 

A:

Heartburn is basically caused by the lower esophogal sphincter (a muscular valve at the bottom of the esophagus which keeps which keeps stomach acid in the stomach) is loosened or weakened and stomach acid splashes up into the esophagus.  Usually heartburn is caused or worsened by lifestyle factors like overeating, eating too close to bedtime, smoking, and being overweight.  Certain foods can also exacerbate the condition, spicy or fried foods for example.  There are even foods which naturally loosen the lower esophogal sphincter (tomatoes, chocolate, onions, garlic, caffeine, and alcohol to name a few), so if you commonly experience heartburn, avoiding those foods can make a real difference.

Digestive enzymes have helped many people with heartburn.  Enzyme supplements are taken with a meal to help to break down food in the stomach, making it easier to digest.  When the stomach is able to digest food easier, a reduction in heartburn symptoms is often seen.  Digestive enzymes are completely safe to take, and simply give a natural boost to the digestive enzymes produced in the body.  The amounts of digestive enzymes our stomach’s produce decreases with age, and not coincidentally, the number of digestive complaints many people experience increases with age as well.

Another supplement which I’m a big fan of is DGL licorice.  Licorice extracts can raise blood pressure, but the “DGL” stands for deglycyrrhizinated, which means that the compounds which could raise blood pressure have been removed.  DGL licorice comes in chewable tablets (the company Enzymatic Therapy has some in a German chocolate flavor which taste seriously fantastic) which are to be taken 20 minutes before a meal.  DGL licorice works by coating the esophagus so it is protected against stomach acid.  Since the esophagus is protected against stomach acid, it not only prevents the pain and burning of heartburn, when taken consistently it prevents the damage from stomach acid and helps the esophagus to heal, particularly in people with GERD (a more serious form of heartburn).

Finally, the last supplement I would mention is d-limonene, a specialized citrus extract which has shown amazing results for people suffering from both heartburn and GERD.  One clinical study found that d-limonene was able to reduce or eliminate heartburn for up to six months in most people after taking one 1,000 mg pill every other day for 20 days.  It also helps to detoxify the liver and gallbladder, and is an easy and inexpensive thing to try for lasting heartburn relief.