Calling All Gerdics

It’s anyone’s guess how prevalent GERD (Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease) is today. The highfalutin name itself sounds pretty ominous. Put simply, on the lower end of the esophagus where it connects to the stomach, there is a sphincter, a valve that opens every time we swallow, to allow food into the stomach. That valve is supposed to close once the food is through.

 With the condition called GERD, the sphincter doesn’t close reliably, food backs up into the esophagus, and the area around the sphincter becomes painful. Sometimes, people worry that they’re having a heart attack because the sphincter is right over the heart.

 Since I’m a Gerdic (someone with GERD), I know what it’s like to wake up in the night with chest pain that felt like a blob was shifting side to side when I turned in bed. When I sat up, it disappeared (definitely not a heart problem or it wouldn’t stop then.)

 The literature will tell you that if you’re a Gerdic, you should not lie down for at least 2-3 hours after you eat to allow food to pass through your stomach and not annoy you by trying to get back up into your esophagus. It will also tell you foods to avoid and, if you are obese, to lose weight. Overeating just keeps that sphincter wide open from a bulging stomach. Most important, chew everything thoroughly so that it can pass through the sphincter to your stomach without straining it.

 In my quest to become a reformed Gerdic, I elevated the head of my bed 6” and began taking a recommended over-the-counter remedy at bedtime. This took care of the GERD but gave me a new problem: restless sleep with frequent night awakenings.

 Then, a reader told me that when she asked her physician if he knew of an herbal remedy for GERD, he immediately said, “Licorice Root.” So she tried it with great success.

 With nothing to lose, I picked up chewable licorice root tablets at my local health food store and was amazed to find that gradually, I no longer needed the bed elevated and went back to sleeping like a top. 

 What’s the magic with licorice root? It produces a viscous mucus, which coats and protects the stomach wall and limits acid production. I like the idea that a condition is possibly curable!  The cure may take longer for some folks than others, depending on severity and commitment to changing eating habits, but it’s doable.

 What foods do Gerdics need to avoid?  That’s easy: all the things we love – coffee, chocolate, alcohol, spicy, fatty foods and combinations thereof  – the acid crowd. However, the problem isn’t those foods; the problem is eating too much of those foods too often. They need to be balanced with fresh greens, veggies and fruits.

 Stomach acid is not all bad. Our body produces it to begin digesting meats and tough foods. We just don’t need to add huge amounts of acid foods that only foul up the works.

To keep each other well, now’s a great time to appreciate the last of the fresh string beans, basil, chard, parsley and arugula, and be on the lookout for winter squash and apples and….

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