GERD Update

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’ve been 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. 

To keep everything moving in the right direction, the head of your bed needs to be elevated 6” or you need to sleep with a wedge pillow to keep the chest elevated and discourage stomach contents from backing up. 

Whether you find relief by taking an herbal remedy like Licorice Root, which produces a viscous mucus that coats and protects the stomach and limits acid production, or a prescribed medication like Prilosec, which heals erosive esophagitis (sores in the esophagus), there’s something else that can make a big difference.

 Guess what? It’s our old friend water! Whenever we have a sore anywhere on our body that needs healing, the first thing we need to do is keep it clean. GERD sores are no different. It is important to drink a glass of water when we get up in the morning to rinse out the esophagus and any leftovers in the stomach. We need to drink water with every meal to turn the food we eat into a fine slurry that will pass through the esophagus and stomach with the greatest of ease. We need to drink water between meals to keep the esophagus clean and clear of any leftover food and to keep the stomach sloshing out remainders of the last meal. A few hours after our last meal of the day,  a glass of water provides the final rinse of the day to assure a comfortable night.

 Some people balk at drinking water in the evening. They complain that they don’t want to have to get up in the night to pee. My experience and those I’ve worked with has been that the body gradually adjusts to the extra water but it may take a few weeks.

 Our body cells are bathed in natural saline. When we drink tap water with what we eat, there are enough minerals in our food to make best use of the water. However, when we drink water between meals, especially if we drink a lot of water, we need to salinize it or our body will leach minerals into the water as it passes through. For saline: add one quarter teaspoon of sea salt to one quart of water. One caution: if you note any edema in your legs, it’s a signal to drink smaller amounts.

 What foods do Gerdics need to avoid? That’s easy: all the things we love – coffee, tea, soda, 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 fast, and too often. They need to be balanced with fresh greens, veggies and fruits. Without making these changes, even Prilosec or Licorice Root’s magic will not cure the problem. Forget about planning to overeat and taking a  tablet so you can get away with it. Your system will definitely backfire!

 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.

 Untreated GERD may cause bleeding, scarring, heartburn, difficulty swallowing, chest pain or bad breath. It’s wise to pay attention to any signs.

 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 potentially doable.

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