Archive for the ‘GERD’ Category

Flora, Fauna, and Flossing

July 17, 2014

While the challenge to see that the food we eat is free of mercury, pesticides, hormones, and whatever else threatens rather than supports robust health, we sometimes need reminders to be sure that we toss our food into a clean mouth bowl after going to all that trouble to check the food out.

It may help to visualize how perfectly arranged the mouth bowl is to house a variety of bacteria, not all of them friendly. Bacteria love dark, moist places and a steady diet of sugar. Any pockets in the gums surrounding our teeth are a housing bonanza for bacteria, depending on how welcome we make them. Unchecked, bacteria create gum disease, get into the blood stream, and create plaques in our arteries that lead to heart disease.

While we deplore the amount of sugar degenerating our diet, this is not really a new phenomenon. I was raised in the penny candy days and there was a regular stash at the corner store in my neighborhood. There was a sugar bowl on every kitchen table and plenty of home baked cookies and bars. Cakes had an inch of frosting on them and fruit pies were common desserts. However, carbonated drinks were only had on special occasions. They took up a minor section of an aisle in the grocery store, not the whole aisle. Orange juice was only had by squeezing oranges so it was consumed in small glasses.

The problem with today’s soda is that it is sipped throughout the day, along with snacks providing bacteria with a steady diet of sugar and setting off just as steady a stream of bacterial plaque and tooth decay. Hygienists patiently demonstrate flossing technique and the necessity of routing out the bacteria before they form plaques and start eroding the enamel on our teeth. It is not enough to slide the floss up and down between each tooth. We need to wrap it around the base of every side of every tooth to rout out any bacteria in residence. If you then rinse your mouth with about a tablespoon of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide– brace yourself– you will immediately see the spots you missed.

Food is meant to be digested standing up. Anyone who regularly takes a nap directly after a meal is in for a foul awakening as remnants of the meal shift into reverse, travel back up the esophagus, and start over again in the mouth, definitely not as tasty the second time around.

Step one is to remain in an upright position for 3-4 hours after eating to give the meal a fair chance to enter the relay race through the digestive tract, at least to make it beyond the second gate, the pyloric valve, at the entrance to the small intestine. Water we swish and swallow between meals also keeps nutrients moving easily in the right direction.

So, on any visit to a dental hygienist for a cleaning, listen up for a longer, healthier life.

PS: The most effective toothpaste I know is a tsp. of baking soda with a squirt of lemon juice. Watch it foam and load up your brush!

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GERD Update

February 17, 2012

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.

Calling All Gerdics

September 9, 2011

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….