Indigestion, Heartburn and GERD
Heartburn is the major symptom of acid in the esophagus, characterized by a burning discomfort behind the breastbone (sternum). Findings in GERD include esophagitis (reflux esophagitis) — inflammatory changes in the esophageal lining (mucosa) — strictures, difficulty swallowing (dysphagia), and chronic chest pain. Patients may have only one of those findings.
Atypical symptoms of GERD include cough, hoarseness, changes of the voice, chronic ear ache, acute sharp chest pains, or sinusitis. Complications of GERD include stricture formation, Barret's esophagus, esophageal ulcers and possibly even lead to esophageal cancer.
Occasional heartburn or indigestion is common but does not necessarily mean one has GERD. Patients that have heartburn symptoms more than once a week are at risk of developing GERD. A hiatal hernia is usually asymptomatic, but the presence of a hiatal hernia is a risk factor for development of GERD.
Do You have Gas/Heartburn/Indigestion?
These symptoms can come from a variety of sources. The typical western medical approach is to shut off the the digestive process in the stomach is proton pump inhibitors or antacids. This is fine as for symptom relief but long term makes no sense.
Nature designed the stomach to secrete acid for digestion and as a first line defense against bacteria and parasites. Shutting down this system while leading to immediate relief could lead to long term health issues.
What Are the Causes of Indigestion, Heartburn and GERD
There can be a number of causes of digestive disturbance, none of them include a deficiency of the "Little Purple Pill" or antacids and treating poor digestion in this way without solving the underlying issues can lead to more problems later on.
The primary causes of digestive issues are:
- Insufficient stomach acid due to depletion, causing food to rot rather digest.
- Insufficient pancreatic enzymes
- Insufficient bile or bile backing up from the liver and gall bladder and entering the stomach. This due to liver and gall bladder congestion.
- H. Pylori infection - the common cause of duodenal ulcers.
- Dysbiosis - inappropriate flora in the gut.
- Allergies and gluten sensitivity
Are There Natural Treatments That Work Heartburn and Indigestion?
We often recommend testing to see what the problem is. These tests include digestive tests, H.pylori Tests (a type of infection that can lead to ulcers and indigestion) and parasite tests. See below.
Stage I Digestion: Upper Stomach
First we chew our food to make it more available for further digestion. The better the food is chewed the easier it is for digestive enzymes to do their work. The chewed food enters into the upper part of the stomach. Here the enzymes in uncooked food begin to do there work. If yo eat cooked food there may not be enzymes left to begin this digestive process. This is one of the reasons why a significant amount of raw food is often advocated as it still contains these natural enzymes.
If you eat cooked food or if you have eaten a lot of cooked food in your life it is probably a good idea to add these natural enzymes back into your food.
Signs and Symptoms: Indigestion, GERD, heartburn, gas.
Suggestion Supplements: Total-Gest Digestive Enzymes
Stage II Digestion: Lower Stomach
In the stomach the food mixes with Pepsin and Hydrochloric acid. This furthers the break down of the food, especially protein. Proteins are broken down to there constituent amino acids so that they can be absorbed and processed by the body.
What kind of problems can arise here? Most common is lack of HCL. This is a common finding as people age and may have numerous causes. This is often misdiagnosed as too much acid and so many use antacids to stop the heartburn and indigestion. This is a terrible solution as the antacid stops what little digestion can still occur when there is a HCL deficiency.
The indigestion could well be caused by a lack of HCL as well as be an indicator of a more significant problem with the liver and gallbladder. Taking the antacid is a temporary relief of symptoms but does nothing to address the underlying problems. You may wish to see a properly trained physician to determine the true nature of the problem. If they suggest antacids you may wish to get a second opinion by somebody trained in natural medicine
Signs and Symptoms: Indigestion, gastric reflux (GERD), heartburn
Suggested Testing: CDSA
Stage III Digestion: Small Intestines and Colon
Once the food is broken down to chyme in the stomach it passes into the duodenum and small intestines to mix with pancreatic and liver/gall bladder enzymes. Here is where the final digestion and breakdown occur. Fat is emulsified by the bile and pancreatic enzymes continue to digest the rest of the food.
Signs and Symptoms: Indigestion, GERD, heartburn, gas, bloating in the intestines, undigested food in the stool. Stool that floats rather than sink. Stool that is light or green in color.
The best overall test of digestion and the digestive system is the GI Effects test. It is the state-of-the-art in gut testing and includes complete testing for digestion, parasites, H. Pylori, dysbiosis and gluten sensitivity. It is highly recommended.
Testing at MetaMetrix as well as other labs indicate that many of us have intestinal parasites. These can vary from microscopic, so that we cannot see them, to large worms. In addition is the intestinal dysbiosis caused by use of antibiotics, poor diets and exposure. This may be a far more common problem that was suspected. If you suspect parasites we recommend the GI Effects Parasitology Test from MetaMetrix as one of the foremost testing labs. It includes testing for H. Pylori
Suggested Testing: GI Effects Parasitology Test