Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is one of the top health ills that Big Pharma would like you to hightail it to the pharmacy to “solve”—with your wallet in tow. But the fact is GERD is another common syndrome you can prevent and treat naturally.
What is GERD? It’s caused by a glitch in the esophageal sphincter, the ring-like muscle at the bottom of the esophagus. Like a one-way valve, it opens when you eat or drink to allow food and liquids into the stomach, but most of the time it remains closed to prevent stomach contents from backing up into the esophagus. Unfortunately, this muscle occasionally relaxes enough to allow reflux, or backward flow, of gastric acid to spill into the esophagus.
GERD’s signature symptom is heartburn. Fifteen million Americans experience heartburn daily, and more than 60 million have it at least once a month. Fortunately, GERD is both preventable and treatable, and it doesn’t require expensive drugs. In most cases, it can be controlled with a few simple lifestyle changes and nutritional supplements.
Here are some of my favorite therapies for GERD and heartburn:
* For prevention and treatment, my number one recommendation is deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL). This herbal extract promotes your gastrointestinal tract’s natural defense mechanisms, increases production of protective mucosal cells, and helps reduce inflammation.
The suggested dose of DGL is two tablets, chewed about 20 minutes before meals three times a day. Use only chewable DGL—it must be mixed with saliva in order to be effective. Unlike regular licorice, DGL will not cause water retention, raise blood pressure, or lower testosterone levels. This supplement, which is also beneficial for ulcers and canker sores, can be found in most health food stores.
* Avoid foods and beverages known to trigger esophageal sphincter relaxation, such as alcohol, caffeine, fatty and spicy foods, tomatoes, peppermint, citrus, and chocolate. Obesity, lying down after meals, pregnancy, tight-fitting clothes, and overeating (the leading aggravator of acid reflux) also provoke symptoms by putting pressure on the stomach and esophageal sphincter.
* To avoid triggering reflux during sleep, wait at least two hours after a meal before lying down. Elevating the head of your bed four to six inches is also useful. You might also want to try sleeping on your left side, as research suggests that heartburn symptoms are more pronounced in patients who sleep on their right side.
Now it’s your turn: Do you have a tip for stopping GERD?