Understanding and Treating Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

Author
Hans
Date
2023-07-07 15:50
Views
244
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a condition that often prompts patients to seek medical attention due to a range of distressing symptoms. The most commonly reported complaints among GERD patients include:

- Poor digestion
- Feeling bloated
- Frequent belching
- Experiencing an acidic or sour taste in the mouth
- Heartburn or discomfort in the chest
- Persistent cough
- Hoarseness or changes in voice
- Sensation of something lodged in the throat or the presence of phlegm
- Occasional chest tightness

In Western medicine, the primary approach to managing GERD involves prescribing medications that reduce gastric acid production or neutralize stomach acid. However, these medications only offer temporary relief and may not address the underlying cause of the condition. Some patients may even attempt home remedies such as consuming raw potato juice or cabbage juice, but these can potentially exacerbate symptoms.

So, why does GERD occur? As mentioned earlier, GERD is primarily caused by excessive secretion of gastric acid. However, understanding the mechanism of acid production in the stomach is crucial to comprehending the reasons behind this overproduction. Our stomach secretes gastric acid, a highly potent acid with a normal pH range of 1.5 to 1.6. This level of acidity can be compared to the scene in science fiction movies where alien creatures' saliva can dissolve any substance. Similarly, our stomach acid is powerful enough to neutralize any potentially harmful bacteria present in the food we consume.

Gastric acid secretion is regulated by the release of a hormone called gastrin. When food enters the stomach and stretches its walls, gastrin is secreted, stimulating the release of hydrochloric acid (HCl) and pepsinogen, an enzyme that aids in protein digestion. Together, these substances form gastric juice. However, if gastric acid secretion is not adequately regulated or the acidity level is reduced, gastrin continues to be produced, leading to the relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). When the LES opens, gastric acid flows back into the esophagus, causing the characteristic discomfort of GERD. Interestingly, endoscopic examinations often reveal no abnormalities in the esophagus despite the perception of discomfort.

Lifestyle habits also play a significant role in the development of GERD. Modern diets that include processed foods, instant sausages, instant noodles, and fast-food items often trigger excess gastric acid production as the stomach works harder to digest these unhealthy options. It is essential to note that our bodies naturally secrete an appropriate amount of gastric acid for digestion. However, consuming junk food necessitates increased gastric acid secretion, leading to GERD symptoms.

So, how can GERD be effectively treated? In Western medicine, commonly prescribed medications aim to neutralize or reduce gastric acid levels. However, long-term use of acid-suppressing medications may lead to nutritional deficiencies and interfere with the effectiveness of other medications. It is crucial to approach the use of acid-suppressing medications with caution and for a limited duration, as directed by healthcare professionals.

Calcium, an essential nutrient for our bodies, is absorbed in an acidic environment. Therefore, inadequate gastric acid secretion can compromise calcium absorption, potentially resulting in osteoporosis as the body withdraws calcium from bones. The delicate balance between gastric acid production and calcium absorption highlights the importance of carefully considering the long-term use of acid-suppressing medications.

Gastric acid, primarily composed of hydrochloric acid (HCl), is formed through the combination of hydrogen (H) and chloride (Cl). While our bodies have an abundant supply of hydrogen in the form of water, chloride is an essential component that needs to be supplemented externally. This chloride supplementation refers not to table salt but rather to sodium (Na) chloride. Artificial table salt, commonly found in processed foods, often contributes to GERD symptoms. Therefore, it is important to consume high-quality salt and maintain an appropriate balance of sodium intake.

To effectively manage GERD, the focus should not be solely on reducing or suppressing gastric acid but rather on promoting its proper secretion. Patients should also avoid beverages containing caffeine, tobacco, and foods that are difficult to digest.

If dietary changes alone do not alleviate symptoms, seeking treatment from traditional medicine practitioners can yield significant benefits. Acupuncture treatments have been found to be effective, particularly for mild or recent-onset GERD cases. However, for patients who have relied on Western medications for an extended period, herbal medicine may be recommended. Traditional herbal prescriptions are tailored to address the specific symptoms of each individual, providing relief and reducing the likelihood of recurrence. Unfortunately, many patients turn to traditional medicine only after prolonged periods of ineffective treatment with acid-suppressing medications.

Remember, the best approach to managing GERD lies in correcting dietary habits and making healthier choices.