Sounds crazy? Sure. But that’s what many people who suffer from chronic heartburn and acid reflux are doing when they perpetuate their condition by taking prescription strength antacid medications. Stomach acids are indispensable to proper digestion. Neutralise those acids on a regular basis and you’re just asking for trouble.
So…what to do? That’s what an HSI member named Lesley wants to know. She writes: ‘I am suffering with acid reflux. While I am able to control it to a certain extent by diet, I still suffer some symptoms. Is there some alternative medicine I can use to improve the symptoms?’
The quick answer: Yes. But first we’ll stop off in Australia to look at the most recent investigation of a non-drug treatment for heartburn.
Stimulating acupressure points to treat heartburn
As I’ve noted in previous e-alerts, acupressure is the field of Traditional Chinese Medicine in which pressure is applied by hand to the same acupoints where needles would be inserted for acupuncture treatments.
In this new trial, conducted at Australia’s University of Adelaide, researchers applied a mild electrical pulse to stimulate an acupressure point on the wrist known as Neiguan, which is associated with upper gastrointestinal conditions. Fourteen healthy volunteers with no symptoms of heartburn or acid reflux received stimulation at the Neiguan point and at a sham point on the hip.
Using a barostat balloon to measure movement of the oesophagus, researchers found that Neiguan stimulation prompted about 40 percent fewer relaxations of the lower oesophageal sphincter (LES) compared to stimulation of the sham point. The LES is the sphincter at the junction where the oesophagus meets the stomach. When the LES is relaxed, small amounts of stomach acid can slip past and irritate the oesophagus. In other words, LES relaxation often prompts heartburn.
In an interview with Reuters Health, lead researcher Dr Richard H. Holloway described his trial as ‘very preliminary.’ Further tests will be needed to determine if the same effect would occur with acid reflux patients, and if so, how long the effects might last.
Simple remedy for acid reflux
Meanwhile, Lesley still has an acid reflux problem to contend with. And while there’s certainly no harm in seeking out a good acupressure practitioner to try out a stimulation of her Neiguan point, there is another way she can address her problem naturally.
In the e-alert ‘Natural relief from the pain of heartburn’ (18/11/04), US HSI Panellist Dr Allan Spreen shared a natural therapy he’s used in his practice to successfully treat many cases of heartburn, acid reflux and indigestion. Dr. Spreen describes his treatment as ‘ridiculously simple and cheap.’ And while he feels confident that he can stop more than 2/3 of all heartburn and reflux cases, he notes that the most difficult situations (such as overt ulcers and other serious gastro intestinal illnesses) will require a more aggressive approach.
For the remaining 66+ percent of cases, a treatment consisting primarily of acidophilus and digestive enzymes will usually do the trick. In Dr. Spreen’s words: ‘Acidophilus supplements (powder form, the liquid tastes awful) protect the oesophagus without killing acid (while killing the pain almost immediately). The hassle is, you have to keep it handy and take it often if you don’t solve the whole problem, which involves tightening the gastro oesophageal sphincter.
‘That can be done using the English herbs (Potter’s Acidosis) or by improving the environment of the stomach, which then tightens the junction on its own but requires a bit more effort.’
Just add acid…and enzymes
Dr. Spreen explains that when the stomach is low on acid it tends to also be low on digestive enzymes. And believe it or not, his solution (along with acidophilus protection) is to ADD acid and digestive enzymes at the same time. He says, ‘Remember, it isn’t acid that’s the problem (you need it desperately for digestion); it’s acid reaching the oesophagus.
‘Proper digestion allows for higher concentration of acid while tightening the gastro oesophageal junction and protecting the oesophagus. I do that by using betaine hydrochloride, a plant-based form of acid like the acid in the stomach (you hope) that is available from sources online.’
Acidophilus is available at most supplement stores and through many Internet sources. And according to Dr. Spreen, refrigerated varieties in capsules or powder form are best. He writes: ‘They should be measured in billions (with a ‘B’) of CFU (colony-forming units). You take 1/4-1/2 teaspoon (or equivalent capsules by opening them) right before meals and bedtime, plus anytime that you experience the burning. It’s best to just let the saliva take the substance down the throat, but a few sips of water are okay.
‘It’s possible to be sensitive to high doses of acidophilus, but uncommon, and even less so if there’s a chance of levels being low (as in reflux problems). If that occurs you just stop or lower the dose temporarily and then see how much you can build back up to.’
Potter’s Acidosis is also available from sources online. Thank you Dr. Spreen once again for your comments.