Acid reflux & Ulcers – the two often go hand-in-hand. I suffered from both for 17 years. It’s uncomfortable, sometimes painful and scary.
Acid reflux affects about half of all American adults, so if you’re reading this, chances are you’re familiar with the condition.
Ulcers are event worse. There’s a burning sensation that gnaws at you, especially when there’s no food in your stomach, and you wonder how bad it’s going to get. When it gets severe, it becomes an urgent medical condition.
If you suffer from one or both of these conditions, treatment isn’t merely an option – it’s absolutely necessary. Left untreated, acid reflux and ulcers can progress to much more serious conditions.
It is critically important that you see a doctor about these conditions. The doctor can assess how far they’ve progressed and what form of medical intervention, if any, is necessary.
Only a doctor can properly diagnosis and treat these medical conditions.However, it’s also important for all of us to take our health into our own hands.
In my personal experience, certain supplements can heal gastrointestinal conditions like acid reflux and ulcers. I experienced this healing first hand after 17 years of suffering.
Certainly medication has it’s place, but I’m a firm believer in supplements when appropriate. In the past year, I no longer experience any symptoms, and I attribute that to the supplements described below.
Heartburn and Acid Reflux
Acid reflux occurs when acid escapes out of the stomach. This can be due to a weak valve that is supposed to hold in the acid. This valve is a muscle that is responsible for keeping food in the stomach. When it doesn’t close completely, the stomach acid can make it’s way up the esophagus, which causes the sensation of burning.
Reflux can also occur when food doesn’t digest properly. The contents of your stomach get getting backed up and you end up with stomach acid in your esophagus.
As you may have heard, acid reflux is often NOT caused by too much acid. Instead, it can actually result from too little acid in your stomach. If there’s not enough acid in your stomach, food won’t digest quickly enough. Your body responds to this by pumping in more stomach juices, and this can cause an overproduction of these fluids.
This overflow can lead to reflux. Acid reflux (along with ulcers) is also highly related to the presence of Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), though just because you have H. pylori doesn’t mean you have acid reflux.
The goal in addressing acid reflux is to get your gastric balance back to normal. A very good first step is to eliminate known trigger foods (alcohol, coffee, chocolate, etc,.), and see what other hidden triggers might exist. Personally, I know that alcohol and coffee are virtually guaranteed to lead to heartburn for me.
Though rare, Acid reflux can lead to cancer of the esophagus.
The feeling of acid reflux can range from mild discomfort to a harsh, unbearable sensation of burning. But the discomfort is the least of your worries, as acid reflux can lead to a range of medical conditions.
Acid reflux can progress to the following medical conditions:
Esophagitis: When stomach acid chronically irritates the walls of the esophagus, it can cause it to become inflamed. This condition is called esophagitis. It can cause difficulty and discomfort when swallowing.
Esophageal ulcers: Ulcers are sores on the lining of the digestive track. Acid reflux can cause ulcers in the esophagus, which is why acid reflux and ulcers are often closely linked.
Esophageal stricture: Strictures are narrow points in lining of the esophagus that can make it hard to swallow food. They are caused by the scarring that is done through chronic acid reflux.
Barrett’s esophagus: Barrett’s esophagus occurs when the cells of the esophagus become abnormal through frequent exposure to acid reflux. It prevents the muscles at the bottom of the esophagus from working properly, such that they’re unable to keep acid and food from entering the esophagus.
A small percent (under 10%) of people who experience acid reflux or GERD develop Barett’s esophagus. Men are twice as likely to be diagnosed, with the diagnosis typically coming later in life (after age 55). Barett’s esophagus can potentially lead to esophageal cancer, though this occurs in only about 1% of people diagnosed with Barrett’s esophagus.
Tooth Decay: Due to the frequent exposure to stomach acid, the enamel surrounding teeth can wear away, which can potentially lead to poor dental health and cavities.
Ulcers can lead to internal bleeding and death.
Stomach ulcers must be treated because they can lead to dangerous and even life-threatening conditions. Ulcers can bleed, and often the bleeding isn’t immediately noticeable. If the bleeding becomes severe, it can be potentially fatal.
Further, it’s possible for an ulcer to perforate the stomach wall completely, leaking the contents of your stomach into your abdominal cavity. This is a critical condition that can result in widespread infection in the abdomen, called peritonitis. The infection can spread to your bloodstream (sepsis), which can lead to organ failure or death. You have to address these issues. Again, the first step is to go to your doctor.
Treating acid reflux and ulcers
Because such a large portion of the population experiences gastrointestinal issues like GERD, acid reflux and ulcers, there are a lot of potential treatments, pharmaceuticals and home remedies. If you’ve been experiencing these symptoms for a while, you are no doubt familiar with over-the-counter medicines, such as antacid pills (e.g., TUMS) and acid blockers (e.g., Prilosec).
Chronically reducing stomach acid to a low level can result in health consequences.
If you have low acid production, you might be familiar with some of these symptoms:
- Stomach bloating
- Chronic upset stomach
- Excessive gas
- Poor fingernail health
- Red face
- Adult acne
- Vitamin and mineral deficiency
- Frequent intestinal infections
- Poor digestion
Further, chronic low stomach acid can lead to a myriad of disorders*:
- Addison’s Disease
- Celiac Disease
- Chronic Autoimmune Disorders
- Food Allergies
- Gall Bladder Disease
- Gastric Cancer
- Graves Disease
- Pernicious Anemia
- Acne rosacea
- Ulcerative Colitis
- Hair Loss
- Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
- Rheumatoid Arthritis *Disorders associated with poor stomach acid output. Alt Med Rev 1997; 2(2):116-127
Supplements and other remedies
Here I’m going to list the various remedies that are effective in combating GERD, acid reflux and heartburn. This list is a work in progress:
Generally, this list isn’t in any particular order, EXCEPT for this product, which FOR ME worked wonders. If I could go back in time to when I first started suffering from acid reflux, this is what I would start immediately. It has the power to eliminate acid reflux in few short days. Many believe that D-limonene is nothing short of a miracle cure. A couple important studies back this up.
D-Limonene is perfectly natural – it’s just the concentrated oil of citrus fruit peel. There have been clinical trials to prove it’s effectiveness for treating acid reflux. When using it, don’t be discouraged if you don’t see results in the first few days. A common protocol is to take one pill every other day for 20 days, with relief coming somewhere within that time period. From there, it can be used occasionally to keep acid reflux away.
Though D-limonene has been proven effective in clinical trials, we’re not quite sure why it works. One proposed mechanism is that the substance coats the esophagus.
In fact, when taking D-limonene, users often experience orange-flavored burps for a little bit (hence OrangeBurps.com), and it’s theorized that these burps help coat the esophagus and eliminate acid reflux.
According to clinical trials, the relief from D-limonene often lasts up to 6 months, and you can take an occasional pill from there to maintain results. There is some research into the anti-cancer properties of d-limonene, so more good news about this harmless, inexpensive substance may be on the way.
I feel that D-limonene is largely responsible for resolving my acid reflux. After a while of taking it, as well as a few other items on the list (DGL, slippery elm and marshmallow root), I also resolved all sensation of a peptic ulcer.
After taking d-limonene for a while, I could even have an occasional drink or a cup of coffee with no acid reflux. I had lived so long with the irritation caused by acid reflux that it was pretty great to have it go away.
DGL is licorice extract. It has the ability to relieve symptoms of acid reflux and ulcers by coating and soothing the stomach. It stimulates the stomach to produce more of its own lining that protects it from acid. Why do they call it DGL instead of just licorice extract? It stands for de-glycyrrhizinated licorice. Glycyrrhizin is the sweet part of licorice root. Though licorice root is a common nutritional supplement, the glycyrrhizin has some known negative health effects, so DGL gets rid of the bad and keeps the good. There are generally no risks of taking DGL – you can take it for a long time. In my opinion, it’s safer than antacids.
DGL are pleasant-tasting (if you like licorice) chewable tablets. For those of you who hate the taste of black licorice, you can also take them in powder-filled capsules that you swallow, though the chewable tablets are recommended – some say that chewing the tablets enhancing their efficacy. You take two pills a couple of times a day. Research indicates that they are at least as effective as antacids at relieving heartburn, so it might be a good idea to try replacing antacids with DGL.
Mastic gum is considered by many to be an effective treatment for gastritis, acid reflux other inflammatory conditions of the bowels. It’s also said to help H. pylori, the bacteria highly associated with ulcers and acid relfux. A search of Amazon or online health food stores shows reviews of people raving about mastic gum. Your mileage may very. I tried it, and I can’t really say whether it helped or not.
Slippery elm is a natural substance that can be used to coat and soothe the lining of the esophogus. It’s called “slippery elm” because of it’s slippery or “slimey nature,” but it’s typically taken in pill form, so you never experience the slippery-ness. You can actually make a cup of tea out of it if you choose. Slippey elm is used to treat different digestive disorders, including IBS.
Marshmallow root is of course an ingredient used to make sugary marshmallows, but marshmallow root has no sugar. Marshmallow root is very similar to slippery elm: It’s used to coat and soothe the lining of the lower esophagus. Both slippery elm and marshmallow root are known as “mucilaginous herbs”, which just refers to their thick, slippery nature. Marshmallow root is commonly used to treat a condition known as interstitial cystitis (IC), which is a painful bladder condition.
This honey comes from New Zealand has special antimicrobial and healing properties. Having low stomach acid creates an environment for bad bacteria to thrive – this is known as bacteria overgrowth. Manuka Honey will help defend you against these, and it has soothing and healing properties for ulcers. One recommended protocol to combat acid reflux and help heal ulcers is to take 1 tsp once or twice a day. You probably don’t need help finding ways to consume honey. You can add it to tea, eat it off a spoon, mix it in a smoothie – the possibilities are endless (and yummy). Manuka honey has a specific kind of herbal taste – it tastes a bit different than other honeys, but I find it delicious.
HCL or hydrochloric acid is already present in your stomach – it’s what helps you digest your food. AS we’ve discussed above, sometimes your stomach is low in acid, which interferes with digestion and can lead to GERD. HCL is taken with protein-rich meals, and it takes some experimentation to get the dosage right, as your needs vary depending on your current levels of HCL. Generally users start with one pill, and then add another until they feel a slight discomfort or warm sensation in the stomach, at which point they’ll dial it back by a pill or two.
It’s recommended that you DON’T take HCL supplements if you have an ulcer. Also remember that antacids and acids don’t mix. If you’re on a regimen that includes acid blockers or antacids, you won’t want to take HCL at the same time. You want to decide with your healthcare provider whether to fight the acid or add acid, and proceed from there.
Digestive enzymes are taken before meals and help you fully digest food and absorb nutrients. They’re a good remedy for probablems like gas and bloating, constipation, and can also help with acid reflux from poorly digested food. they make special enzymes depending on what type of food you’re eating (e.g., for people with lactose intolerance), but a broad-spectrum digestive enzyme product is a good choice for most people.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is a traditional remedy for lots of different digestive ailments. There’s evidence that apple cider vinegar has myriad health benefits, even helping with blood sugar control. The product you want is the one that comes with teh “mother,” which looks like debris in the bottle. Some have a problem with the taste – after all, it is vinegar. It can be masked by using a sweetened beverage. Others learn to love the taste – I kind of like sipping a bit of Apple cider vinegar in a glass of sparkling water. It’s my special champagne. A good protocol is to take a tablespoon or two of apple cider vinegar in water in the morning, and then perhaps before meals or at night. onus.
Aloe Vera Juice
Aloe Vera is a substance extracted from plants and it’s very popular for its healing properties. You often see it in lotions and other topical ointments because of this. Many are convinced of its internal healing properties, saying that it helps to heal ulcers. Beverages that contain aloe vera are very popular throughout the world, though they’re often made more palatable with added sugar. Allo isn’t particularly offensive, but it’s not a very delicious drink by itself. People often mask the flavor by adding it to a fruit-flavored beverage. If you prefer to take these in pill form, you can get aloe vera gels.
Bitters are a long-time remedy to help jump start your digestive juices and increase your ability to digest food. These herbs come in many different varieties, and Swedish bitters are especially popular among those who are seeking to improve digestion.
Siberian Pine Nut Oil
Some have said that Siberian pine nut oil is extremely effective at healing ulcers. Apparently this oil has been used for centuries in Russia and China as a home remedy for gastrointestinal issues, including ulcers. Some say that it has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity that naturally heal ulcers. There have been some studies on this that have shown it is effective, but more research needs to be done. In the meantime, it is certainly worth exploring.
Armed with the above list, I dare you to take your health into your hands and see if you can improve your gastrointestinal issues. This list is no substitute for a doctor. However, when it comes to your health, NOBODY is going to work as hard as you. When used intelligently, supplements can save your health, and the above list is a great place to start.