Friday, December 27, 2013

5 tips to help stop GERD

Most people who experience GERD immediately go to the pharmacy and grab an acid reducer to stop the symptoms associated with GERD.  In my last blog I went over the reasons why this is a bad idea.  In this blog I will give you some tips on how to reduce GERD.

1)Reduce stress

This may seem like an odd tip, but it's based on hard science.  Automatic processes such as digestion, heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing are controlled by the autonomic nervous system(ANS).  You have a finite number of resources and your autonomic nervous system helps determine what systems deserve the limited resources you have.  When you are stressed, your ANS partitions resources toward your muscles, putting you in fight or flight mode so you can get away from whatever is attacking you or turn it in to food.  This directs resources away from your organs of digestion until the stress is resolved.  At that time, resources are directed back to the organs of digestion to help your body recover.  This process, while useful in times of physiological stress such as coming upon a bear in the woods, can be detrimental when the stress is psychological or ongoing.  All stress is handled in the same way by the ANS so all stress will negatively impact digestion unless it is managed properly.  One of the best things you can do right before you eat is take in a deep breath and relax.

2)Sit down to eat

This goes right along with the reduce stress tip.  Too many people eat on the go or while standing up and this can negatively impact digestion for the same reason as above.  When you eat, you want to sit down, relax, and take your time. Too many people shove something in to their mouth quickly and jump right out the door.  Even if you are getting in to the car and sitting down, you are exposing yourself to stress in the car during your commute, especially if you have to deal with Jersey drivers like I do.  Sit down, take your time, and don't jump right up once you've finished eating.

3)Chew your food

Digestion begins in the mouth as amylase, the enzyme responsible for digesting carbohydrates, starch to break down starch before it enters the stomach.  Focus on putting manageable bites of food in to your mouth and chewing each mouthful 30 times.  This will help digestion and make sure food is properly digested so that it doesn't cause bacteria to overgrow from your large intestine in to your small intestine where they can cause problems.

4)Eat smaller meals

In general, I prefer people eat 3 meals a day.  However, if you are not producing enough digestive enzymes, you may want to focus on 5-6 smaller meals to allow your body to break everything you eat down.  The goal is to make sure all of the food that can be digested by you is absorbed before it gets to the end of your digestive tract where the beneficial bacteria in your gut can finish digesting what you can't.

5)Use digestive enzymes

As long as you don't have any ulcers, digestive enzymes can be used to help break down your food when you aren't making enough on your own.  The added bonus is that as you use these enzymes, you begin making more of your own so you can ween yourself off of them.  A project I have been working on leads me to believe that this works by reducing the amount of food available to the bacteria that is making it's way in to the small intestine where it doesn't belong.  This bacteria is also negatively influencing your digestive process by altering the digestive tract and once it is starved, you begin producing enzymes on your own.  The enzymes you need to take and how much is dependent on what and how much you eat.  Betaine HCl w/Pepsin or NOW foods Super Enzymes both seem to work pretty well in capsule form.  I more or less agree with this article from SCDLifestyle on how to determine your dosage.  However, make sure you get Betaine Hcl WITH Pepsin, not just Betaine Hcl.

These tips should help you manage the symptoms of GERD.  Although they are very helpful, don't expect immediate results overnight.  GERD is likely something that takes a while to develop, so it will take a while to correct.  Begin implementing these tips and you should be on your way in improving your digestion and correcting GERD.