Looking into the question of natural aids for problems with digestion and/or reflux leads first of all into a consideration of how prevalent these problems are in America. This produces an immediate stomach-turning realization that digestion is a major problem in this country. Not only are the statistics with the number of sufferers staggering, but the number of products in the market purporting to help with this problem is equally huge.
According to a study in 2010 (with some updating in later years) by the National Institutes of Health, the prevalence of digestive diseases in America was 60 to 70 million people. Digestive problems accounted for the following number of:
Ambulatory care visits: 48.3 million;
Primary diagnosis at office visits; 36.6 million;
Primary diagnosis at emergency department visits: 7.9 million;
Primary diagnosis at outpatient department visits; 3.8 million. These issues led to the following results: Hospitalizations: 21.7 million; Mortality: 245,921 deaths (2009);
Diagnostic and therapeutic inpatient procedures; 5.4 million (12 percent of all inpatient procedures) (2007);
Ambulatory surgical procedures; 20.4 million (20 percent of all “write-in” surgical procedures) (2010).
Associated costs were: $141.8 billion (2004).
The broad term of “digestive diseases” encompasses a number of specific issues. These are: abdominal wall hernia, diverticular disease, gallstones, gastroesophageal reflux disease, gastrointestinal infection, hemorrhoids, Crohn’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel disease, liver disease, pancreatitis, peptic ulcer disease, viral hepatitis, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C, many which require specific medical assistance. Therefore, this article focuses solely on Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. Since a Fox News survey in 2013 noted that 74% experienced gastrointestinal discomfort that seems enough to cover in one blog post.
Herbal remedies for possible relief from digestion and reflux issues.
Iberogast, also called STW 5, is a combination product made with nine different herbs including:
Angelica, Caraway, Clown’s mustard plant, German chamomile, Greater celandine, Lemon balm, Licorice, Milk thistle, and Peppermint.
According to the above link, “some studies have shown that Iberogast may reduce heartburn. It’s not clear, however, which herb in the mix relieves symptoms. Plus, peppermint oil can actually worsen heartburn, so it’s not a good idea to take it if you have GERD.”
An article indexed by the National Library of medicine in their PubMed.com database, from the journal Digestive Diseases in 2017 notes STW 5 can have multitarget effects on functional dyspepsia and irritable bond syndrome. “It normalizes the disturbed gastrointestinal motility, alleviates hypersensitivity, inhibits inflammation, suppresses gastric hypersecretion, and modulates the microbiota.”
A popular brand of this substance recommended by some Naturopaths is DGL Ultra from ENZYMATIC Therapy. The main reason for preferring deglycyrrhizinated licorice over regular licorice is the tendency of the latter to raise blood pressure. There are other similar brands. “Note: Observe these cautions: “You shouldn’t use licorice if you’re taking diuretics, corticosteroids, or other medications that lower your body’s potassium levels. Licorice can amplify the effects of these medications and cause your potassium levels to become dangerously low.” “People who have heart disease or high blood pressure should exercise caution when taking licorice. Women who are pregnant should avoid using licorice as a supplement because it may increase the risk of preterm labor.”
GINGER (Zinger officinale)
According to an article in Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine ePub June 23, 2011“Zinger officinale has been used as a traditional source against gastric disturbances from time immemorial.” This article focused on the “ulcer-preventive properties of aqueous extract of ginger rhizome.” This ginger treatment seemed either equal to or more effective than lansoprazole, a popular proton pump inhibitor (PPI) without the negative effects associated with PPIs.
A popular writer on health subjects, Dr. Mercola, DO, suggests adding “two or three slices of fresh ginger root to two cups of hot water. Let steep for about half an hour. Drink about 20 minutes or so before your meal.”
Slippery elm coats and soothes the mouth, throat, stomach, and intestines, and contains antioxidants that can help address inflammatory bowel conditions. It also stimulates nerve endings in your gastrointestinal tract. This helps increase mucus secretion, which protects your gastrointestinal tract aginst ulcers and excess acidity.
According to healthline:
1. “The gel can coat and soothe inflamed tissue.
- This coating can act as a barrier against acidity.
- Slippery elm can also stimulate the intestines to produce mucus.
The above source suggests a dose of one tablespoon up to three times a day mixed with tea or water if using the powdered bark. Slippery Elm also comes in capsule, powder and lozenges. Check the directions on the type of product in use or talk to your doctor about the correct amount.
Side Effects: “Slippery elm contains a type of soft fiber called mucilage. Mucilage can decrease how much medicine the body absorbs. . .. Take slippery elm at least one hour after medications you take by mouth.”
EMOTIONAL FREEDOM TECHNIQUE (EFT)
EFT is a system that purports to promote healing by tapping on various points of the body. The Tapping Solution Foundation describes the process, saying:
“Tapping is simple and painless. It can be learned by anyone. And you can apply it to yourself, whenever you want, wherever you are. It’s less expensive and less time consuming. It can be used with specific emotional intent towards your own unique life challenges and experiences. Most importantly, it gives you the power to heal yourself, putting control over your destiny back into your own hands.”
There is a short (4:09 minute) instructional video at the same location.
More references can be found below:
We normally think of Aloe Vera as something to use to heal irritated skin. It can serve as well to calm acid reflux. Livestrong.com has a helpful article on the type of aloe vera intended for internal use to soothe the GI tract. DO NOT attempt to use aloe vera meant only for external use as it may cause diarrhea.
Livestrong recommends you “Shake or stir the aloe vera juice and pour approximately 1/4 cup into a glass. If the aloe vera is purchased in gel or powder form, dissolve and dilute it in a glass containing 1/4 cup water at room temperature.”
Follow the dose recommended on the bottle or ask your doctor. You can store leftover juice in the refrigerator for later use.
Finally, a review of 22 studies on the effects of medicinal plants for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) can be found in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2017 Feb;23(2):82-95. doi: 10.1089/acm.2016.0233. Epub 2016 Dec. 20.