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Heartburn. Indigestion. Acid reflux. These are annoyances that plague millions of Americans. The prevalence of this condition is so frequent that the sales of OTC (over the counter) antacids is in the billions. I even saw Larry the Cable Guy pitching some Prilosec on a commercial, urging that we don’t let heartburn get in the way.
Dr. Cable Guy has it partially right. You shouldn’t allow heartburn to get in your way. However the answer is not to mindlessly pop a side effect laden pill in order to silence your body’s cry for help. Especially not on a regular basis, as even the manufacturers warn to caution long term use.
So what to do? Well, with this situation as with all, the optimal solution is to search for the cause of the dysfunction.
What’s the problem?
A burning sensation somewhere along your upper digestive tract. What’s the cause? Well, if you’re like many pill popping Americans, you may believe the issue is too much stomach acid. Drugs like the aforementioned Prilosec work by inhibiting the production of stomach acid, when in fact too little acid may actually be the issue. Moreover, the issue may have nothing to do with acid volume at all, but rather nervous system dysfunction leading to discordination of the sphincters designed to prevent the back wash of potent stomach acid.
To our first point, a condition called hypochlorhydria (low stomach acid) can actually be the counterintuitive root of acid reflux. We need our stomachs to secrete hydrochloric acid in order to protect us from harmful invaders hitching a ride with our food, and as a mandatory early digestive aid. Without it, proper digestion cannot occur leaving one susceptible to nutrient and mineral deficiencies, as well as gut irritation, inflammation, infection and permeability. And if you’ve read any other posts on this site or are up on the current research, you’re aware this can set the stage for a host of issues including autoimmune diseases.
When food is not hit with a proper dose of hydrochloric it begins to go rancid and putrefy in our gastrointestinal tract. The body, in all of its infinite wisdom, tries to refuse this ball of rotting nastiness and directs it towards the nearest exit. Unfortunately due the early juncture that this takes place along the digestive process, this ends up being your esophagus, where it irritates the delicate tissue and causes your classic heartburn.
Now if you chose to go the OTC route you will most likely experience some temporary relief, as it blocks the acid that is normally back washed into your esophagus. Unfortunately all you did was shove a dirty old sock in your body’s mouth as it attempts to inform you that something isn’t right. So what happens? Well, next feeding the symptoms return and you learn to pop another pill as it now becomes your standard appetizer or dessert.
Not to pick on Prilosec, but since Larry gives’er the nod let’s hear some of those potential side effects that increase the longer you rely on them in order to enjoy that funnel cake with Mr. Cable Guy. Those listed as common include headache, diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and flatulence. More serious possibilities include fun things like pancreatitis, hepatic (liver) impairment, gastritis, nephritis (kidneys), and blood disorders.
Most importantly you need to keep in mind that you’re inhibiting the function of the entire digestive process. While this may give you the short lived gratification of enjoying a taste, you are setting yourself up to be nutrient deficient and plagued by the laundry list of possible issues that can occur from that leaky, inflamed gut. So what can you do to break the cycle?
Well, first find a practitioner that is willing to go beyond the knee jerk reaction of prescribing something to decrease the stomach acid. (In many cases supplementing with HCl (hydrochloric acid) actually brings relief.)
You’ll want to undergo a thorough consultation, exam, and perhaps some blood work in order to discover whether the causative factor is something like your thyroid gland, adrenal glands, or based in the brain. You’ll have to be willing to make the necessary lifestyle changes, especially when it comes to diet in order to heal the gut and identify any possible food intolerances that may be causing constant internal stress and leading to esophageal sphincter dysfunction.
If you suffer from chronic heartburn or another condition that you’re tired of being on meds for;
If you’re tired of feeling like you’re running in circles;
If you’re interested in a natural and holistic approach described in the paragraph above;
if you believe the body is a complex matrix of interconnected systems and not isolated compartments;
if you are sick and tired of being sick and tired; then please give us a call (321) 848-0987. It would be our pleasure to collaborate with you in your journey towards optimal health.
For this week’s post we are going to change it up and pull excerpts from an intriguing article written by Michael Downey. It is on the subject of telomeres which can best be described as caps on the end of your DNA, and how important it is to preserve them as long as possible. The topic has fascinated me for some time now, so I thought I would share. Enjoy.
“Telomeres are protective DNA molecules. Often compared to the plastic caps on the ends of shoelaces, telomeres are found on the ends of coiled pieces of DNA known as chromosomes. They keep the chromosome material from deteriorating.
Every time chromosomes divide, the telomeres at the ends shorten. The eventual shortening of telomeres is correlated with aging. Ultimately, the telomeres become so depleted that the cell can no longer divide, and that cell dies (aka apoptosis).
Scientists have made an alarming discovery: higher stress levels can cause accelerated shortening of telomeres. In a recently published study, researchers found that depression related stress results in the significant shortening of telomeres (the caps at the ends of chromosomes) an indication of accelerated aging.
The publication of this study emphasizes the importance of minimizing the impact of internal and environmental stress on the body. An estimated 75-90% of visits to primary care physicians are now related to the effects of stress, and this new study documents how lethal stress can be to our well-being and longevity.
STRESS-INDUCED HOMEOSTATIC IMBALANCE
Homeostasis is the ability and tendency of a body to maintain harmonious equilibrium by constantly readjusting its physiological processes. Cells and tissues exist in a constantly changing environment—homeostasis steers internal biochemical levels back to near-optimum points.
Physical and emotional stress triggers a cascade of biochemical changes, causing homeostatic imbalance. This interruption in homeostasis helps us prepare for dangerous external situations. (Essentially it is an activation of the “fight or flight” sympathetic nervous system which we have discussed numerous times before.) These changes are supposed to be moderate, infrequent, and short-term. Ordinarily, after a stressor has passed, our system adjusts—raising and lowering different biochemical levels—returning the body to homeostasis.
In today’s world, our feedback mechanisms become overwhelmed by the extent, duration, intensity, frequency, or multiple layering of stress. This produces an excessive or prolonged homeostatic imbalance (sympathetic overdrive). Studies have even found that these harmful effects can persist long after a stressful situation has been normalized.
The result can be a multitude of physical and mental diseases, including permanent organ damage, DNA effects, and the physical changes associated with aging.
Some of the many disease states associated with stress-induced homeostatic imbalance include obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, infectious disease, gastric ulcer, cancer, gastrointestinal complaints, skin issues, neurological disorders, sexual dysfunction, psychological problems, suppressed immunity, decreased memory, predisposition to Alzheimer’s, and shortened telomeres; and, as a result, accelerated cellular and tissue aging.
PROTECTION FROM THE DAMAGING EFFECTS OF STRESS
Adaptogens are a pharmacological group of compounds that metabolically support the ability of an organism to respond appropriately to stress, preserve structure and function from the damaging effects of stress, and hasten recovery of homeostasis.
When combined, adaptogens work together to modulate the multiple pathways of stress. The multiple benefits include improved mental and physical performance, reduced incidence of chronic disease, and increased longevity. Scientists investigated numerous extracts—some used for thousands of years to treat various stress-related symptoms.
This research led to four potent adaptogens that can provide a united defense against the multiple cellular pathways of chronic stress:
Telomeres, stress, anti-aging; I think you’d agree that this is truly fascinating stuff. Of course we all know that prolonged stress is a negative thing and ideally we would like to rid ourselves of it.
You can begin to do this by addressing those chronic physical stressors in our bodies. This involves combatting those nagging injuries and poor posture, as well as cleaning up that inflammatory diet; both of which cause constant physical and chemical stress.
You also want to make sure your nervous system is functioning at an optimal level so that you can deal with stress appropriately when it does inevitably arise. Being checked by a physician who utilizes functional neurology is a solid way to keep that sympathetic nervous system in check. In addition, there is various supplemental and herbal support that can assist on an individual basis.
If you have any questions about any of this or would like to take action towards removing the stressors from your life, please call and schedule an appointment today.
You can find this article in it’s entirety, as well as all of the associated references at: http://www.lef.org/magazine/mag2012/jun2012_New-Reason-Avoid-Stress_01.htm.