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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.
I’d like to hit you with a tip this week that is often overlooked as a culprit behind multiple issues when it comes to your health and wellbeing. The seemingly subconscious act of proper breathing. On the surface this appears like such a simple act that we all take for granted. But as we all know, we must breathe to live. Period.
WHY WE BREATHE
Let’s first breakdown what actually transpires when we breathe. When you inhale you are delivering oxygen to an interface between your lungs and blood vessels. Here, freshly inhaled oxygen is exchanged for carbon dioxide, which you then expel during exhalation. Your beating heart provides the force to deliver the carbon dioxide to this interface bounded to hemoglobin molecules in your blood.
When the exchange is made, oxygen is then delivered to all of your tissues bound to that same hemoglobin molecule. Oxygen is a vital fuel for your cells to function properly. One of the waste products of this metabolic process is carbon dioxide, which is then taken by the blood back to the lungs for the cycle to continually repeat itself.
Sounds simple enough. But what if I told you that you’re probably not breathing correctly and this could be contributing to a myriad of issues including that discomfort in your neck.
HOW WE BREATHE
Most people do not realize this, but breathing is actually a brain directed function carried out by muscles, the chief one being the diaphragm. This is a muscle that separates your abdomen from your chest cavity. Breathing in is actually a function of this muscle descending, enlarging your chest cavity and creating a negative pressure that sucks oxygen rich air into your lungs. Once this has transpired, the diaphragm then ascends, reversing that negative pressure and pushing the now carbon dioxide laden air out of your lungs.
If you observe someone breathing you will more than likely notice that the shoulders and chest rise and fall. This is actually the incorrect way of breathing and signifies the use of what are called accessory muscles of respiration. These muscles are connected throughout your cervical spine (neck), ribs, clavicle (collar bone) and sternum.
By breathing incorrectly you are putting these muscles to work all day, every day. Couple that with the fact that these muscles are already being overworked by that anterior posture from being hunched over at our computers, and these muscles become quite fatigued. When this occurs you become more susceptible to injury due to the fatigued muscles (that would normally stabilize your neck during strenuous movements) failing.
There also begins to be an accumulation of lactic acid in the muscles. Most of us have felt this before when riding a bike and our thighs start to burn. This is the same concept, expect in these over contracted neck muscles that tend to lead to tender and uncomfortable trigger points.
So what can you do? You can start by practicing breathing correctly. Correct breathing is actually from your belly, not your chest. When you inhale, your belly (or that six pack) should expand outward. When you breathe out your abdomen should then sink back in. This seems counterintuitive, but the motion should be mostly all in the abdomen, and minimally in the shoulders and chest.
Place one hand on your belly and the other on your chest. Note the motions that take place while breathing in and out. If you notice that it is off, make a conscious effort to correct it. This exercise can be done at any time during the day, even when at your desk or sitting at a light in the car. Doing this should begin to offer some relief to those aforementioned accessory muscles. Couple this with some postural exercises and you should be able to decrease that neck discomfort tenfold.
Proper posture and breathing mechanics also allows a deeper breath and thus more oxygen. As stated above, oxygen is vital for almost all functions in the body. Any deficit in its concentration or delivery can lead to all sorts of problems including headaches and lack of concentration. It, along with glucose and activation are the absolute necessities required for survival and proper function of your nervous system. That’s your brain, spinal cord, and nerves wired throughout your body we are talking about here. Make sure you’re giving it the fuel it needs to perform as intended.
Another interesting effect that you can take advantage of by utilizing this belly breathing technique comes by way of parasympathetic nervous system stimulation. As we’ve discussed in previous posts, there are two opposite nervous systems that should balance each other out in order to maintain optimal function. The sympathetic system which is your fight or flight response, and your parasympathetic which is basically for rest and digest.
Being that the parasympathetic system is in charge of digestion, it has a vast number of connections to the organs involved in the digestive process, particularly the intestines located in your abdomen. When you breathe with your belly you are causing stimulation to the abdomen, which we just said is heavily parasympatheticaly innervated. This connection leads to subsequent stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps you de-stress and relax.
This is the reason a proper breathing technique is one of the main components of successful meditation. Increased delivery of oxygen to your brain allowing you to elevate your mind. Stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system facilitating calmness.
If you practice this method of breathing you have the potential to not only begin to mechanically relieve some of that nagging neck pain, but it will also help you to remain calm and relaxed. Who would’ve thought such a seemingly simple task could carry such potentially positive ramifications?