Here is how to treat digestive discomfort and acid reflux

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Digestive discomfort and acid reflux are regularly treated with antacids.

Digestive discomfort and acid reflux are regularly treated with antacids.

This might be medication you buy over the counter, such as Rennie or Gaviscon; or it could be something your doctor has prescribed, like Omeprazole or Lansoprazole.

Antacids work by neutralizing stomach acid, stopping it from spilling into areas outside of the stomach and burning the delicate tissues there.

Stomach acid can be very damaging, hence why heartburn and reflux are so painful.

Your stomach is designed to contain it safely, with a tough lining that can withstand the acidity.

If this lining becomes damaged or if you take a medication known to weaken it, it’s important to do what you can to protect it.

The most common way to do this is to take antacids, so the acid inside your stomach is no longer as damaging.

Yet, antacids are being used for a lot of different digestive disorders, not just weakened stomach lining.

So are they always the best answer?

From a holistic perspective, no. While antacids have their place, they don’t resolve chronic problems like reflux, they simply keep the symptoms under control.

For some people, that answer is enough but research shows that long term use of antacids might not be very good for you.

We need stomach acid for proper nutrient absorption, so conditions like osteoporosis and age related memory loss that rely on absorption of vitamins and minerals are important things to consider.

Instead of using antacids, I take a completely different approach to acid reflux.

Rather than neutralizing important stomach acid, I work on keeping it where it needs to be – in the stomach.

There is a valve at the top of your stomach that should remain tight and closed, unless it is letting food pass through.

When we eat, our digestive system starts to get ready for food, stomach acid is produced and this valve (as well as many others) become stronger, to protect the rest of our body from the stomach contents.

Yet, the modern diet and lifestyle mean that this preparation process no longer has the time it needs to get our bodies ready.

A combination of stress, rushed eating and refined foods means that our digestive “on switch” is missed, so we don’t produce the digestive secretions to the level that we need them and the valves don’t tighten as they should.

So instead of neutralizing stomach acid, I work on tightening the oesophageal valve, the one that stops acid coming up into the gullet.

To do this, I use one of the oldest forms of herbal medicine – bitters. Bitters work as the ultimate on switch.

We don’t enjoy bitter food in the way we enjoy sweet ones, but our bodies have evolved to respond to them.

Wild foods are often dark, green and bitter and these foods would have played a key role in our diets before industry made it possible to remove all the bitter compounds.

Unfortunately in this instance, society has evolved faster than biology and unless you enjoy rocket and watercress prior to enjoying a rich meal, you are not triggering those bitter receptors to turn your digestive system on fully.

Taking bitters before each meal supports your digestion by tightening your valves, keeping stomach acid where it needs to be. Unfortunately, this process can take two to three months and during that time, your body is going to make more stomach acid, potentially worsening rather than improving your symptoms.

To counteract this, I recommend that people use slippery elm power alongside their bitter herbs.

Using slippery elm after food puts a protective barrier on the tissues of the throat and gullet, making burning pain and damage much less likely.

Using bitters before food and slippery elm after can feel like a bit of bind, as it takes more effort than simply popping an antacid pill once a day or when symptoms arise.

Yet after two to three months, I regularly see people retrain their digestive systems to stop poorly contained acid spilling over. While the solution might not be the simplest, it can resolve the problem completely for some, so it’s certainly worth the extra effort.

For more information on digestive issues, contact Nicola on 01524 413733.

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