Remember that expression “Don’t bite off more than you can chew.”? In today’s landscape of digestive maladies, perhaps it should be reworked into “Don’t swallow more than you have chewed.” In the case of GERD or Gastro-esophageal Reflux Disease, that very expression is one of the main interventions that alleviates it. Chewing or masticating completely, which means 20x per bite, enhances the secretion of saliva and breaks up food into nice, small, easier-to-digest pieces. This gives the stomach an easier time in digesting said food. Saliva is also highly beneficial to digestion as it protects the esophageal mucosal barrier, contains growth factors for epithelial cells as well as enzymes that further break down food. However, when we eat too quickly and don’t chew food, we are secreting approximately 132% LESS saliva, which means we make GERD much more likely. Some of the other things that make GERD occur include smoking, drinking, consuming reactive foods such as coffee, chocolate and citrus fruits in excess amounts, and being overweight.
Much of the time, these factors cause the Lower Esophageal Sphincter (aka door to your stomach) to become weakened to the point that gastric contents can regurgitate back up the esophagus (causing heartburn). In addition to the above causes, Chinese medicine also holds out the importance of emotional state at the time of a meal. When eating, it is important to be in a good frame of mind, and to refrain from both stress eating as well as eating on the run.
The interventions that help GERD in addition to the above would be lower carbohydrate diets, eating seaweed or taking Sodium Alginate (a compound in seaweed that forms a barrier gel that sits on top of stomach acid) and Sodium Bicarbonate (baking soda 1/8-1/4tsp in case of hyperacidity). Although acupuncture also helps by causing the Lower Esophageal Sphincter to tighten up, it takes longer than 2 minutes, but is still worth mentioning if the other interventions are not enough.
Tune in next week when we’ll talk about fibrocystic breast changes.
Be Well and Be Zen
R. Gaby., Gastroesophageal reflux disease., Nutritional Medicine (2011)., Ch. 108., ps.420-22, ISBN13: 978-0-9828850-0-0. Fritz Perlberg Publishing, Concord, NH.