Monthly Archives: October 2014

Effective Approaches to Heartburn and GERD

Ask someone what their most annoying health challenge is, and there’s a good chance they’ll answer “heartburn and GERD.” Stomach on Fire illustrating Heartburn and GERDHeartburn and GERD are uncomfortable and potentially damaging conditions which are one of the most common issues experienced by people in the US. There are currently 285.3 million people on prescription medications for heartburn and GERD. That equates to one in ten people! This number doesn’t even include the large number of people taking self-prescribed over-the-counter medications for heartburn and GERD. Many people (including mainstream medicine) assume heartburn and GERD are caused by excess acid. This means the common approach is to prescribe proton pump inhibitors (such as Nexium and Prilosec) without determining the true root cause of the problem.

One problem caused by the prolonged use of proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) is they interfere the absorption of vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, iron, B12, etc. Long-term use has been linked to malabsorption and nutritional deficiencies. PPI use has also been connected to frequent headaches, constipation and diarrhea, fatigue, increased incidence of pneumonia, higher rates of bone fractures (due to inhibited calcium absorption), bacterial imbalance in the digestive tract, higher incidence of C Dificile infections, magnesium deficiency, increase in coronary disease, and other serious health problems.

The primary reason it is so imperative to assess the cause of heartburn and GERD is that many people’s heartburn and GERD is actually caused by a lack of stomach acid, not by an excess. Although PPIs may bring relief by further decreasing already faulty levels of stomach acid, they ultimately lead to poor digestion and absorption.

As I stated previously, it is absolutely imperative to determine the root cause of heartburn and GERD before taking any medication. It does’t make sense to take a medication designed to decrease the production of stomach acid when heartburn and GERD are actually caused by a deficit in stomach acid. Most people assume the acidic burning in their stomach is caused by excess stomach acid, but the truth is that many forms of heartburn and GERD are actually caused by a deficiency in stomach acid.

Stomach acid is essential for digestive enzymes to work. A deficiency in stomach acid causes the body’s digestive enzymes to  not work effectively, which leads to indigestion, poorly digested food, heartburn and GERD. Stomach acid does not digest food but instead creates an acidic environment that allows digestive enzymes to work at their peak efficiency. Decreasing stomach acid weakens digestive enzymes, which ultimately means the nutrients in foods cannot be absorbed. Stomach acid is also essential for the absorption of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, zinc, etc.

Heartburn is a typically burning sensation limited to the stomach. Heartburn my cause burping, bloating, and/or nausea, too. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) occurs when the contents of the stomach rise into the esophagus. (Which should never happen.) GERD can create a burning in the chest and throat, a gagging sensation, or a feeling something is stuck in the throat. GERD can also cause muscles in the esophagus to spasm, which sometimes creates intense pain that may be confused with a heart attack. (A single nerve communicates pain from both the heart and esophagus, so pain in the esophagus often feels like pain in or near the heart. This pain may be severe.) 

If you are having chest pain, seek medical attention immediately even if you suspect the cause of the pain is heartburn. The root cause of GERD is that the Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES) that should separate the esophagus from the stomach (and prevent food from traveling up) doesn’t close when it should or does not close completely. Some studies found increasing the stomach’s acidity actually improves the LES’s function. This means PPIs may eliminate symptoms but actually worsen the root cause of heartburn and GERD. Since GERD causes stomach acid to enter the esophagus and damage it, use of PPIs may cause worse damage to the esophageal tissues while hiding the symptoms – for a while.

My perspective on PPIs is that they may be valuable as a short-term means of restoring quality of life, but that steps need to be taken to identify and address the true cause of the problem. The goal should always be to shorten the use of PPIs. Heartburn and GERD are miserable conditions. If left untreated, it may cause a lack of sleep, inability to work, and may lead to vomiting multiple times per day. Restoring quality of life needs to be a priority.

The most common causes of heartburn and GERD include, but are not limited to:

  • Food allergies:  This is the THE most common cause of heartburn and GERD, but is a factor that is often ignored. I have many clients who were told their symptoms couldn’t possibly be caused by food allergies. When we identified their food allergies using a simple blood test and eliminated allergenic foods, those clients experienced complete relief and no longer needed medication. Food allergies can produce over 200 different symptoms from head to toe, so it is important to identify them and eliminate the offending foods. I’m a firm believer that anyone with chronic heartburn or GERD should have a food allergy panel run.
    .
    I spent two years vomiting three or four times daily and feeling horrible due to digestive distress and extreme GERD. My gastroenterologist laughed at me when I asked about food allergies. (I’ve forgiven him and am now thankful to have had that experience because it enables me to help more people today.) I ignored my gastroenterologist and sought help in other places, including having food allergy testing done. Identifying and eliminating the food allergies I had completely eliminated my digestive issues. I often find identifying food allergies and eliminating the culprits quickly restores health in many ways. Sadly, some people aren’t wiling to give up “comfort” foods and prefer to remain on medication. Food allergy testing can be conducted by a single blood test that can identify over 700 allergens.
    .
  • Lack of stomach acid:  Our bodies produce less stomach acid as we age, which can cause heartburn. Using herbal remedies known to increase the production of stomach acid is my preferred approach when a lack of stomach acid is the cause of heartburn. In extreme cases, it may be necessary to take HCl in capsule form with meals. (Organic Apple Cider Vinegar may also help.) I try to avoid the use of HCl, as taking an external form of HCl may cause the body to stop producing it.
    ,
  • Excess consumption of liquids with meals:  It sounds simple, but drinking less than 6 ounces of liquid with meals often eliminates heartburn and reflux. When we drink too much liquid with meals, the stomach’s agitating action tends to force stomach contents and liquids up into the esophagus instead of down into the small intestine. This leads to pain and potential damage to the esophagus.
    .
  • Ulcers:  Active ulcers don’t always show up on stool tests designed to find blood. It is important to test for H Pylori or use other assessment techniques to identify ulcers. There are natural approaches that can be used to address an ulcer, but they should only be begun under the supervision and direction of a trained practitioner.
    .
  • Extreme dysbiosis (bacterial imbalance):  Digestion and absorption can be harmed if the balance of “good” and “bad” bacteria in the digestive tract is skewed. This typically results in an overgrowth of fungus that can lead to leaky gut, diarrhea or constipation, anal itching, constant nasal stuffiness, and other challenges. (See Candida Basics: Important Info for more information on this condition.) Re-establishing ample beneficial bacteria greatly improves digestion and absorption. This can sometimes be accomplished simply by taking a probiotic or eating fermented vegetables.
    .
  • Gallbladder imbalance:  Removal of the gallbladder or stagnation in the gallbladder (including sludge and stones) may lead to heartburn and indigestion when fatty foods are eaten. Restoring gallbladder function using natural methods often eliminates this problem very quickly. I do not believe the gallbladder should ever be removed, as it performs a vital function. The body will reverse gallbladder disease when proper support protocols are used.
    .
  • Structural abnormalities:  Sometimes heartburn is caused by physical abnormalities. This cause is the toughest to treat and may sometimes require surgical intervention.

Have you eliminated GERD or heartburn? What solutions did you use? Please share!

Review of Garden of Life Perfect Food RAW Apple

Several of you recently asked me to continue doing more reviews of foods and supplements. I am happy to oblige! I often Perfect Food Raw Applerecommend “green powders” to people who are looking to detoxify, improve energy levels, alkalize and more. The problem with green powders is that they taste like grass. I was therefore thrilled to find one that has a crisp apple taste but which is still loaded with nutritional power. This review is for Garden of Life Perfect Food RAW Powder – Apple Flavor. (You can click the link to view it on Amazon.)

I received a canister of this powder last December from Garden of Life. I owe them a huge apology for not posting this review sooner. Other topics seemed to be more pressing, life got in the way, and the powder tasted so good my husband and I consumed it in less than two weeks. Please note that although I did receive free product in exchange for this review, I was under no obligation to provide a positive review. The information shared in this post is purely my opinion, based on my experience with similar products and on my years of training. Since I use the product myself, I feel qualified to share my opinion of both its positive and its negative qualities.

Here are the qualities I love about this product:

  • It’s ORGANIC!!!
  • It contains no fillers or artificial ingredients
  • It contains an unusual blend of nutrient-dense powders from grasses, fruits and vegetables
  • It’s sweetened with Stevia and contains no harmful artificial sweeteners
  • It tastes amazing – nothing like most green powders
  • The grass, fruit and vegetable powders are obtained at low temperatures so their enzymes remain viable
  • It’s dairy and gluten-free
  • It contains no herbal additives that could interfere with prescription medications
  • It’s low glycemic, with only 3 net carbs per serving
  • It contains sprout powders and probiotics
  • If apple isn’t your thing, Garden of Life Perfect Food RAW is also available in Plain and Chocolate flavors

As we used this powder, we found it blended easily into smoothies and other drinks. (I shared a recipe below.) It tastes good enough to blend into plain water. We enjoyed adding cinnamon and nutmeg to it for an added kick. The bottom line is that this product is an excellent source of trace minerals, enzymes, probiotics, vitamins and minerals, and antioxidants, all provided in a great tasting powder.

It’s price point is under $30 for a 30-day supply, another factor that makes it a winner in my opinion. You can view the product on Amazon here:  Garden of Life Perfect Food RAW Apple.

The only negative comment I can make about this green drink is that it absorbed moisture out of the air and solidified in the container after being opened. I recommend storing it in a sealed container of some sort.

Here’s a copy of the nutritional information so you can see how truly loaded this product is:

Raw Apple Ingredients

Please note that people with gluten sensitivity CAN consume wheat and barley grasses. The grasses do not contain the proteins that are problematic for people with Celiac and/or a wheat or barley allergy.

Here’s a recipe using this product:

Good Works Wellness Perfect Food Apple Spice Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 1 scoop Garden of Life Perfect Food Apple Powder per serving (recipe makes 2-4 servings)
  • 1 diced avocado
  • 2 cups coconut water (may use milk alternative, purified water or aloe vera juice if preferred)
  • 1 diced organic cucumber (use half a cucumber for a single serving)
  • 1 handful organic spinach
  • 1 diced organic Honey Crisp apple (use half an apple for a single serving)
  • 1 teaspoon organic cinnamon powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon organic nutmeg powder
  • Optional:  Stevia to taste

Blend all ingredients well in a high-speed blender. This recipe makes enough for 2-4 servings. This smoothie is delicious and is loaded with healthy fat, trace minerals, enzymes, probiotics, antioxidants and a great blend of vitamins and minerals. It’s very energizing but is extremely low glycemic.

Have you tried Garden of Life’s Perfect Food Raw Apple Powder? What did you think?

Why You Need to Eat More Fat

I’m often amazed to read recipes labeled “healthy” that include ingredients that are either nutritionally void (such as egg whites)Picture of a Steak - Why You Need to Eat More Fat or which contain harmful toxins (such as fat-free sour cream). The reason I’m amazed to see these potentially harmful ingredients labeled “healthy” is because fat-free foods have finally been proven to be harmful to health instead of being helpful. This article explains how this myth became perpetuated and what the truth is. The bottom line is that your body requires fat for the health of every cell. The type and quantity of fat is what determines whether or not the fat you consume improves your health of harms it.

And – YES – you have my permission to eat organic, nitrate-free bacon in moderation. Here’s why:  Health Benefits of Bacon.

It is an absolute myth that fat causes heart disease and weight gain. There is no scientific proof to support claims a low-fat diet is healthier. So why is this myth so prevalent? Simply because a single, flawed study was conducted whose results were twisted. The study drew conclusions which could not be supported by the study’s design. Multiple other studies conducted since then confirmed that fat is essential to the health of body, mind and spirit.

A recent study published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reviewed the results of over twenty different studies. The reviewers tracked tracked the health of study participants over a span of 5-23 years. Their final conclusion was there is NO connection between consumption of saturated fat (or any fat, for that matter) and coronary disease. Other studies found people with the highest consumption of natural fat (either saturated or unsaturated) had lower death rates from any cause. We’ve obviously been lied to. Living to a ripe old age requires the fat myth to be busted and laid to rest.

I’ll save my rant about the “Cholesterol Myth” for another day, but you can learn more about cholesterol in the article: Six Surprising Facts About Cholesterol.

The truth is that the body requires fat and finds it essential for:

  • Proper nerve function
  • Production of hormones
  • Building and maintaining healthy blood vessels
  • Maintaining body temperature
  • Cushioning and protecting internal organs
  • Maintaining healthy skin
  • Normal, efficient cognitive function

Based on that list, it is obvious that not eating enough healthy fat can create a myriad of health problems.

So what’s the difference between a healthy fat and an unhealthy fat? It’s very simple:

  1. Fats made by God and found in nature are safe and have health benefits.
  2. Fat made in a lab (such as hydrogenated oils) are unsafe and can have negative health effects.

It truly is that simple. The fat in dairy, meats, fish, eggs, avocados, coconut oil, olive oil, nuts, seeds and everything else found in nature is healthy. Hydrogenated oils made in a laboratory are not. Hydrogenation uses chemical modification to turn oils that are liquid at room temperature into oils that are solid at room temperature. Oils are hydrogenated to simplify their shipping and to simplify the emulsification process of some products. Oils are not hydrogenated for your benefit. The hydrogenation process creates foreign chemicals our bodies do not recognize or know how to metabolize. Consumption of hydrogenated oils can lead to high levels of arterial plaque that can definitely interfere with coronary function.

The one caveat to natural oils being healthy is that some vegetable oils are extremely high in Omega 6 fatty acids that are known to be highly inflammatory. Those oils include corn, soy, canola, etc. Those oils also have fatty acid bonds which are very easily broken by high heat, which means they tend to deteriorate when used for cooking. (Olive oil also deteriorates at high heat, but is not inflammatory.) For best results, use olive oil for cold foods such as salad dressings, and use extra virgin coconut oil for cooking. (If you’ve never tried popcorn cooked in organic, extra virgin coconut oil, you are missing out on quite a treat!)

There you have it. You now have my permission to eat more fat. Don’t go crazy, but feel free to enjoy one more piece of bacon!