Sunday, July 3, 2011

Digestive system - the foundation of our health part 1 - GERD and Food sensitivity

Happy July 4th. Let’s celebrate July 4th by claiming our Independence from the disease-based medicine, working to make holistic medicine a viable choice for Americans. Being one of the countries spending most for health care and being one of the unhealthiest nations among the developed countries speaks for itself how our current health care system doesn’t serve us well.

I have been wanting to write about our digestive system for the longest time. It’s true that we are only as young as our oldest system and as strong as our weakest organs. Every organ and system in our body is indispensable. The digestive system is still the most basic and plays more roles than we realize. The digestive system is where we assimilate our nutrition from outside; where we host a huge population of friendly bacteria to produce many essential vitamins and to detox our bodies; where we produce so many neurotransmitters as to win the title of “The Second Brain” (the book by Michael D. Gershon, MD); where our first line of defense takes place and contributes big time to our immunity over all; and, of course, where we remove waste. Since it’s such a big system, I would like to address a part of it each time. Today, let’s start from the top - the stomach, including gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD).

GERD medicines have been big sellers for many years, and they are used widely even in children now. GERD medicine decreases the acidity of our stomach, which encourages the growth of H. Pylori, yeast, and candida. The overgrowth of harmful bacteria decreases Vitamin B12 absorption and has other side effects. There are actually very effective natural, alternative treatments for GERD. More than 90% of my patients do not need GERD medicine after finishing the program.

First, we remove the food that bother our stomach from our diet. I usually do a food sensitivity test. Food sensitivities are a delayed IgG response, different from an immediate IgE reaction such as peanut butter anaphylactic shock. IgG food sensitivities take 2-3 days to show symptoms, thus escaping most people’s notice. The test is not expensive, but needs to be done by an out-of-network lab. This test shows our sensitivities to 110 common foods. It frequently yields information such that patients know what to eat. Avoiding sensitive foods benefits every symptoms of the GI tract, including GERD, bloating, indigestion, gas, leaking gut syndrome, constipation, and even allergies, eczema, and asthma.

The second is to give acid back to stomach. Most of people think GERD is due to too much acid. Many of my colleagues (Jonathan Wright, MD’s Why stomach acid is good for you ) and my clinical experience suggest most GERD patients have actually less than sufficient amount of acid when they eat. As a result, the gastroesophageal junction muscle does not sense the acidity and does not tighten the junction to prevent acid regurgitation. Most of us have less acid production as we age, which contributes to poor Vitamin B12 and other nutrition absorption and many lower GI tract problems, like over growth of candida which we will address in the future. The acid I prefer to use is raw unfiltered organic apple-cider vinegar, which not only provides acidity, but also provides fermented enzymes and helps the body to become more alkaline and to control sugar better.

The third will be a broad spectrum digestive enzyme. We need to put the enzyme back to our food because most of them are processed and their natural enzymes are destroyed. Digestive enzyme decreases bloating and gas and many mal-digestive symptoms. Apple-cider vinegar taken with a good digestive enzyme at the beginning of each meal, facilitates food digestion and decreases GERD symptoms. Two teaspoons is a good dose to start with and can be increased to the dosage at which patients feel best.

Do not try to stop your GERD medicine by yourself. The adjustment of medication need to be done under the supervision of a medical doctor. I will continue to discuss the other aspects of our digestive system in the next few newsletters. Our guts are the beginning and the end of many of our health problems. If you have a complicated health condition and don’t know where to start to heal yourself, our digestive systems is always a good place to start. Have a healthy and happy summer.

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