By Dr Harsh Sharma, DHMS, BHMS
Published July 15, 2014, Last updated October 21, 2016
Understanding GERD or Heartburn or Acidity
GERD or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease is a chronic disorder of the digestive system in which the contents of the stomach or acid flow back into the esophagus or the food pipe. Reflux means the flowing back or return while gastroesophageal means that of the stomach and the food pipe. In common parlance it is also known as heartburn or acidity which refers to the burning sensation felt in the stomach or the food pipe. This burning is felt just behind the sternum or the chest bone and feels as if something hot or burning is present there.
This GERD or heartburn or acidity occurs when the Lower Esophageal Sphincter which is the ring of muscle between the esophagus and the stomach is not able to perform its function properly. The LES stops the contents of the stomach from flowing back into the food pipe once they have entered into the stomach. The stomach contains the digestive juices which are acidic in character. The purpose of these acidic digestive juices is to break up the food into simpler forms which can be easily absorbed by the system. When these acidic contents of the stomach come in contact with the mucous lining of the esophagus, it causes the sensation of burning. Over a period of time, this can cause erosion of the mucous membrane. This erosion may occur due to some other reasons too, stress and irregular eating habits being the most common. When the acid comes in contact with the surface from which the membrane has been eroded, it is like acid coming in contact with a raw wound. This causes intense burning and pain; it can cause further damage to the food pipe and can cause ulcers to form.
Cause of GERD or Heartburn or Acidity
One of the main causes that has been observed in most of the cases of GERD or heartburn happens to be the increased stress in today’s world. This stress may be due to any cause, whether of career, personal life, family life or financial in nature. In some cases, hiatus hernia may be discovered and could be the cause of this problem. Being obese or overweight can also cause heartburn or acidity. Modern lifestyle with little physical activity can also be a contributing factor. Another common cause is smoking or intake of alcohol.
Therefore one needs to be conscious of what is causing the problem. If the sedentary lifestyle is the cause of acidity, then one needs to get up and start exercising or walking. If irregular meals are causing the acidity, then one needs to improve one’s eating habits and take regular meals. Intake of alcohol needs to be cut down and one should avoid smoking. At the same time, relaxation techniques like deep breathing, yoga and meditation have been known to reduce stress and as well as control heartburn.
Do’s and Don’t’s for Heartburn or GERD
- It is very important to have regular meals. Avoid missing or delaying meals.
- Chewing the food properly is important and is often overlooked.
- Have a hearty breakfast and do not miss it as breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
- Eating late at night should be strictly avoided. Eat at least 2 hours before going to bed and walk a bit before going to bed.
- The use of spices and fried food should be restricted.
- Avoid junk food. It is much better to have simple home cooked food.
- Food rich in fat and non-veg is difficult to digest and takes longer. If you eat such food, it is advisable to give the stomach a little extra time so that it can be digested properly. Also, keep other meals in the day a little lighter.
- Fruits and raw vegetables are easy to digest, low in calories and high on fibre and vital nutrients.
- Cold milk can relieve the burning sensation.
- The intake of alcohol, tea and coffee should be restricted.
- Intake of water should be good, at least 10-12 glasses in a day.
Treatment of Acidity or Heartburn or GERD with Homeopathy
To be able to treat acidity with Homeopathy, one needs to be aware of the reason why this acidity or heartburn is occurring. It is important to know the real cause of the problem, whether it has to do with diet or with lack of exercise or any sort of psychological stress. In case there is some stress, one also needs to know the cause of the stress.
Homeopathic medicines like Nux Vomica, Carbo Veg, China, Natrum Phos and Pulsatilla are very effective in the treatment of acidity or GERD or heartburn. One needs to select the right medicine for each patient according to the individual symptoms of the patient. The medicines mentioned here are just a short indicative list and not an exhaustive one. There are many other homeopathic medicines that are used to treat acidity or heartburn. These medicines not only take care of the symptoms but also cure the cause of the problem as they are able to treat the underlying stress also. That is why the results are not temporary but are everlasting.