(NaturalNews) The terms heartburn, acid reflux, and GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) describe a chronic condition that is both painful and expensive - costing our economy as much as $10 billion annually in medical care costs and lost productivity. Standard interventions of medication and surgery also include over the counter remedies for which there is a huge market. Fortunately, there are many effective alternative and traditional solutions. Some of the simplest such as apple cider vinegar, cinnamon and ginger are readily available in most kitchens.
GERD is caused when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), opens inappropriately to allow acid from the stomach to flow up into the esophagus. This can cause inflammation often experienced as heartburn. Other symptoms of acid reflux disease may include chest pain, a dry cough, sore throat, laryngitis, dental caries and even asthma and lung problems depending on the individual. Chronic GERD can also lead to narrowing or ulceration of the esophagus and to cancer. Individuals who suffer from this condition experience increased absenteeism, reduced work productivity, and sleep disruption.
The causes of GERD are varied. It has been linked to fatty or refined foods as well as coffee and alcohol. It is also associated with smoking, stress and overeating. A recent review of 20 studies of GERD and obesity found that overweight people are 50% more likely to experience acid reflux than are those who are normal weight.
Treatment for acid reflux includes medications to reduce stomach acid followed by (if these are not effective) surgery. Unfortunately, long term suppression of stomach acid can lead to digestive problems and deficiency diseases. In addition, there is increased susceptibility to infection due to over growth of bacteria normally controlled by stomach acid. Headache, diarrhea, abdominal pain and fractures of the hip, spine, forearm and wrist as well as blurred vision and pneumonia are some other potential medication side effects. As a result, it makes sense to consider natural solutions, many of which are cost effective and well established in folk medicine with few if any side effects.
One of the most highly recommended acid reflux remedies is apple cider vinegar. Sip a tablespoon of the unfiltered, unpasteurized variety in 8 ounces of water during meals. Why does this work? There are two theories. One is that many people actually have insufficient stomach acid. In this case, the LES (which is pH sensitive) may open when it shouldn't allow stomach acid up into the esophagus. Acidity in the vinegar communicates to the LES to stay shut keeping stomach acid where it belongs. An alternative theory is that the vinegar dilutes stomach acid somewhat (since it is less acidic), mitigating reflux symptoms but not enough to impair digestion.
In addition to directly affecting digestion, apple cider vinegar provides an array of vitamins and trace minerals and promotes a more alkaline environment in the body while it helps destroy harmful bacteria. The result is better health including improved digestion.
Cinnamon is another natural remedy for digestive problems including GERD. It works in part by reducing stomach acid, but it also has antibiotic and antifungal properties which facilitate digestion. Other folk traditions rely on ginger for acid reflux since it helps calm stomach acid and relax the muscles of the esophagus. Try sipping a tea made with fresh ginger root and a pinch of cinnamon as a restful way to relieve GERD symptoms. Alternatively enjoy an interesting Korean remedy made from cinnamon sticks, fresh ginger root, sugar and dried persimmons; recipes for which are readily available online.
Celeste Smucker is a writer, editor and author of a book of inspirational messages available at www.soldonme.com. She has a longstanding interest in health care and alternative health solutions and is a student of effective online marketing techniques. Visit Lighten Up Weight Loss for an ever growing site about health,wellness, and weight loss.