When we speak about indigestion here, we will be referring to acid reflux, heartburn or any problem that causes pain within or around the stomach or ‘in the chest’ where the pain manifests. If these are things that you are troubled by and you are looking for ways that natural medicine might be able to help, read on! We may just be able to offer you some options.
Standard practice outside of natural medicine is to use antacids when treating upper digestive tract indigestion. They may be prescribed or bought over the counter, but no matter the strength their action is much the same. Antacids neutralise stomach acid, minimising the damage it can do to the sensitive mucous membranes outside the stomach. The walls of the stomach are designed to hold the acid, but occasionally they can become inflamed, weakened or ulcerated rendering them susceptible to damage by the acid contained within. In these cases, neutralising stomach acid helps to protect the already compromised stomach lining.
In natural medicine, we do not forget the importance of stomach acid. It begins the digestion of your food as well as killing off any bacteria that might otherwise cause problems. Therefore it is important to ensure that if you are taking antacids, your digestion is still working sufficiently and if you would like to explore alternative ways to manage indigestion, ask yourself the questions listed below.
1. Do you take antacids?
If your answer to this question is yes, then consider what steps you are taking to ensure that your food is still being properly digested. If the process of digestion is not working properly in the stomach then this could cause problems further down the digestive tract including griping pains, bowel problems and poor absorption. Sitting upright at meal times, chewing slowly and choosing cooked, easier to digest foods can make a big difference as well as taking a digestive enzyme. A digestive enzyme with your meals will ensure a proper start to the digestive processes and can help with a multitude of digestive problems.
2. Do you experience reflux?
Reflux is acid rising into the gullet and burning the walls of the oesophagus.
The best way to treat this problem is to tighten the oesophageal sphincter, stopping the acid from leaking. Now after watching a multitude of antacid adverts we are generally led to believe that indigestion is a result of too much acid within the stomach. This is not necessarily the case. In fact, the more acid within the stomach, the tighter the oesophageal sphincter becomes, preventing the reflux and containing the acid within the stomach. Our favourite remedy to encourage this action is A. Vogel Centaurium, a bitter complex designed to stimulate digestion, triggering reflexes such as the tightening of this sphincter and encourage the proper digestion of foods. One thing to be aware of however is that bitter combinations stimulate the production of gastric juices and so taking a protective agent alongside such a remedy will ensure no additional pain or damaged is experienced as the bitters get to work.
Our recommended protective agent in this case is slippery elm. This coats the oesophagus, providing a protective layer; almost like putting a plaster on the inside ensuring any acid will affect the layer and not the mucosa of the gullet. This then allows the mucous membranes to heal, safely beneath the layer of slippery elm, while the Centaurium stimulates proper digestive function and stop the reflux long term.
3. Are your symptoms associated with inflammation of the stomach, ulcers or strong anti-inflammatory drugs?
We have recently begun using a formulation called Carnozin – a combination of l-carnosine and zinc – that has been designed to heal and protect the lining of the stomach. Zinc is a very important healer and the l-carnosine carries it to any wound site within the stomach lining, focusing its healing powers on the affected areas. It also increases the production of gastric mucous, protecting the stomach from its own acid while it heals. Carnozin also deals with inflammation within the stomach, which in itself can be a source of pain. So in a nutshell, Carnozin reduces inflammation, heals the stomach lining and protects it from further damage.
Studies have shown that this combination of actions can help with gastritis and ulceration of the stomach lining. If the gastritis is caused by use of strong medicines, even after healing, continuous use of Carnozin will offer protection from these medications. As well as speeding up the healing of ulceration, Carnozin actually helps to inhibit H.pylori the cause of over 80% of gastric ulcers. For healing within the stomach, a zinc l-carnosine complex such as Carnozin would be an excellent addition to a healing regime.