Self-care for stomach problems

Self-care for stomach problems

In a previous blog article we looked at a common gastric condition called hypochlorhydria, which relates to a decreased production of stomach acid. We learned that in many, if not most conditions where heartburn, acidity, reflux and indigestion occurred, it wasn’t likely that there was too much acid production, but rather, a weakening, thinning and loss of insulation of the stomach lining due to various factors such as stress, diet and medication. The compromised lining results in a vulnerability of the stomach to even modest amounts of acid, resulting in symptoms that make you feel like you are producing too much acid. In such situations therefore, taking antacids to neutralise acid levels, or drugs to block the production of acid may alleviate some symptoms, but they ultimately fail to correct the underlying problem and will result in further health problems down the line.

 

 

The stomach is a muscular hollow organ that produces hydrochloric acid, which is critical in the breakdown of proteins, serves as a barrier to bacterial infection, and is an important player in the production of vitamin B12 and other nutrients. Weakness of the stomach will also affect its ability to squeeze and churn food, which can lead to gas, bloating, and poor movement of food through the digestive system.

 

So it stands that the most important action we can take in a dysfunctional stomach is to normalise its acid production as well as encourage better healing and strengthening of the stomach lining.

There are multiple simple self – care approaches that can be undertaken without much effort that will help your stomach to return to a normal function in a relatively short period of time and these include:

  • Dietary changes
  • Supplement routines
  • Breathing techniques
  • Postural correction
  • Visceral manipulation

Dietary changes – things to avoid

The main digestive function of the stomach is to break down proteins into smaller building blocks called amino acids, which are then absorbed further down the intestinal tract. The stomach has nerve endings that sense the presence of proteins and ramp up production of acid to assist in its breakdown. But interference to the normal sensory process can occur with consumption of processed food, along with the many synthetic and inflammatory additives often found in them. Stimulants such as coffee, nicotine, as well as alcohol can damage the ability of the stomach to function normally and these substances should be avoided.

 

Excessively high starch intakes can cause variations in stomach acidity, as well as abnormal stimulation for gut bacteria further along the digestive system – which can lead to the proliferation of colonies of bacteria within the stomach too. There are studies that suggest that Helicobacter pylorii outbreaks in the stomach are the result of low stomach acids and dysfunction. Starving these abnormal colonies of yeasts and bacteria throughout the digestive system can help normalise gut chemistry and minimise an irritable bowel.

 

Things to increase:

It’s been observed that naturally fermented foods such as sauerkraut (pickled cabbage), yogurt/kefir can help normalise bowel colonies of beneficial bacteria. The acidity also helps to improve natural stomach acid levels and thus aid in digestion. This is why home remedies such as apple cider vinegar or lemon juice taken in some water each morning have become so popular. A tablespoon of clouded apple cider vinegar in a half a glass of water first thing each morning, followed by a teaspoon of manuka honey can be a powerful remedy in healing the stomach lining and improving the symptoms of indigestion such as bloating and pain. Of course if you have severe ulcers of the stomach, then this regimen needs to be undertaken with small amounts of vinegar to avoid further inflaming the stomach. Always seek the approval of your doctor, as they will know your condition sufficiently to advise if you can tolerate it.

 

In cases of ulcers, a traditional folk remedy in central Europe involves the use of the juice of sauerkraut (rasol). You drink 30-40ml at bedtime and then lie on your back for 5 minutes; then turn on your right side for 5 minutes; then onto your stomach for 5 minutes; then onto your left side for 5 minutes; afterwards lying as suits you best.

 

Supplement Regimes:

Studies have shown that some supplements may be of some benefit in the management of stomach disorders. Several are worth mentioning, and these can be purchased from your local health food store. These include the following:

  • Astaxanthin: a powerful antioxidant that was found to relieve the effects of acid reflux in a clinical trial
  • Betaine Hydrochloride: an acid an enzyme formulation to decrease the pH of the stomach and improve protein digestion. By acidifying the stomach it also leads to lowering of H. pylori infections but use under supervision of your health care professional as it may be contraindicated in cases of ulcers. Take immediately before meals to assist in digestion
  • Aloe vera juice: has strong anti-inflammatory and mucus effects on the digestive system lining. 30ml or so once or twice a day can settle an inflamed stomach, but it can have laxative effects so be aware of those effects
  • Slippery Elm bark powder: a mucinogen, it acts to line the membranes and thus has a protective effect
  • Glutamine powder: available alone or in combination with other digestive agents, also acts to decrease inflammation
  • Herbal supplements and teas containing chamomile, fennel and ginger root, which have wide ranging and calmative effects on the stomach
  • Vitamins D and B (esp. B2, B6 and B9) which can decrease the incidence of reflux

 

Breathing Techniques:

The stomach lies directly below the diaphragm and the oesophagus penetrates it. Proper diaphragm action in breathing is critical in pushing the stomach down and forward. This shift of the stomach during inspiration, then recoiling back up during expiration is necessary to churn and mobilise food, assist in acid coating the contents of the stomach, and for healthy stomach circulation. When the diaphragm fails to move properly (such as is typically seen in stress, where the breathing becomes shallow and upper chest), then the stomach lacks its normal mechanical aid in digestion, resulting in a host of stomach disturbances, including herniation, reflux and indigestion. Practicing deep diaphragmatic breathing such as is described on this previous blog post can help to mobilise the stomach and reduce the symptoms of acid reflux, hiatus hernias and poor digestion.

 

Postural correction

Proper action of the diaphragm is not just affected by stress. It can also become dysfunctional when there is a scoliosis, arthritis in the spine or if there is a history of rib traumas. A history of open heart surgery for example, where the chest is broken and stretched open will also traumatise the diaphragm. Any disruption to the normal position of the ribcage will influence all the organs below that depend on proper diaphragm contraction, including the movement of food as well as blood circulation in the abdomen. Improving posture through activities that strengthen core muscles such as dance, martial arts, yoga, pilates etc. can aid in better diaphragm action that will ultimately improve stomach health. Physical therapies that may improve the structure and function of the ribcage such as chiropractic, osteopathy, physiotherapy, massage and craniosacral therapy can also have a direct influence on the diaphragm and by extension, the stomach and other organs below. Other modalities that may have some beneficial effect include traditional Chinese medicine (including acupuncture and herbal preparations), ayurvedic and naturopathic interventions.

 

Visceral Manipulation

The impact of poor diaphragm action on abdominal organs can result in displacement, contracture and adhesions affecting organs and their ligamentous attachments. Weakness and poor movement of the diaphragm can also result in a hiatus hernia of the stomach. Gentle manual manipulation of the organs to restore optimum position and movement is a technique practiced for thousands of years among many cultures, but in modern times is most notably found in the practices of applied kinesiology and craniosacral technique.

 

As in any condition, please do consult your medical practitioner for advice and guidance whenever exploring new directions in managing your health.

Comments are closed.

  • Facebook