- Author: Eva Hájková, MBA
- About the author: Eva graduated in Public Health Protection from the OU Medical School and during her studies she practised for NHS London (National Health Service) in cervical, breast and prostate cancer screening.
How to Treat GERD from a Functional Medicine Perspective?
Could you please explain what is functional medicine?
Functional medicine (FM) is a somewhat unfortunate term for me, which was taken from English "Functional Medicine".
Think of it more as a comprehensive approach to the patient, where the FM practitioner has, among other things, knowledge in the field:
- environmental burdens
- toxic load
and can therefore look at the patient in a really holistic way.
Functional medicine does not treat or suppress symptoms, but deals with the causes of health problems.
Doctors or other health professionals then logically spend much more time with the client than with a regular doctor in order to understand the whole story and identify possible causes and triggers of health problems, which they then try to consciously and systematically reduce or eliminate together with the patient. To do this, they use a variety of tools, such as the so-called timeline or metrix.
Functional medicine does not deal with acute conditions, but focuses on chronic diseases, which classical medicine does not yet know how to deal with and solves them with long-term medication, which puts a strain on the body, especially on detoxification mechanisms.
Functional medicine is a completely new field here in the Czech Republic, which in my opinion deserves attention and that is why together with my colleague Mudr. Jan Vojáček and Žaneta Kremsa we have founded the Institute of Functional Medicine and Nutrition, where besides the clinic for clients we are trying to provide professional training for doctors, pharmacists and nutritionists in the field of FM and nutrition.
So what is reflux disease (GERD) and how is it handled from a functional medicine perspective?
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is quite common and significantly affects the quality of life of a person suffering with GERD. It involves the stomach contents going back into the oesophagus and can cause specific symptoms up to inflammation of the oesophageal lining. The cause of oesophageal reflux disease, from the perspective of conventional medicine, lies in the breaking of the so-called antireflux barrier, the main components of which are the lower oesophageal sphincter (LES) and the diaphragm. It affects approximately 20-25 % of the world's population and is often associated with older age and lifestyle (diet, exercise, toxic and psychological stress).
Symptomatic signs are mainly:
- heartburn (pyrosis)
- burning in the throat
- pain behind the sternum when swallowing
- return of gastric juices to the mouth
- chronic cough
- hoarseness or prolonged constipation
Less well-known symptoms are asthma, dental caries and gingivitis.
Most people with reflux take medications that suppress the secretion of stomach acid, which, while they help with unpleasant symptoms, do not address the underlying cause(s) of the condition.
So we look at our clients in a more holistic way and try to find why reflux primarily occurs or why the lower esophageal sphincter is malfunctioning and how to improve its function.
There can be a number of causes. One of the main ones we encounter in our clinic are specific food sensitivities, which the patient is often unaware of, deficiencies of certain micronutrients, as well as unhealthy lifestyle (excessive stress, alcohol consumption, smoking). This then also results in the interventions we recommend.
- For some clients who are overweight or obese, weight reduction will help significantly.
- Paradoxically, we recommend adjusting HCl acidity, which is deficient in the elderly. The problem is not stomach acidity, but a problem with the esophageal sphincter! In addition, insufficient stomach acidity can cause an overgrowth of Helicobacter Pylori (which causes stomach ulcers).
- It is advisable to avoid tobacco, alcohol and evening meals, and to check the blood for possible deficiencies of both macro and micronutrients, which can affect poor neurotransmitter function and thus affect the function of the oesophageal sphincter.
- Avoid foods that may aggravate reflux (caffeine, chocolate, spicy foods, very acidic foods, foods (citrus) and fatty foods.
- Dietary supplements, specifically digestive enzymes, are a significant help and we also have excellent feedback from clients on Chios Mastic Gum.
Chios Mastic Gum and reflux (GERD)
Chios Mastic Gum is actually a resin that is extracted from the stem and side branches of the Pistacia lentiscus var. Chia and it is a traditional Greek recipe for heartburn and halitosis.
The mastic gum crystals are usually chewed, releasing the active ingredients into the mouth, oesophagus and stomach.
Another way are mastic gum capsules, which contain pure mastic gum powder and the active ingredient gets into the stomach.
Chios mastic gum is also used as an ingredient in Mediterranean cuisine.
Clinically, this resin has been effective in the treatment of benign gastric ulcers and duodenal ulcers, among other things. As is evident, reflux disease of the oesophagus needs to be approached in a comprehensive and systematic manner.
From our point of view, the long-term use of medication does not solve the cause of this disease, but only suppresses the symptoms and signals of our body.