No doubt most middle aged adults, along with pregnant women, have experienced the discomfort of heartburn at some point in their life; that burning, sometimes stabbing pain we feel in our chest and/or upper diaphragm area. Heartburn, otherwise known as GERD, (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease), or just acid indigestion, can be so painful that many people end up in the emergency room, mistaking it for heart related issues. Instead, they find out it is a gastrointestinal issue, likely due to that big dinner they had that night.

In the normal course of digestion, food enters the stomach and after about 30 minutes arrives at it’s next destination, the small intestines. It is here that the gall bladder,(or liver if one is without their gall bladder), injects bile to assist with fat digestion and the pancreas injects digestive enzymes to aid in carbohydrate, protein and also fat digestion. Food will then slowly churn down the small intestines to be sorted into liquid and solid waste. When people experience heartburn, food is not flowing easily from either the esophagus to the stomach and/or from the stomach to the small intestine. In Chinese medicine, this is called “rebellious Qi”, as the food is going “up” instead of “down”.

Rebellious stomach Qi is generally caused by one of two issues. In my practice, liver and/or gall bladder congestion is usually the primary cause of heartburn. A congested liver, which is sometimes referred to as a “fatty liver” by the medical community, typically is a result of a diet high in fats, sugars, fried food, junk food, soda and alcohol. Many people with heartburn concurrently suffer from gallstones as well. The remedy to this is to first, alter the diet to include more fruits and vegetables and less fatty, sugary and highly processed foods. Eat lean meats, low fat dairy and more high fiber foods such as legumes and whole grains. Eliminate the soda and reduce alcohol consumption, especially beer. And if one is suffering from a serious case, going on a vegetarian diet until the condition can get under control will help tremendously.

The second remedy to help unclog the liver/gall bladder is through the use of herbal formulas. Western herbs that help the liver include milk thistle, dandelion root, the Chinese herbs known as Chai Hu (bupleurum) and Chen Pi (Tangerine Peel). Chinese herbs known to help the gall bladder are Hai Jin Sha (Lygodium Spore) and Jin Qian Cao (Lysimachia). Artichoke leaf is a great gall bladder herb. Eating apples and drinking water with lemon or lime along with apple juice can help the liver/gall bladder.

Often times people with a history of heartburn also experience the stomach acids rising up the esophagus and even to the throat. Visiting a doctor will often result in one walking away with a script for some kind of acid blocking medication such as Nexium, Previcid or Prilosec. This may provide temporary relief, but will at the same time reduce digestive functioning and protection from bacteria that the stomach acid can inhibit. There may be inflammation and possibly damage in the intestinal lining. Adding in restorative herbs such as licorice, marshmallow root and aloe along with the building block of the intestinal lining, l-glutamine, can remedy the “burn” on the tissues.

Patients applying good dietary choices with the help of the aforementioned herbs can say goodbye to heartburn for good, and in weeks not years. Heartburn sufferers can thus avoid the prolonged use of prescription medications which do not solve the inherent issue, inhibit full digestive functioning and possibly cause other sides effects.

Diarrhea. The dreaded. Something we don’t think much about until…It may be fleeting, lasting only a few days, or chronic, lasting for weeks and possibly months. There are many over the counter remedies that attempt to stop diarrhea such as Immodium, Kaopectate and Pepto-Bismal. When over the counter products cease to provide relief we go in search of other alternatives, which fortunately, are numerous!

So what do I see that typically causes diarrhea? In the acute case, one common cause can be a flu or stomach bug. This is usually accompanied by typical flu symptoms such as fever and/or chills, head or body aches, possible sore throat, possible vomiting and diarrhea. This type of diarrhea will typically resolve itself in 24-48 hours and the patient recovers on their own. The best remedy being rest, fluids and ceasing solid intake until the diarrhea resolves.

The more common type of acute diarrhea may be due to over an overexposure to food or water tainted with a strain of bad bacteria, parasite or amoeba, (such as Giardi or E. Coli), that will cause the body to purge. Vomiting may also accompany this type of acute diarrhea. If patients do find their way to my office, I can usually give them Chinese herbs along with recommendations to take liquid chlorophyll in water 3-6 times a day and probiotics to help get the digestive system back in balance. I also advise patients to limit themselves to a diet of tea and broth for at least 24 hours. On day two, I have them add juice and soups. By day three they can resume a normal diet after they have had a normal stool.

The majority of people I see in my office are those dealing with more chronic cases of diarrhea, that have been going on for weeks, months or even years. I had a 22 year old man come into my office reporting that he had been having diarrhea daily for the last two years. He had cut back so many foods at this point, and his question to me was, “What else do I need to eliminate to stop the diarrhea?” I replied, “Why don’t we just stop the diarrhea?” I Promptly put him on a course of Chinese herbs, a parasite formula, a yeast/fungal detox and probiotics. Within two weeks, his bowels proudly produced a formed stool.

With chronic diarrhea the first thing I look for is an overabundance of either bacteria and/or parasites. People often ask where we acquire these charming critters. You can find them in our water, food, lakes, sushi and other uncooked foods as well as from contact with our pets. You don’t have to go out of the country to acquire them. Our bodies are fully equipped to deal with passing microbes, however when the body is weak and/or overwhelmed the microbes can have the upper hand. Reducing/eliminating microbe infestation is a priority. Methods can include homeopathic remedies, western and/or Chinese herbs, colloidal silver just to name a few.

Second to microbe elimination, we also need to repopulate our gut with good bacteria, the probiotics. Otherwise, the “space” left by the microbe die off will leave the intestinal lining vulnerable to other passing microbes to “latch on” and repopulate. Depending on how long the diarrhea has been going on and if the patient has had repeated antibiotic use, I will recommend several months of probiotics.

Lastly, if there has been damage to the intestinal lining, we need to repair the tissue, typically with powders containing L-glutamine, aloe and/or licorice. It takes approximately six weeks to rebuild the tissue. This will help reduce inflammation and increase the assimilation of nutrients and allow the body to form a stool. Reduce/eliminate, repopulate and repair are the keys to stopping cases of chronic diarrhea.

The last type of chronic diarrhea I see may be related to reactions from food. This type of diarrhea may be more sporadic based on the allergens consumed or by basic “weakness” or “deficiency of digestive Qi”. In this case, my basic approach is to recommend a course of Chinese herbs to strengthen the digestive system, supplementing with digestive enzymes to help break down food and treating the allergies with NAET, (Nambrudripad’s Allergy Elimination Technique). NAET is an energetic treatment that can retrain the body to NOT react to identified problematic foods.

In conclusion, there are many natural ways to treat this unwanted visitor and get you back on the track, and out in the world. Suffer no more!

Gout is one of those tricky health conditions that may first show up as joint pain of an unknown origin. The joint itself may feel warm and present with redness, typically affecting the big toe, but may present in other joints as well. The good news is that gout is a highly treatable condition that can be well managed with diet, herbs, supplements and lifestyle changes.

To understand how to treat gout we need to look at the chemical process occurring in the body when someone presents with gout. The pain one feels is largely due to the presence of uric acid crystals lingering in the blood, which tend to settle in our joints. The liver and kidneys are highly capable of processing the uric acid from our food and drink. However, if we load our bodies full of highly acidic foods, it can stress our organs, leaving uric acid crystals to float freely in our blood stream.

Foods that contribute highly to uric acid production tend to be the more acidic foods, such as red meats, sugar, caffeine, soda and alcohol. Beer is the worst type of alcohol for gout. People with diets high in acidic foods and low in alkaline foods, such as fruits and vegetables, tend to have higher levels of uric acid. When the body accumulates too much uric acid, it can even form bulbous growths on your joints just under your skin called tophi.

Western doctors will treat gout typically with medication such as Allopurinol and instruct their patients to curb alcohol consumption, reduce red meat and exercise more. Exercise will help move the uric acid crystals out of the joints. Many doctors will also recommend patients stay on Allopurinol long term, assuming that most patients will continue their current lifestyle that likely created the gout condition in the first place. Taking medication long term of any kind can be stressful to our livers and kidneys. There are other options.

There are natural alternatives to medication to help manage gout. First and foremost, gout sufferers need to make dietary shifts to balance their highly acidic diets. Drink herbal teas instead of coffee, eliminate the soda, reduce your red meat consumption to no more than once per day, drink more water, exercise and up your fruit and vegetable intake to at least 3-5 servings of each day. Smoothies are great ways to easily get your fruit and vegetable quota for the day. Add a salad to your steak dinner. Substitute that sugary snack with an apple. Gradually make dietary changes to lessen your chances of a repeated gout attack.

If you are in the heat of a gout attack, here are some quick ways to reduce the pain and inflammation:

  • Liquid chlorophyll – 1 tsp in 6-8 oz water 4-6 times a day during attack
  • Digestive enzymes – helps to break down the uric acid crystals in the blood
  • Chinese herbs – acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist have powerful formulas to take down gout symptoms quickly
  • Cherry juice – 8 oz per day
  • Eat nothing but fruits and vegetables during attack
  • Avoid alcohol and sugar
  • Drink 1/2 body weight in water
  • Movement – at least 30 minutes of exercise per day

Those who have had previous bouts of gout are more at risk for reoccurring episodes. Long term lifestyle and dietary changes are the key at keeping gout at bay.