Natural Relief for Nasty Stomachaches?
People like me with stomach complaints such as heartburn, abdominal bloating, or gas pains are generously prescribed drugs such as Pepcid, Zantac, Tagamet, or Prilosec. Most of these drugs have potential long-term side effects, usually underplayed by Western doctors. Could you recommend gentler, natural remedies for these problems? Also, what lifestyle changes may help?
Digestive disorders often can be traced to poor eating habits and stress. The gastrointestinal tract is very susceptible to the disturbing influence of stress because it relies on complex coordination by the autonomic nervous system.
The licorice extract DGL (deglycyrrhizinated licorice) is an excellent natural remedy for all the problems you mention. DGL increases the mucous coating of the stomach, making it more resistant to the effects of acid. It is nontoxic, inexpensive, and works better than prescription drugs. The prescription drugs act by suppressing acid production in the stomach. The problem with this approach is that you're not really getting to the root problem. As soon as you stop taking these drugs, there's going to be a rebound production of acid. If you deal with the problem by using DGL, you increase the body's defensive strength.
DGL is available as tablets or powder. Take one to two tablets or a quarter teaspoon of the powder, 15 minutes before meals and again at bedtime. Allow the material to dissolve slowly in your mouth and run down your throat.
For stomach problems generally, a number of herbal remedies can help. Peppermint tea is wonderful for nausea, indigestion, and some cases of heartburn (but because it relaxes the sphincter where the esophagus joins the stomach, it can worsen esophageal reflux syndrome, in which stomach acid irritates the lower esophagus). In general, it soothes the lining of the digestive tract. Buy pure peppermint tea, brew it in a covered container to retain the volatile components, and drink it hot or iced. Chamomile also is excellent for heartburn and indigestion and will not aggravate esophageal reflux. You can buy it in tea bags in a supermarket, steep in hot water in a covered container for 10 minutes, and then enjoy.
I also feel strongly that people with stomach problems should not rely solely on remedies. Try looking for the causes of your problems, which probably have to do with excess consumption of stomach irritants like coffee, other forms of caffeine, decaffeinated coffee, alcohol, and foods (or food combinations) that you don't tolerate well. Smoking is another cause of stomach distress. I'd encourage you to make some dietary experiments to see if you can reduce symptoms and thereby eliminate the problem. A simple rule: Pay attention to - and stop eating - what makes your stomach hurt. Try eating smaller amounts more frequently. And work on generally reducing stress in your life.