Could This Simple Problem Really be the Cause of Many Digestive Issues?

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Raena Morgan: Ann Louise, you've written alot about HCL over the years and it's role in digestion.  What have you learned, what is your viewpoint now?

Ann Louise Gittleman: Good question.  Um, I don't think things are as black and white as I once thought.  And I only say that because of my own personal experience.  What I'm finding, because of the way in which we sit, hunched over our computers.

Morgan: Yes. In our cubes.

Gittleman:  In our cubes or in our cars.  A lot of people have some structural problems with regard to the digestive processes because of a hiatal hernia syndrome.  And because I myself...

Morgan: Is that common?

Gittleman: It's exceedingly common.  It's exceedingly common.  And most doctors don't pay attention to it.  But I have seen an enormous amount dysfunction and uncomfortableness, that really, discomfort is the word that I'm looking for.  That are associated with it, the inability to take a full breath, we see GERD as being one of the primary examples of a hiatal hernia.  So it isn't a lack of or too much acid or not enough acid, but the problem is that that poor little stomach is going through the diaphram, sometimes it can slide in and out.  There are two types of hiatal hernias.  And therefore you're feeling all of those digestive acids in the esophogus whereby they shouldn't be splashing all the way up there.  But that's because of a structural abnormality.  The thing that I'm telling everybody, because we do believe that 94 percent of all GERD patients have a hiatal hernia, is that you use some self help techniques at home to push that little baby down so that your stomach is actually down south where it belongs and not riding high in your chest.

Morgan: So that's what's happening, your stomach is riding high in your chest?

Gittleman: In the chest.  Some people feel as if they're having a heart attack and they're rushed to the emergency room.  Which is why we're finding that digestive ails are the second most important reason why people are going for urgent care.  What I tell people to do is to use your hands and then to take a deep breath and start pushing down any little knobs or any little bumps until you start feeling gurgling in that stomach.  Put your little hands right over here towards the left.  And you start pushing down gently.  You'll hear my stomach gurgling in a second.  You keep pushing it down until you hear almost like a little pop and sometimes little adhesions break.  But this is so prevelant among individuals that I'd be remise if I didn't tell you that I don't think you should be doing an HCL test unless you know that you do not have a hiatal hernia.  Because you will become very acidic where it will become very discomforting and you don't want any kind of corosion or irritation going on in the esophogus.

Morgan: So just push down until you hear the gurgling.

Gittleman: You push down until you hear the gurlgling or you can take, first thing in the morning, at least two big glasses of water, get on that mini trampoline that is so good to start removing the, getting the lymph a full workout and will start flushing out any of the toxins and some of the overloaded water that may be in your tissuses.  And that will also start to bring the stomach down, just jumping on it for 12 times.

Morgan: 12 times... and pushing

Gittleman: And pushing, pushing, pushing this down.  Deep breath, let it out and keep following that breath all the way down until you hear that gurgling.  And you can feel the stomach almost dropping into place.  But it's really prevelant.  It's prevelant to the extent that a lot of people have anxiety because of it, they have tightness in their ribs, tightness in their back. I'm thinking of all my symptoms that I had until I figured this out.  And so even seeing a naturopathic physician, sometimes even a chiropractor, they can do the adjustment.  It's a soft tissue adjustment.  Can be lifesaving.  So I don't think anybody has to have discomfort because of this.  Then what happens is sometimes the valves remain open and until the stomach is down they're not closing properly.

Morgan:  Ahh, ok.

Gittleman:  You know, there's some surprising elements about foods that I learned because of this whole hiatal hernia syndrome. And that is there's certain foods that can keep important valves open rather than of closed.  

Morgan: Oh, alright.

Gittleman: And one of them was my favorite food, which is onions.

Morgan: Onions

Gittleman: Particularly raw onions, yeah, can be very, very irritating to the lower esophageal sphincter, the LES, which should remain closed so that nothing can be splashing up into your esophagus.  And when that remains open, chances are, it's because, not only because of the structural abnormalities that I'm talking about but because you're eating too much of the onions, too much of the mints, whether pepperminty or spearminty will actually loosen that valve.

Morgan: Oh.

Gittleman: Yeah, this is interesting.  Because we think that's good for digestion, but it will keep the valve too relaxed.  And, and chocolate, and coffee and alcohol and those are all elements that I reduce in my program so I was kind of delighted to find out that that may be an impinging factor on your digestive processes.  So those are things that we should not take in if we've got digestive problems and we know that the discomfort is someplace in the middle upper chest, or lower left quadrant.

Morgan: OK, so chocolate, coffee and alcohol will contribute to that too.

Gittleman: Well, they'll make that sphincter, the lower esphogeal sphincter, the LES weaken which is a muscle and it will weaken the muscle tension.  So to keep that nice and taught and tight so we can keep your stomach acid where it belongs, you're going to want to lessen your intake of those particular foods. And the interesting thing is Raena, as you and I both know, chocolate is the food of the 21st century.  I mean chocolate is good for everything.  Well, it's not good for your sphincter, and your muscles and your digestion.  And it's a high source of copper which is another topic I hope we discuss.

Morgan: OK, well what about the wine, you know the resveratrol and everything, have wine with your meal.  The alcohol is going to irritate this?

Gittleman:  Alcohol can be very irritating.  A little bit isn't going to be a problem, but when we take one or two glasses a night, then I think we've got problems.  And you can't get enough resveratrol in one or two glasses of wine I mean...

Morgan: have to drink about 5 bottles.

Gittleman: Yeah, sounds good to me.  But not good for your LES, not good for your muscles and your digestion and that ultimately will be impacting this hiatal hernia syndrome which is something that I think people really need to look into.

Morgan: I think so.  And then the coffee. Is it the coffee is it the caffeine or the acidity?

Gittleman: I have a feeling it's the acidity...

Morgan: That's what I would think.

Gittleman: ... because people don't recognize it's highly acidic and if you drink a decaf coffee, they choose the more acidic beans to...

Morgan: Actually, they do, don't they.

Gittleman: to kind of substitute for the lack of caffeine so you need more taste value so that becomes more acidic.  Yeah, so you really want to be careful.  And alcohol we know is acidic.  Chocolate, I'm not sure what the mechanism is there but I can tell you that is definitely one of the all time worst foods for that.

Morgan: Well the sugar would make it acidic.

Gittleman: Excessive amounts of sugar too, which is the most acidic of all.

Morgan:  Thank you, Ann Louise.

Gittleman: You're welcome.


Dr. Ann Louise Gittleman explains how a structural abnormality could be causing a variety of stomach and digestive issues. She also illustrates how you can help correct the issue in your own home and potentially give relief!

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