6 Ways to Improve Acid Reflux Symptoms Naturally and Stay Heart Healthy

A study from Stanford University suggests that the long-term use of certain types of medications used to treat a range of symptoms associated with acid reflux disease can increase one’s risk of having a heart attack.
These medications, known as Proton Pump Inhibitors or PPIs, include the brand-names Prevacid, Nexium, and Prilosec, and are the strongest medications available to counter the effects of excess stomach acid. They are prescribed to both prevent and treat ulcers, and to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). PPIs currently account for over 10 billion dollars in health care costs annually and are among the most widely prescribed class of medications in the United States.
This is the age of big data, and for researchers this means the ability to “mine” through enormous amounts of information to find patterns or relationships between variables. In the medical field specifically, researchers can use this data-mining method to find correlations between medications and their possible side-effects. For the purpose of the Stanford study, the focus was heartburn medications and cardiovascular risk.
After analyzing millions of medical records, researchers found that there was indeed a relationship between the two variables; people who used a PPI as part of their treatment for GERD had a slightly elevated risk of suffering a myocardial infarction, commonly known as a heart attack. Furthermore, they found that this risk did not apply to patients who used another class of heartburn medications, called H2 blockers, which include brand names such as Pepcid or Zantac.
While the results of this new study may be of concern to those currently taking PPIs, it is not necessarily a red flag to immediately stop taking that medication. Some people who are prescribed a PPI may have a pre-existing condition that can cause an increased risk of having a heart attack. For example, obesity, alcohol consumption, and smoking are all risk factors for heart disease, and have all individually been shown to increase symptoms of acid reflux and GERD in clinical trials. These lifestyle factors must be taken into consideration. The bottom line is that one must always assess the actual risks and benefits of any medical intervention, and explore other possible interventions, before starting any medication.

6 Ways to Improve Acid Reflux Symptoms Naturally and Stay Heart Healthy

  1. Change your diet: Keeping a healthy weight is not only better for your heart, it’s better for controlling heartburn too! Spicy, fatty, or acidic foods can trigger heartburn so avoiding these types of foods makes a difference. Try eating smaller meals more frequently, cutting back on your caffeine intake, and don’t eat close to bedtime. Also, talk to your doctor about supplements such as deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) & high-dose melatonin – two supplements that we prescribe to our patients at the Center with great results.
  1. Get tested for SIBO (Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth): Normally, the small intestine contains relatively few bacteria. Most intestinal bacteria is confined to the large intestine. A bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine can cause symptoms such as bloating, gas and abdominal pain. It also interferes with normal digestion and absorption of food, and can cause damage to the lining or membrane of the small intestine, which ironically can also be caused by prolonged use of an acid-suppressing medication. SIBO can often be an underlying cause of GERD and other gastrointestinal conditions – if you test positive for SIBO, treatment includes dietary modifications as well as probiotic supplementation, and in some cases, an antibiotic.
  1. Cut back on alcohol consumption: Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can cause high blood pressure, a major risk factor for having a heart attack. While the research remains inconsistent on alcohol consumption as a cause of GERD, some studies have demonstrated that alcohol can contribute to its progression. If alcohol aggravates your GERD, your doctor may recommend that you limit or avoid consumption.
  1. Keep exercising: If you have heartburn or GERD you may notice that intense exercise can worsen your symptoms. Don’t let this keep you away from physical activity! Exercise is essential for optimal health and it’s particularly important in maintaining a healthy heart. For GERD sufferers, the trick is to find the right balance for your body to keep your symptoms at bay. Avoid physical activity after eating, and try less jarring activities. Exercises that put your abs to work, like running, biking, and weightlifting, have been found to trigger symptoms more frequently because of stomach contractions, so these are good ones to avoid.
  1. Quit smoking, today: Smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease. It can damage the cells that line the blood vessels, causing them to thicken and narrow, thereby allowing clots to form, which can in turn block blood flow to the heart. A study published in Gut shows that cigarette smoking can also increase the occurrence of acid reflux. If you have tried independently to quit smoking but have not been able to kick the habit, talk to your doctor today about cessation programs and support groups in your community.
  1. Try acupuncture or meditation: Alternative treatments, such as acupuncture and meditation, are both immune boosters and stress reducers that have consistently shown that they can improve GERD symptoms in patients.


8 Reasons Your Pain Won't Go Away

by Julia Westbrook
As first seen on RodaleNews.com.
What you don’t know is hurting you.
Gary Kaplan, DO, author of Total Recovery and founder of The Kaplan Center for Integrative Medicine, recently held “office hours” during a Rodale News Facebook chat. One of only a handful of physicians in the country who is board-certified in Family Medicine and Pain Medicine, Dr. Kaplan was able to apply his pioneering perspective to help answer one of the most difficult questions plaguing our country: What is causing my pain? If you weren’t able to make the chat, we’ve pulled out 8 key takeaways to consider when you’re trying to figure out why your pain just won’t go away.
#1: Inflammation, part of the normal repair process, may have gone awry.
Cytokines are chemical messengers secreted by the body. They have effects ranging from inciting nerve repair to causing inflammation. In the case of chronic pain, we know that the microglia, which are the innate immune system in the central nervous system, are “stuck” in a mode where they continue to excrete predominantly inflammatory cytokines. Under normal circumstances, microglia will shift from producing inflammatory cytokines to making anti-inflammatory cytokines and call in other cells to initiate the normal repair process.
Balance is restored by eliminating all of the factors that caused the microglia to get turned on in the inflammatory state and then doing things such as meditation, exercise, getting adequate sleep, and using things such as low-dose naltrexone (LDN) and turmeric to get the microglia to go back to their resting state.
#2: Allergies can make your pain worse.
Anything that incites an inflammatory response in the body has a potential to spill over into the brain and worsen the inflammation in the central nervous system, as with fibromyalgia. The allergies are not the cause of the fibro, but something that is further aggravating it.
#3: Your diet can cause inflammation.
I would start by thoroughly looking at your diet and make sure there is nothing still in your diet causing inflammation. I saw one woman who is a vegan, and it turned out she was allergic to blueberries. For ongoing inflammation in the brain, turmeric may be helpful.
#4: Your fatigue may be a symptom. Don’t ignore it.
Sleep is not a thing, but rather a series of different brain waves divided into stages 2, 3, 4, and REM. People who are deficient in 3 to 4 sleep will present with chronic pain. If you have sleep apnea, where you stop breathing at night, it can cause chronic pain. If you have restless leg syndrome, it can also cause chronic pain. A proper evaluation of the quality and amount of sleep is necessary for anyone suffering from chronic pain and depression.
#5: A migraine problem isn’t just in your head–it’s in your nervous system.
Dehydration, alcohol, bright lights are all triggers that can cause migraines. The underlying cause of the migraine is an irritated nervous system. The nervous system is irritated because of an underlying inflammatory condition in the brain. The key to preventing migraines is to identify what it is that’s causing the inflammation. I would start with an anti-inflammatory diet of rice, fish, chicken, fresh fruits, and vegetables.
#6: Overlapping problems can come from the same source.

  • Migraines and depression: Brain inflammation
    The basis of both the migraines and depression is inflammation in the brain. I address this at length in my book, Total Recovery. Yes, the two are related and the cause of the inflammation needs to be identified.
  • Chronic pain and weight loss problems: Gut imbalance
    One of the reasons that you may not be able to lose weight might be related to either food allergies or sensitivities or mold toxicity. We know that the composition of the bacteria in your gut has a very significant effect on your ability to lose or maintain weight. Skinny people have different gut flora than people who are overweight. If you have other symptoms, it’s very likely you have a chronic inflammatory condition but the cause has not been discovered or addressed.

#7: The underlying root cause may still need to be identified.

  • Arthritis (…which isn’t always arthritis)
    Sometimes arthritis in knees and joints can be from Lyme disease, sometimes from rheumatoid arthritis, and sometimes from tendinitis. It can also be associated with food allergies and food sensitivities. The first issue is getting a clear diagnosis.
  • Complex regional pain syndrome
    Also known as CRPS, it is a horrific pain condition. I see a number of patients who suffer from CRPS, and the solution can unfortunately be elusive. Again, it’s important to try and understand what it is that has caused the nervous system to be so hyper-reactive. Get evaluated for Lyme disease and it’s co-infections, celiac disease, gluten intolerance, and neurotoxins associated with mold, along with a number of other condition that I address in my book. I am familiar with Calmare therapy, and the research on it looks very exciting. While we do not do this therapy in our office, I have referred patients for this therapy. It is certainly worth the trial for anyone suffering from CRPS.
  • Tinnitus
    Tinnitus can be an extremely difficult problem to address and can be a result of multiple issues and not a single problem. Meditation and yoga are extremely effective in reducing inflammation, as is curcumin. You also need to identify the causes of the inflammation, such as the trace mineral imbalances, as well as eliminate anything that may be poisoning your system.

#8: Your body may be more responsive to alternative therapies.
My mentor, Norm Shealy, MD, PhD, has been a pioneer in working with microcurrent therapy. He has reported very impressive success with a large number of pain conditions. We have not seen the same level of success in our patients, but we find that acupuncture can be extremely effective for a large number of pain conditions. But most commonly our treatments are layered, involving a number of therapeutic approaches, which works synergistically for a comprehensive solution. I also recommend meditation or yoga.

Listening To Your Body – Red Flags You Should Never Ignore

By Julia Westbrook
As first seen on www.RodaleNews.com

Learn how ignoring or downplaying your symptoms can hurt your health.

In our over-stimulating world, we’ve become very good at tuning things out, like background conversations on the train, sidebar advertisements online, and TV commercials. Unfortunately, this seems to have carried over into our heath lives and a concerning number of people are ignoring messages from their body, even potential cancer symptoms, according to research published in the journal PLOS One.

Surveying 1,700 people, they found that 53 percent had experienced at least one symptom that could be a red flag for cancer during the previous three months. The scary part: Only 2 percent didn’t dismiss cancer as a possibility.

“It’s worrying that even the more obvious warning symptoms, such as unexplained lumps or changes to the appearance of a mole, were rarely attributed to cancer [in this study],” says Dr. Katriina Whitaker, lead study author and senior research fellow at University College London.

Dr. Whitaker also points out that, even if cancer isn’t at the root, responding to this kind of serious symptom could catch other serious diseases early. “That’s why it’s important that these symptoms are checked out, especially if they don’t go away. But people could delay seeing a doctor if they don’t acknowledge cancer as a possible cause,” she says.

In addition to unexplained lumps or moles, some of the cancer red-flags included in the questionnaire included unexplained cough, bleeding, unexplained weight loss, unexplained pain, and persistent changes in bowel or bladder habits. Of the people who experienced concerning symptoms, just over half contacted their doctor, even if they didn’t attribute the symptom to cancer.
Catching cancer, or any disease really, early is a huge advantage for recovery, but that means that you need to dial into what your body is telling you and really listen. Gary Kaplan, DO, author of Total Recovery, says learning to listen to our bodies can save lives, but we’re really bad at doing this.

“It still amazes me how many aches and pains patients take for granted. At the most basic level, many people are stiff in the morning when they get out of bed,” says Dr. Kaplan. “They’re irritable and foggy-headed until they have a second cup of coffee. Since their friends are having the same experience, they joke about ‘getting older’ and assume that what they’re feeling is just nature taking its course, that there’s nothing they can do about it. But that’s not true.”

He asks us to ask ourselves the question “‘What are you putting up with?’ Whatever it is, the research is showing that the time to address it is now, not later.”
One of the big things we can listen for are signs of inflammation. “Only recently have we come to realize that so many of our most chronic diseases are primarily inflammatory conditions: inflammatory bowel disease (5 million),3 cancer (10 million), diabetes (14 million), 4 autoimmune disease (24 million), asthma (30 million), allergies (50 million), rheumatoid arthritis (50 million), 5 and cardiovascular disease (60 million), among many others,” he explains.

Dr. Kaplan recommends watching out for these three sneaky symptoms that may be trying to tell you “Something is wrong!”

Nutritional and Gastrointestinal Issues
“Gas, bloating, and poor digestion are also so common in our culture that it’s easy to assume they’re normal and nothing to worry about,” says Dr. Kaplan, but he points out that this is not the case: An upset tummy is not status quo. “It may be a symptom of a sustained inflammatory reaction in your body due to leaky gut, celiac disease, gluten intolerance, or other gastrointestinal disorders.”

Infections with pain, fever, malaise, or mood alterations
“The body is an ecosystem, so inflammation in the periphery can always potentially affect the central nervous system as well,” he says. “A lingering infection in the body can perpetuate inflammation.”

Unfortunately, he also points out that our best cure for infections, antibiotics, can upset the microflora in your gut, leading to leaky gut [link]. “It’s not that antibiotics are bad,” he clarifies, “But we know that antibiotics can have damaging side effects, so it makes sense to be aware of the consequences of using them and take precautions to offset it.”

“The injuries that contribute to [relentless inflammation] seem to be the ones that have never fully healed,” he says. Unfortunately, the “bad back” or “trick knee” that people force themselves to just live with keeping the inflammation going. ” If you still feel lingering effects from physical trauma, I encourage you to find a way to treat it. Total recovery is your best protection against the effects of cumulative traumas.”

Are You Dying For A Good Night's Sleep?

It is estimated that over 70 million people suffer with a chronic sleep disorder in the United States, impacting not only the individual struggling to get a good night’s sleep but potentially all of us. It is conservatively estimated that more than 100,000 car accidents resulting in 1,550 deaths and 71,000 injuries each year are the result of driver fatigue.
And here’s another thought that might keep you up at night: one of the most common medical responses to helping you sleep may actually be putting your heath at risk. About 4% of U.S. adults use a prescription sleeping aid in any given month. Yet taking as few as 18 sleeping pills a year increases your risk of dying 3.6 fold compared to people not using them. Those who take a prescription sleeping medication more than 132 nights a year have a 6.6-fold increase of death, and a 35% increased risk of developing cancer. A better response? Individualized treatment to discern the underlying cause of sleep loss.
Sleep deprivation, sleeping less than the amount of time your body needs for growth and repair, is the most common sleep disorder. Newborns need as much as 18 hours a day, while teenagers — the most notoriously sleep-deprived group — require nine to 10 hours. Adults should have between seven and eight hours a night of restful sleep, yet a 2013 Gallup poll found that as many as 40% of Americans get only six hours or less of sleep a night.
Sleep deprivation can exhibit as insomnia, taking longer than 20 minutes to fall asleep, multiple awakenings during the night with difficulty returning to sleep, early wakening, and shortened sleep due to demands of work or school. Whatever the cause, its long-term consequences on your health and well-being are the same.
In the short term, your mental performance and reaction time when chronically sleep deprived are the equivalent of being drunk. And like the inebriated, the chronically sleep deprived do not recognize the extent of their impairment. Lack of sleep compromises the normal functioning of your immune system, and long-term sleep deprivation causes your body and brain to be in a chronic state of inflammation, potentially leading to an increase in heart disease, stroke, obesity, chronic pain, ADD, depression, and anxiety. The problem is also bidirectional; conditions such as chronic pain, depression, and heart disease can cause sleep disturbance, which then worsens the underlying condition.
So how sleepy are you? One way to quickly assess your level of daytime sleepiness is the Epworth Sleepiness scale. It takes about a minute to complete the test and should be part of any medical exam when someone is complaining of fatigue. A score of 10 or higher is suggestive of a significant sleep issue; talk with your physician. Being this tired is a potential danger to your own health as well as the health of others.
Here are some steps you can take right now to improve the length and quality of your sleep:

  1. Go to your room! Try to tuck in and rise around the same time each day.
  2. Move it! Regular exercise improves sleep and regular sleep improves exercise performance. The regular practice of yoga, especially in older adults, has been shown to improve the duration and quality of sleep.
  3. Cut caffeine. If you have a sleep problem, minimize or eliminate your caffeine consumption. Caffeine in all forms — tea, chocolate, energy drink or pill — disrupts sleep.
  4. Eat more fish. Eating fatty fish, salmon, and tuna appears to not only lower your risk of heart disease, but also betters your sleep.
  5. Eat at regular intervals. When and how much we eat, as well as the types of foods we eat, impact our internal clock, called our circadian rhythm. While we are just beginning to understand the relationship between food and internal clocks, it is clear that the two are related and the consequences of eating at irregular intervals are obesity and increased risk for disease, in addition to disruption of your sleep.
  6. Cool down to sleep sound. People may have trouble falling asleep because they have trouble cooling down their core temperature, which reaches its maximum typically around 3 pm. A warm room will exacerbate the problem. Temperatures above 75 degrees and below 54 degrees Fahrenheit can disrupt sleep. So what is ideal for sleep? The consensus is that a room temperature between 65 and 68 degrees is probably ideal; this will vary among individuals.
  7. Go dark. Light is a major factor that regulates our sleep-wake cycle. Light exposure at night not only disrupts our sleep but also increases our risk for obesity, high blood pressure, and possibly breast cancer in women.
  8. Keep it quiet. Any amount of noise starting at 30 to 40 decibels, a level between a whisper and a quiet conversation, begins to impact sleep quality. That said, people generally find the sounds of their usual environment relaxing. Sound can also be used to help with sleep. One study looking at patients suffering with a generalized pain syndrome called fibromyalgia found that music embedded with a specific sound frequency called Delta wave that pulsated between .25 to 4 Hertz improved the quality of patients’ sleep and decreased their pain symptoms.
  9. Meditate. Numerous studies demonstrate that the regular practice of meditation can improve the quality of sleep, as well as help in the treatment of anxiety disorders, depression, and chronic pain.
  10. Sample supplements. Some supplements that might help in getting a good night’s sleep include L-tryptophan, 5-HTP, and melatonin. The FDA does not regulate supplements, so be careful that the supplement you purchase actually contains the substance and the amount of the substance stated on the label. Also, supplements are drugs and can have side effects and interactions with other medications. If you are taking medications on a regular basis, please check with your physician before taking any supplement.

For more information on identifying & treating sleep disorders click here.

What I Know About Healing Chronic Pain From 29 Years Of Treating Patients

There are over 100 million Americans suffering with chronic pain. Unfortunately, we’re not that great at treating it.
We may be unsuccessful in treating chronic pain because the way we’ve thought about where it comes from is all wrong. Research now demonstrates that chronic pain is frequently a symptom of inflammation in the brain. Finding a cure requires that we identify and treat all the things that are causing the brain to remain in an inflamed state.
Here are seven things you need to do to effectively deal with your chronic pain:
1. Get a real diagnosis.
Chronic pain, in and of itself, is not a diagnosis.
It’s a symptom of injury or illness, and even more specifically, it’s a symptom of inflammation. For example, over the course of 29 years of practicing family medicine and treating patients suffering with chronic pain, the worst case of acute shoulder pain I have ever saw was in a man who was having a heart attack.
I also have seen patients complain of chronic lower back pain, when their underlying problem was an actually Crohn’s disease (a autoimmune disease that causes digestive problems).
Similarly, chronic migraine headaches may be a symptom of a food allergy, and when this is the case, eliminating the offending foods can be a straightforward solution.
Getting the right diagnosis requires a comprehensive history by a physician who can connect the dots. Frequently, what you think is the beginning of your pain problem is not it’s actually cause. Bottom line: you have to know what you need to be treating if you have any hope of finding a cure.
2. Get tested for sleep disorders and get enough rest.
If you’re getting seven or more hours of sleep per night, but you still feel exhausted all the time, you may have sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a condition that means that while you’re sleeping you periodically stop breathing. During these intervals your brain is deprived of oxygen, which causes inflammation of the neural tissue in the brain. Sleep apnea affects approximately 5% of Americans and it has been estimated that as many as 85% of people with this condition have not been diagnosed.
The inflammation caused by sleep apnea can cause or contribute to joint pain, migraine headaches, abdominal pain, and other chronic pain conditions. Ask your doctor about getting tested for sleep apnea or other sleep disorders. Sleep well and you’ll find you have more energy and less pain.
3. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet.
To eliminate the dietary causes of chronic pain, I usually recommend that patients limit their food intake to rice, fish, chicken and fresh fruits and vegetables for a period of six weeks. While this food plan doesn’t eliminate every possible allergen, it does eliminate the major offenders, such as gluten, milk and milk products, refined sugar, processed foods, nuts and eggs.
When you eat, notice if certain foods cause you to experience an adverse reaction such as a stuffy nose, fatigue, headache, bloating or gas. By eliminating the foods that create inflammation in your brain and body, you’ll find that your pain decreases and your physical energy and mental clarity increase.
4. Meditate.
Studies show that regular meditation improves brain function and can help the brain recover from inflammatory damage. Regular meditation also has been shown to improve our ability to tolerate and recover from stress. Meditate for 20 to 30 minutes a day and see if you notice a difference.
5. Schedule a massage.
Hands-on therapies such as massage, osteopathic manual therapy and chiropractic and physical therapy, can help relieve, and in some cases, completely resolve chronic musculoskeletal pain. Whatever the pain’s origin — whether its disease, traumatic injury or overuse or emotional stress — bodywork can help stimulate healthy blood flow into damaged muscles, tendons and connective tissue, thereby relieving musculoskeletal pain and tension and stimulating the body’s own ability to heal itself.
In fact, manual therapy is so effective in unlocking the emotional stress and trauma stored in our bodies that I often also recommend working with psychotherapist who can help you process these issues.
6. Take nutritional supplements that are right for you.
Supplements should be tailored to your own unique, nutritional and medical needs. That said, I usually recommend taking:

  • 1.5 gms of Omega-3s per day
  • A good quality probiotic with live cultures of about 25 billion CFUs
  • Vitamin D3
  • To address generalized inflammation and joint pain, I recommend taking Curcumin as Curcumin Phytosome 500mg twice a day
  • To treat joint pain specifically, I prescribe Glucosamine Sulfate 1200-1500 mg/day

Talk with your doctor about the medications and other supplements you are already taking before starting a new supplement because some products can cause drug interactions.

7. Practice gratitude.

Although this is sometimes a lot to ask of people whose lives have been devastated by chronic pain, the cultivation of gratitude for family and friends and the other gifts in our lives helps make us more trusting, altruistic, resilient and just plain happier. It also allows us to live each day more fully.
I recommend keeping a gratitude diary and listing five things for which you are grateful each day. Other gratitude exercises include visualizing and writing about your future, best possible self; putting your gratitude into action by writing a thank-you note or visiting a person to whom you owe a debt of gratitude. Spending time each day contemplating the things for which you are grateful is likely to help reduce not only your stress level, but also your experience of physical pain.
Good luck on your healing journey!

Rebecca Berkson

A Letter to Patients from Rebecca Berkson, L.Ac., Dipl.OM

I am delighted to introduce myself as the newest member of the clinical team at the Kaplan Center for Integrative Medicine. I am a licensed acupuncturist and am board certified in Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine.
Every year research studies are published showing the effectiveness of this unique medicine. Acupuncture stimulates the body’s own ability to heal, decreases pain, reduces stress, enhances mood, strengthens the immune system, and can help maintain health and wellness. It can also help manage symptoms common in chronic pain and illness.
My training was at Bastyr University in Seattle, WA where I received a Master of Science in Acupuncture in June 2013. This program was 3 ½ years and included over 900 hours of clinical training. I use various styles of acupuncture including Traditional Chinese Medicine, Five Element, Neuroanatomical, and various styles of Japanese acupuncture. I completed specialty rotations at University of Washington Harborview Hospital including the Chronic Fatigue Department. I was in private practice in Seattle until I moved back home to Northern Virginia this past December. In addition, I hold a Master of Science in Physiology and Complementary and Alternative Medicine from Georgetown University, and a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA.
During a typical visit, we will discuss your symptoms, behaviors and lifestyle. In addition to acupuncture, there are other techniques that I use to stimulate the body’s natural healing ability. I am trained in Chinese herbal medicine, which is also extremely beneficial for a variety of conditions.
It is a pleasure to join the exemplary team at the Kaplan Center. I look forward to sharing my knowledge and expertise in this traditional yet cutting edge medicine.
Rebecca Berkson, L.Ac, Dipl.OM