Gastritis - Reflux - Heartburn -
GORD (Gastro-Oesophageal- Reflux-Disease)

As you can see, we give quite a few different names to describe the same problem but it all means the same thing - painful, uncomfortable indigestion, especially after food.

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Gastritis formula

By whatever name you call it herbalists have been successfully treating these common problems with simple remedies for many thousands of years. In my own work in particular I have had such consistently good results with a very old formula as described below that I begin by sharing in detail what it is and how to best use it:

Catmint Leaf 40 mls
Fennel Seed 40mls
Licorice root 20 mls

These are liquid extracts or tinctures which are really best obtained from a herbal dispensary or a bona fide herbalist. The amount given here is to make 100mls (larger or smaller amounts can be made using the same proportions)

Catmint (also called Catnip) is a soothing and cooling herb for tension in the gut, more here
Fennel is especially helpful to relieve the cramping pain that comes with indigestion - more here
Licorice is a superb at healing the inflammation associated with chronic indigestion - more here.


Nepeta cataria (Catmint)

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Dosage notes on the formula

The right amount in the right frequency dosage will often be the key to what makes a herbal treatment fail or succeed. The Gastritis formula is not a mixture that people take once or twice a day like they would a herbal tonic. In other words if they are feeling fine and have no symptoms then they don't take it! I almost always use the Gastritis formula on an 'as needed' basis because it can be essential to use the herbs freely and frequently until the condition has clearly improved.

As soon as you start getting symptoms of reflux, gastritis etc. then take no less than 2 mls (half a tsp) and no more than 4mls (a full tsp) of the gastritis formula mixed in just a little water; again no more than 4mls or 1 tsp. The medicine will start working almost immediately but it will take at least 20 minutes for you to get the full effect. If things settle down and you clearly feel better for the dose then great, just wait to see if they get worse again before taking another dose. However, if you are not experiencing some significant relief from the symptoms then you should definitely take another dose and also, if you haven't already, go up to the higher end of the dose range to 4mls if you don't notice an obvious effect. It doesn't matter if this 2nd dose is 20 minutes, half an hour, or 1 hour after the first dose. There are no fixed times that make it work better, just listen to your body and respond to it as best as you can.

Note that if you have sustained some damage to your gut lining from some acid-reflux then there may still be a low grade discomfort that won't completely go away no matter how many doses you take. You can be confident that this will heal, and quite quickly too, but in this case I would recommend you take at least one dose of the Gastritis formula quite regularly after food as the main objective to prevent the problem getting worse is a repeated surge of acid-reflux and the medicine should certainly help to stop that from happening.

Freely & Frequently!

In my own experience, which has mostly been with people who have chronic indigestion and are either coming off some form of Omeprazole or for whom their drugs have stopped working, we need to use a lot of the formula for the first few days and then the condition quickly starts to improve by itself. In fact in a great many cases I have seen people who have had bad indigestion for many years get a huge turn around in a very short while by using this approach - but again I want to emphasise that they may have needed to take it quite freely and frequently just at first.

You may end up taking quite significant levels of Licorice root if you need to use the formula a lot over a short time-frame. For some people this will cause their blood pressure to rise and if you know that this is a problem for you then I recommend you to keep an eye on it (self-monitoring machines are probably fairly essential items for a person who is prone to high blood pressure, especially if they have some white-coat hypertension!) That said, the blood pressure thing with Licorice is an issue that is talked up far more than it needs to be (my article on Licorice linked here goes into this in more depth). I also want to point out is that high blood pressure is really only a problem when it goes on for a long time and that there is very little danger in having increased pressure for short periods which is all this treatment will likely need.

The Gastritis formula has been seen to work marvellously well for many hundreds of patients over the years and it is always my first line of treatment but I do also usually use the following tea and find it an especially useful as a treatment to carry on with when the initial problem has improved and you want to do something naturally to help to prevent it from coming back.


Foeniculum vulgare (Fennel)

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GI Tea

Chamomile flowers
Fennel Sees
Caraway seeds

The above herbs are in dried form and are made in what is called 'equal parts' which simply means you mix them together by the same weight of each herb. The method of use is to take one large cup of freshly boiled water and three heaped tsps of the tea and put together into a vessel that can be covered (e.g. a tea-pot or a coffee plunger, or even a small saucepan).

Make sure the container is well covered so that no steam can escape and allow the herbs to steep for a good 10 minutes. Strain off the liquid and sip whilst hot. Note that it is very ok to add honey and for some people this will have some added benefits itself on a sore stomach.

The best way to get the best effects from the GI tea is to get it steeping while you are eating and then to sip it whilst quite hot soon after you eat. It is very relaxing and calming to the stomach and will certainly aid digestion!

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Drug Antacids

A huge number of people are now taking drugs to block or reduce their stomach acid. In New Zealand, for example, they are now the third most widely prescribed medication. Once upon a time antacids were given to people to take as needed, nowadays the practice is to prescribe a proton-pump inhibitor (PPI) such as omeprazole and the patient just seems to be left on them for life. This is despite the view of medical experts that 'PPI's should not be prescribed indefinitely and they should be used at the lowest effective dose for the shortest possible time', and also that ' patients should be warned that rebound acid secretion often occurs following withdrawal of treatment, even after periods as short as four weeks'. 

At this point I want to state that I am not philosophically 'anti-drug' and in fact there are even many times in my practice when I am encouraging my patients who want to get off something to stay on it! However, the drugs that dry up our stomach acids are an exception to this and the reason is not because they are especially toxic or have any immediately bad side-effects but rather because of what happens when a person uses them for long enough...

We need protein!

We need amino-acids from protein in order to rebuild our bodies because our tissues continually break down through wear, tear and aging. In order for you to absorb that protein into your blood it firstly has to be turned into something called 'chyme' which is the consistency of a thin soup. Now imagine what it takes to render nuts, beans, or a piece of meat, fish or chicken down to that level of a liquid. That is why we make stomach acid, it breaks the proteins down into tiny pieces that we can absorb for the simple reason that we profoundly need those amino acids in order to rebuild our bodies.

People who don't have enough stomach acid to digest their proteins start to get injuries and illnesses that they don't heal from properly. In fact there are many people who I have met with personally where you can see from a close examination of their health history how things have greatly declined within a few months of taking their daily stomach acid drugs; but no-one ever seems to make the connection...

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Switching from Drugs to Herbs:

I confidently recommend the use of the Gastritis formula and the GI tea as an alternative to taking drugs but people do need to be very aware of the phenomenon of 'rebound hyperacidity' that happens when you stop the drugs that has been blocking the production of stomach acids. There is a critical period of the first week when, once the suppression of the medication has been lifted, there is an initial rebound in the stomach lining to produce more acids. This is particularly the time to have plenty of the Gastritis formula on hand to use as freely and frequently as needed. I understand that this can be a daunting prospect but in my frequent clinical experience it all seems to rapidly improve within about a week and you see time and again how the rebound hyperacidity settles down and the person can easily stop using the herbal treatment will no ill effects whatsoever.


Glycyrrhiza glabra (Licorice root)

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Treating the cause

It's great to have a natural product that you can rely on when needed but, especially if gastritis in one form or another is a recurring problem, then you have to look at the cause of it to achieve a lasting cure. The main causes I see in my own practice that contribute to chronic indigestion are:

Food Allergies or Intolerances

This is an area that does affect a great many people but it is a subject with many myths and misconceptions detailed info on it here

Anxiety or Tension

Stress and tension are clearly major causes of indigestion and this is another big subject that needs to be approached with care and good sense - more info here

A deficiency of stomach acid!

This last cause of gastritis, reflux etc. will no doubt seem an unlikely one and it is certainly rare to find it in a younger person but it is in fact a common cause of chronic indigestion in older people. What happens is that when many people get past a certain age their production of stomach acid (and digestive enzymes in general) begins to significantly reduce.The effect of this can be for foods to stay too long in the stomach without being digested and this can cause fermentation and swelling which in turn can cause indigestion and reflux. Taking a drug to stop acid production will stop the reflux having any real bite to it (if there is little acid in what gets regurgitated then it won't do anything much to harm the tissues) but in the long run it makes the poor digestion worse and the person weaker.

Gentian

An ancient and very effective treatment to help this problem is to use the herb Gentian. It reliably returns strength to a weakened stomach and I have used it very successfully for many people with chronic indigestion. More information including practical instructions on how to use it here.


Gentiana lutea (Gentian)

Constitutional Health Note:

Lastly you might want to learn about your constitution to help better understand how Gastritis or Reflux etc. has become an issue as well as what kinds of foods, herbs, exercises etc. may best help your health in general. Constitutional health is an old and fascinating way of understanding our differences and to demonstrate how it works I can say for a fact that the number one constitution who gets gastritis are the Tigers, people who by nature are both hot & damp! There is a brief introduction to this great subject here and a more detailed section on working out which constitution you are here.

Please understand that I cannot personally advise you without seeing you in my clinic.
This living 'book' is my labour of love so, wherever you are, I wish you peace & good health!

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© 2011 R.J.Whelan Ltd