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Improbable Remedy Vanquished Heartburn

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Q. I was listening to your radio program when a physician called in about the benefits of using vinegar for heartburn. He didn't indicate the type of vinegar or the dosage.

That very day I experienced bad heartburn. I had dark chocolate balsamic vinegar on hand and took about half a teaspoon. The taste was pleasant. To my amazement, my heartburn was gone within a couple of minutes.

A. The caller, Dr. Charles, is an ear, nose and throat specialist. He expressed concern about the overuse of omeprazole (Prilosec) and other powerful acid-suppressing drugs to treat routine heartburn. He suggested taking vinegar instead of medications to ease heartburn symptoms, especially when withdrawing from such medications.

We were quite pleased to hear from him. We have many testimonials from readers who have used vinegar for their heartburn, but we rarely get an approving opinion for such a simple remedy from a physician.

We discuss a wide range of non-drug approaches to easing reflux in our Guide to Digestive Disorders. Because medications like omeprazole can cause rebound hyperacidity when they are stopped, it is sometimes difficult to get off them. Our Guide provides advice on this, along with a recipe for Persimmon-Ginger Tea to ease the discomfort. That recipe was originally from a reader who first tasted the tea in a Korean restaurant and realized that it helped her heartburn:

"I'm disappointed that you did not mention ginger in your comments on acid reflux. My reflux became really bad when I stopped hormone replacement therapy. Acid suppressing drugs worked great, but after two months I couldn't stop them without the heartburn recurring.

One night, I took colleagues to dinner at a Korean restaurant. Someone ordered Persimmon Punch, a concentrated cinnamon-ginger drink, for dessert. A few sips later, I felt fantastic.

After one month of adding about 3 tablespoons of the cinnamon-ginger drink to my tea in the morning and at night, my low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels had dropped 30 points, blood sugar dropped 10 points and the heartburn was in control.

This cinnamon-ginger tea has sugar, unfortunately. A simpler alternative is to add a piece of candied ginger to tea. The ginger is amazing for heartburn and the Chinese have used it for centuries for motion sickness."

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Where can u get dark chocolate vinegar ? Or is there a recipe to make it yourself?

PEOPLE'S PHARMACY RESPONSE: some gourmet shops sell specialty vinegars, but it probably doesn't have to be dark chocolate balsamic vinegar to help heartburn. Many people use apple cider vinegar with good results.

yellow mustard (it has turmeric and vinegar both good for heartburn), almonds, too can help. And my question is where can you find this persimmon-ginger-cinnamon tea or punch? I know in the Orient they use persimmons for several illnesses and you can find frozen persimmons in oriental supermarkets (the only problem for diabetics,.. the high content in sugar)

was on prilosec for 20 years for heartburn. dr oz suggested two teaspoons of red wine vinegar with my metamucil, haven't had heartburn in two years.

Where does one purchase this drink? I would love to get off of my priolsec, and lower my bad cholesterol.

Where can I get the recipe for the Persimmon Punch (cinnamon-ginger concentrate)?
Thanks!

More evidence for restoring the proper acid balance in the digestive system. PPI's, such as Prilosec, actually work by paralyzing the acid producing ability of the stomach. No wonder so many people who take them have digestive and deficiency problems. The use of vinegar to balance stomach acidity is not new. Vermont colonial medicine suggests a daily morning drink of vinegar, honey, and hot water. The conventional medical treatment is a hydrochloric acid supplement. Betain hydrochloride or similar. There was a response to one of the earlier posts that ridiculed the use of one acid to neutralize another. The acid is not being neutralized, it is being restored to an effective concentration so that it can digest food. The chocolate balsamic sounds like a great idea. Effective "medicine" doesn't have to have a bad taste.

This article on vinegar for reflux was very interesting, however, I believe my reflux is from a hiatal hernia. I take OTC prilosec twice a day, would I benefit from using vinegar? Also, would regular vinegar work? and how could you take it except just plain, yuck. Thank you, I enjoy your newsletters, website and also your column in our newspaper. Have read and used your site for a number of years now. Catherine

PEOPLE'S PHARMACY RESPONSE: Some people add the vinegar to water. We don't know if that would be more appealing. The majority of folks who use this remedy regularly use apple cider vinegar rather than an exotic variety.

Hello from a fan in Fort Worth TX.

Pulled an article you wrote for the Dallas Morning News on Dec. 7,2007 and would like for you to update and/or clarify. Title was Dieter praises vinegar, lime juice, cinnamon.
At the end you noted that cinnamon may contain coumarin, which is toxic to the liver and recommended a water-based extract for anyone using cinnamon on a daily basis.

QUESTION: Is that still true as your recent comments on taking cinnamon do not appear to mention that warning?

Thank you for your great newsletter,
Caroll

PEOPLE'S PHARMACY RESPONSE: Still true.

I get excellent results controlling my GERD (except in extremely severe situations) by chewing sugarless gum.

How does one make the ginger tea?

Jerry The most inexpensive way to make ginger tea is to buy some fresh ginger, cut a round off about the size of a quarter and approx half an inch thick, peel it and give it a good smash with the side of knife toss into a tea pot and cover with boiling water. Let it steep for at least 5 minutes. That's a starting place and you can adjust amounts to suit your taste. Some prefer to use candied ginger but it is more expensive than fresh ginger

When I get very occasional heartburn, usually but not always from eating sweets or just too much food, the heartburn is so intense that I have no time to make tea or hunt for anything else. I have discovered that one or two glasses of plain tap or bottled water drunk fast takes care of the problem. I figured if something (acid) was coming up where it didn't belong, it needed to be pushed back down. I mentioned my remedy to my doctor, who applauded my discovery.

I recently tried the apple cider vinegar remedy for acid. Both times around midnight, the vinegar came back up with such a force that it came out my nose. I felt like I was drowning.
I won't try that again.

Started OTC a week ago to see if coughing and wheezing in early am due to reflux. seems a bit better, don't really have traditional heartburn. Would vinegar work too? Persimmon tea lovely but not available here now

I have also used the vinegar for GERD but I found the timing to be important.

When using the Prilosec I also found it difficult to stop taking it and stopped the Prilosec. I substituted papaya tablets when that burning feeling first starts. After a week or so I didn't have to take either. If the burning starts up again I just started the papaya again.
Now I haven't used either for 9 months.

I enjoy your columns very much.

There are various grades of acid reflux. Some give burning in chest (the extreme kind) while others leave a sour taste at the throat (the mild variety). Before trying any remedy you have to find the cause. First the non-invasive ones: pH monitoring of the esophagus, esophageal manometry, urea breath test, Barium meal X-ray, and blood antibody test for H. pylori.

If H. pylori is found to be the cause it can be treated with antibiotics in a two-week course. Also burping/belching is a sign of infection by H. pylori. If hiatal hernia is found to be the cause it has to be treated perhaps surgically.If the lower esophageal sphincter is not closing properly after a meal acidic mixture could flow up causing discomfort. That requires separate treatment. So it is not a question of one remedy cures all symptoms. If the simple remedy works it can be followed but the root cause needs to be found for a permanent(?) cure.

It is not a coincidence that most of the comments include references to Prilosec or similar and the benefits that were obtained by taking natural remedies. The preferred stomach acid balancer used to be bicarbonate of soda. It was exactly that, a balancer. Once the acid was neutralized, the stomach returned to its natural acidity. People realized that dietary excesses caused stomach upset and took the necessary remedial action.

Medical science has progressed to the point that those time proven remedies are ridiculed by the medical profession. Note that ANY product that chemically alters a normal autonomic process is not beneficial in the long term. In fact,unless an illness is life threatening or life altering, most prescriptions should be avoided. When one sees notices and posters in their pharmacies regarding corrective OTC products to counter the side effects of medications, there has to be a clue in there that someone is finally recognizing that prescriptions make you sick. For an eye opener, read the prescribing information that comes with your next prescription.

Try 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar in 1/2 cup of water for acid indigestion. Works for me.

OB:
When do you take this potion? Before meals, soon after meals, or when you feel the acid reflux later?

SS; Absolutely correct! There are several digestive problems that have similar symptoms. As a recipient of the dark age treatments, including Belladonna, Phenadonna, Donnatal, and finally hiatal hernia repair, pyloroplasty and esophageal sphincter repair, I consider myself somewhat of an authority. Even after all the surgeries, when I finally took control of my condition, I have been able to naturally control the majority of the symptoms.

The H Pylori antibiotic treatment requires an aggressive dietary regimen to restore the intestinal flora once the antibiotic course is completed, something that is not generally a part of a patient's information. The shutdown of the digestive process by PPI"s is never mentioned by the prescriber, but, should be a part of the prescription. The majority of problems from prescriptions is not from the prescription, per se, but rather the indiscriminate use of them. MRSA is a prime example. Better living through chemistry may be OK in industry. It, however, is a terrible way to live.

It has always seemed to me that by using an acid suppressant, one's stomach then over-produced MORE acid to restore balance. New info has found older people are at risk for ingested bacteria to multiple as their acid levels are not high enough to kill those germs. (I believe your column has discussed this.) Cider vinegar & honey in hot water and/or fruit juice is very effective. I found this years ago in a small paperback of home remedies.

It has always seemed to me that by using an acid suppressant, one's stomach then over-produced MORE acid to restore balance. New info has found older people are at risk for ingested bacteria to multiple as their acid levels are not high enough to kill those germs. (I believe your column has discussed this.) Cider vinegar & honey in hot water and/or fruit juice is very effective. I found this years ago in a small paperback of home remedies.

What time of day would you take the vinegar? I take Previcid in the morning but only get reflux when I lay down at night.

Note to FC;
If you have reflux, the antacids only prevent the stomach contents (which contain a dilute solution of hydrochloric acid) from irritating your esophagus. Reflux is caused by a physical, not a digestive problem. It actually is a defect or relaxation of the esophageal sphincter which allows the stomach contents to reverse flow out of the stomach. The PPI's, such as Prilosec, only address the symptoms by reducing acid and will not stop the reflux.

There are a few suggestions that may help without the medication. First, elevate the head of your bed at least four inches. Just raising your pillow will not help, you need to raise the head of the the entire bed. If you sleep on your back, stomach,or right side, start sleeping on your left side. Those little snacks you like, or that glass of milk just before you go to bed,specially stop those. Cut down on the fluids with your evening meal and try eating earlier in the evening. Reflux is a condition that you need to work with, not fight. There is an operation to repair the sphincter that has been pretty successful, but, before you opt for surgery, try the lifestyle changes.
As for your original question regarding the vinegar, it is best taken just before a meal. If the changes work, you may not need it.

RLB:
Perfect answer. I would have given the same advice. I would add to your advice, the following:
Eat less than full stomach, eat early in the evening, and be active so that the digestive process can proceed easily and quickly. Once the digestive process is complete in the stomach, it will empty into the small intestine and hence there won't be a problem of regurgitation of stomach contents upwards into the esophagus by the time you go to bed.

There are couple other problems besides dysfunctional sphincter. They are: hiatal hernia (part of stomach projecting through the diaphragm into the chest cavity causing seepage of stomach contents up and diabetic gastroparesis (delay in stomach emptying) which can make the stomach contents stay longer in the stomach which can cause the reflux. Also a test for H.pylori needs to be done through non-invasive procedures.

I have had bloating, fullness in middle of my chest for the last 10 days. I usually take over the counter allergy medicine to stop the nasal drip.I hadn't taken them for a month & felt this discomfort coming on. Since I've had indigestion/heartburn before, I usually take a PepcidAC or 2 Tums for relief this time it didn't work. I want to burp to relieve the pressure. It's more of an uncomfortable full feeling than pain. It makes me not hungry.
I'd like to know your suggestion to help me. Thank you.

I will definitely have to try red wine vinegar for heartburn. I usually use the baking soda and water method which seems to work okay. Maybe this new remedy will be better.

As long as I keep meal portion small, and abstain from foods that are acidic, I found that drinking the Persimmon-Ginger-Cinnamon Tea 2 to 3 times a day helps to keep GERD (GastroEsophogeal Reflux Disorder), aka heart burn, as well as Gastritis pain, in check. It's something I need to continue in order to be free from pain. At least my GI system hasn't been "cured" to the point where I no longer need to take the Persimmon Tea.

Also, when I've either eaten more than just a little, or eaten an "offending" food that brings on pain, I also take Slippery Elm lozenges to help protect my throat and sometimes DGL Licorice to do the same for my stomach. So far, so good. For myself, I've found that I needed to eliminate most raw foods or else suffer with GERD and/or Gastritis. I can't even drink decaf green tea without feeling as though a hole were burning through my stomach. Dr. Mercola mentioned there is a chiropractic technique to help a hiatal hernia, so I googled and found several YouTube videos showing self-help maneuver to push down the stomach. I am not a big allopathic fan, so I am avoiding pH Impedence tests and endoscopy. Even though perforation is rare, if and when it does occur it can be life-threatening. If results of these tests were to show I needed surgery and/or pharmaceuticals, I would still continue to treat myself naturopathically, so I don't think the gain of knowing is worth the risk of perforation, infection, or allergic reaction. BTW, I have tried omeprazole and Tagamet, with neither of them doing a great job, however, my bones were in so much pain. Since I already have osteopenia, I decided to discontinue the pharmaceuticals. Anyway, I am grateful for my son telling me about the Persimmon Tea remedy he heard on NPR's People's Pharmacy, and will continue making and taking this tea.

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