Heartburn, indigestion, ulcers, and constipation. If you do not pop a pill now and again because of one of these problems, you probably know someone who does. Over the last few years the use of over-the-counter and prescription medication for these kinds of stomach pains has grown as people try to soothe their aching bellies.

We seem to know the answer to the question "How do I make it stop?" It is in the shape of a small tablet. But the less obvious question, "Why is this happening to me in the first place?" is harder to answer. In order to get to the cause of our stomach pains we have to do more than cover them up.

We have to seek a more natural approach to dealing with our digestion. For many that has meant looking closer at their nutrition. For others it has also meant looking at digestion and chiropractic care.

Heartburn, constipation, and the occasional ulcer are some of the most common reasons that people experience stomach aches. Indigestion, or dyspepsia, is the catch-all word that describes the feeling of discomfort, fullness, nausea, or burning that many get after eating.

While some go to lengths to diagnose where the pain might be coming from exactly, most people just call it indigestion. They say things like, "My stomach is no good," or "I can't eat things like that anymore." When the discomfort flares up they may chew on an antacid or two.

When examined from the use of medications, indigestion appears to be on the rise. According to data on prescription medications, more prescriptions are being written for drugs that lower stomach acid than ever before. Of course, before seeing a doctor, many people also try several of the many over-the-counter antacids, herbal remedies, and other tricks for calming an upset stomach. Based on how bloated and uncomfortable we feel; it seems like more stomachs are making too much acid than ever before.

There are good reasons why more antacid medications for indigestion may not be the best long term solution. First, there are the side effects of prescription antacids, called proton pump inhibitors. In some people these drugs can actually cause stomach upset, diarrhea, stomach pain, headaches and nausea.

Lowering stomach acid will change the balance in your digestion, and naturally it can lead to more stomach problems, not less. Second, antacids, prescription or otherwise, only work when they are in our systems. As soon as you stop taking these anti-indigestion drugs, the problem often comes back. The same is true for laxatives taken for constipation. Unless you are OK with taking them the rest of your life, they are not a long-term solution.

The use of medication, which often stops the pain quite well, also stops us from asking a bigger question "Why is my stomach like this, anyway?" To lower our body's natural stomach acid in order to soothe our stomach is stopping a natural body process. The acid is there for a reason! This is a fact that people who become dependent on antacids often forget.

Stomach acids help us break down our food into the basic chemicals that our bodies need to rebuild and repair. By lowering acid we may be lowering our bodies’ ability to digest and absorb the nutrients we need. We might consider that our stomach pain is not the problem, but a signal that something else is.

Those who are interested in a long term solution for upset stomach might consider a more natural approach to digestion. A more natural approach is concerned with feeding the body what it needs to properly care for itself and heal on its own.

In many cases, including stomach upset, pain and discomfort is not the actual problem. Pain makes us uncomfortable, but it also carrying a message from the body that says "Pay attention. Something is out of balance."

Next week , natural ways of reducing stomach problems will be discussed.

Dr. Patrick Hickman has been helping patients with healthy choices for over 20 years. Contact him with your questions regarding health and chiropractic at (800) 422-3363 or (715) 682-5656. You can also find more information at www.HickmanChiropractic.com.

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