Chronic Acid Reflux and the Decline and Fall of the Modern Stomach: Part 2

by | Jul 10, 2012 | Nature's Therapies E-Journal

Part 1 of this discussion focused on the root causes and symptomatology of digestive derangement in general and chronic GERD (gastroesophageal acid reflux disease) in particular.

Part 2 focuses on specific nature’s therapies: cool-water morning draught and post-meal water drinking, the cool sitz bath, Vital Chi Skin-Brushing followed by the Alternate Warm/Cool Shower and an herbal chi tonic which may prove to be of good service in restoring vitality to the stomach and the rest of the digestive tract and in the amelioration of the tenacious, distressing symptoms of GERD.

Part 3 focuses on specific dietary measures including the high water content/high alkaline reserve diet, apples, apple cider vinegar, herbal tea and Digestive Wellness capsules.

By way of orientation regarding this Part 2, it is important to review selected excerpts from the Part 1 discussion:

Introductory Discussion

We depend upon the digestive system to supply the trillions of bodily cells with the nutrients they require to function properly. Lacking these nutrients, every tissue of the body performs less efficiently. It should be understood that tissues are actually organized groups of cells working in unison. Organs such as the heart and kidneys are composed of tissues.

Seemingly, most people these days are suffering from one disorder or another, and even if they do not complain of digestive problems, a breakdown in the digestive process is always a factor in the development of chronic disorders.

In Digestion and Dyspepsia, R.T. Trall, M.D. writes: “We are a nation of dyspeptics and we are growing worse continually. Everyone is more or less dyspeptic now-a-days, and because everyone is ailing in this particular manner, it seems to be nobody’s business except those who make opportunity of misfortune [i.e., the drug companies]. However, [overcoming dyspepsia] should be everyone’s first order of business.”

Although it sounds as if Trall, an early American naturopath, is describing the United States of the 21st century, he actually made this observation in 1874. At that time, most people’s dietary staples came from family farms where everything was grown or raised without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, growth hormones, antibiotics and genetic engineering. Given this, it is difficult to calculate how much worse this digestive crisis is now when a diet largely populated with adulterated and processed foods has become the norm.

Dyspepsia is a somewhat archaic medical term that refers to painful, difficult, or disturbed digestion, commonly accompanied by heartburn, flatulence and other types of stomach discomfort.

In recent years, one of the most common forms of dyspepsia has been given the name GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease. As is the wont of modern medicine, certain symptoms of common disorders are often regarded as stand-alone, unique ailments. In fact, GERD is a symptom of a complex network of systemic dysfunctions featuring a very prominent gastrointestinal tract component.

Defining GERD and the Lower Esophageal Sphincter

Chronic heartburn, caused by the reflux (back-flow) of stomach acid and occasionally bile into the esophagus (the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach), is the most commonly noted symptom of GERD. Chronic gastroesophageal reflux (meaning from the stomach back into the esophagus) irritates, and, over time, inflames the mucosal lining of the esophagus. If this chronic irritation and inflammation are not resolved, organic changes such as narrowing of the esophagus, esophageal ulceration and even esophageal cancer may develop.

The lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is a ring of muscle that forms a valve at the lower end of the esophagus, where it joins the stomach. Normally, the LES remains closed except during swallowing, when it allows food to pass from the esophagus into the stomach, thus preventing the reflux of stomach acid up into the esophagus. Weakening or abnormal relaxation of the LES renders it unable to completely seal the connection between the stomach and esophagus, and thus, encourages the backflow of stomach acid into the esophagus. Therefore, weakness of the lower esophageal sphincter is one of the major factors in the development of GERD.

The Digestive System

The body is not comprised of a vast collection of independently operative parts. Rather, all of its functions are completely interactive and finely coordinated. Therefore, it is misleading to view GERD as being exclusively a stomach disorder. In fact, most of the symptoms associated with any disease are local expressions of generalized states.

It is virtually impossible for a digestive system disorder to be localized to one particular organ, because the digestive system consists of the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, pancreas, liver and gall bladder, the actions of which are all orchestrated to function in concert.

Dr. Trall, one of the founding fathers of traditional naturopathy, writes: “As digestion is the most complex of all the organic processes, its derangements, which constitute indigestion, or dyspepsia, are the most complicated of all morbid conditions…. It is a great mistake to regard dyspepsia as peculiarly, or especially, a disease of the stomach…. We can see how essentially cooperative are a multitude of organs and structures in the digestive process. In some cases one structure or organ will be more obstructed, impaired, or deranged than others, and in other cases two or more will be the seat of the more troublesome symptoms.”

Trall goes on to describe the vast variety of symptoms found among those who are dyspeptic, depending upon which of the digestive organs are most deeply affected. Accordingly, stomach symptoms such as chronic acid reflux are an expression of only a fraction of the actual underlying dysfunction. Diverse symptoms such as constipation, headache, fatigue, heart palpitations and chest oppression commonly accompany pronounced symptoms of stomach distress such as GERD.

Clearly, symptoms of dyspepsia such as acid reflux are merely one aspect of a systemic pattern of dysfunction that extends far beyond the digestive system. The general loss of vitality and operational efficiency of the organism as a whole causes the digestive system to falter. Trall observes: “The debility of the stomach, or other digestive organs in any case of dyspepsia, is no greater and no worse that that of all other parts of the body. Dyspepsia is, therefore, but a name for universal physical deterioration, although the symptoms of the general condition may embrace all the aches, pains and distresses our language can express.”

In turn, digestive weakness invariably initiates deterioration in every organ of the body. Digestion is the process by which foods are broken down into small molecules so that they can be efficiently assimilated into the blood and then used to nourish every cell in the body. Trall writes: “As nutrition is the first process of organic life, all other parts of the system are disproportionately debilitated when the digestive function is impaired.”

The Cause Of Chronic Acid Reflux

When seeking to understand the cause of GERD, it is important to reiterate that it is a local expression of a general state. Only after this local symptom has been contextualized, via the delineation of the general state, can the localized condition involving the esophagus, stomach, diaphragm, intestines, etc. be clearly understood and effectively addressed.

In Digestion and Dyspepsia, Trall cites the following quote excerpted from Wood’s Practice Of Medicine by George B. Wood, M.D. (which at the time was a popular manual among medical doctors regarding the theory and practice of medicine): “The most specific source of dyspepsia is the combined influence of sedentary habits and errors of diet.”

Here again, a description of a common disorder that plagued Americans in the 1870s can serve well to explain a variety of the same disorder that has reached epidemic proportions among 21st century Americans.

Unquestionably, the typical American diet of this age has devolved dramatically since Trall’s day. Given the dreadful dietary habits of today, it is surprising that most people are able to function at all. As far as sedentary habits go, since the invention of the television’s remote control, couch potatoes no longer have to stand up and move except to raid the refrigerator for another stomach-punishing snack.

Sedentary behavior greatly impacts digestive vitality because it leads to weakness of the muscle fibers, including those of the abdomen and diaphragm, which assist in peristaltic movement along the digestive tract. The action of the diaphragm also exerts what can be described as a tonic massage upon the stomach and liver, both of which are situated just below it. Additionally, the lymphatic system, which drains toxins away from every cell of the body including those of the digestive system, is propelled in large part though the lymphatic vessels by the contraction and expansion of the skeletal muscles.

As noted below, one of the fundamental elements of good health is proper posture, something that can be maintained only with regular exercise. When posture sags so do some of the vital organs that are suspended by connective tissues, which, in turn, are attached to the spinal vertebrae and ribs. This helps to explain how sedentary behavior encourages hiatal hernia or prolapse of the stomach and/or intestines.

The Folly Of Viewing GERD as a Stand-Alone Stomach Disorder

In addition to being a local expression of a general state, GERD, as previously discussed, involves the entire gastrointestinal tract, not just the stomach. GERD sufferers commonly experience constipation, generalized flatulence, irritable bowel syndrome and/or have a history of some other bowel disturbance such as inflammatory bowel disease. Furthermore, those who present with GERD (to one degree or another) have liver sluggishness and pancreatic insufficiency. After the stomach completes its role in the digestive process, the semi-digested food mass (known as chyme) empties from the stomach into the small intestine. Once there, the digestive secretions of the other digestive organs (including the small intestine, pancreas, liver and gall bladder) mix with the chyme and complete the breakdown of food into absorbable form.

While the digestive process begins in the mouth and continues in the stomach and then in the small intestine, it is actually not a linear process. Complex feedback mechanisms exist among all the digestive organs that help to facilitate their orchestrated function. Therefore, if there is congestion of the liver and gall bladder, weakness of the pancreas or sluggishness of the bowels, they will all impact the performance and vitality of the stomach.

Thus, as the stomach does not operate within a vacuum, it is utterly implausible to expect long-term resolution of GERD exclusively with drug suppression of stomach symptoms. Unfortunately, the penchant of allopathic medicine for reductionism and symptom suppression, rather than a holistic perspective and the removal of cause, has launched it on this ill-considered fool’s errand.

Nature’s Therapies for Chronic Acid Reflux and General Digestive Derangement

Cool-Water Morning Draught and Post Meal Water-Drinking

One of the simplest yet most effective ways to contribute significantly to the process of cleansing and repairing the gastrointestinal tract is the daily drinking of 3 cups of cool (not cold), pure water on an empty stomach each morning upon arising.

Cool does not mean cold water and certainly not ice water. Excessively cold or ice water shocks and suspends stomach activity whereas moderately cool water (usually room-temperature water is sufficiently cool) stimulates and promotes it. The cool water should be taken at a slow-to-moderate pace over the course of about 5 to 10 minutes, and not quickly administered in one continuous chain of swallows.

Why not warm water upon arising? While warm water drunk freely upon arising will, like cool water, dilute the acid residues that result from the fermentation of foods in the stomach, diffuse bacteria from the stomach lining and produce a mild osmotic draining of the blood vessels of the stomach, the warm water does not exert a stimulating effect upon the muscular activity, nor the mucous membranes (i.e., the lining) of the stomach. Therefore, if warm water is taken first thing in the morning as a therapeutic measure, it should be accompanied by a vigorous self-massage of the abdominal organs to secure the stimulation that warm water fails to supply. But in this modern, fast-paced era no one will usually take the time to do that, especially when cool water offers the necessary stimulation.

Due to its lack of stimulating power to the muscular layers of the digestive canal, the tonic, or strengthening, effect of warm water is far inferior to that of cool water. Warm water relaxes the muscles of the stomach, and in some cases can produce nausea, especially when the effect of quantity is added to that of temperature. Lukewarm water excites upward peristalsis of the intestines, which is why it is often used as an emetic (inducing vomiting). These days one of the primary digestive complaints that adults report is gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD), which is clearly a manifestation of a tendency toward reverse peristalsis.

The concentrated introduction of 3 cups (24 oz.) of cool water into the stomach upon arising is directly stimulating to the nerves found within the stomach lining. Not only is the activity of the stomach muscles incited, but, as a reflex reaction, the body, seeking to distribute this cool fluid over a greater area so as to moderate sudden stimulation, will rapidly expel it into the small intestine, thus effecting a cleansing of the stomach.

Also, in reaction to the perception of coolness, the body rushes warming blood to the stomach’s mucosal lining, which then becomes suffused with blood, resulting in dilation of its pores. Similar to stimulating perspiration in order to achieve a thorough cleansing of the skin and its blood supply, the drawing of blood to the stomach’s mucous membrane (and the subsequent dilation of its pores) affords increased opportunity for sanitizing the stomach of the food residues and microorganisms that encourage gastrointestinal derangement and the development of disease.

Post Meal Water-Drinking

Post meal water-drinking is very helpful in ameliorating the refluxing of acid from the stomach into the esophagus. In this reference, 8 oz. of pure, room temperature water is imbibed approximately 40 to 45 minutes after the completion of the meal.

The timing of this is important because one should only take sips of water (if necessary) during the meal. Excessive water-drinking during a meal will dilute the stomach’s acid secretion, negatively impacting the digestive process.

Within the context of this discussion of chronic acid reflux, avoiding dilution of stomach acids seems counter-intuitive. However, as discussed in Part 1, contrary to the popular misconception that GERD is the result of an excessive production of stomach acid, in most cases it is actually related to low stomach acid production. Many cases of GERD respond very well to supplementation with betaine hydrochloride (hydrochloric acid) with pepsin (the protein-digesting enzyme produced in the stomach) and/or raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar.

Part 3 will discuss acid supplementation in detail, which is to be presented in the next issue of Nature’s Therapies Journal.

Hypochlorhydria is the term for low stomach production of hydrochloric acid. Gastric (i.e., stomach) acidity is required not only for the digestion of proteins but also for the absorption of B12, calcium, magnesium, iron and other essential minerals.

The typical American junk food/processed food diet is abnormally high in protein and low in high-water content, alkalizing fruits and vegetables. High protein-content flesh foods are powerful stressors to the acid-producing cells of the stomach, because pepsin (the protein-splitting enzyme secreted by the stomach) is most active in a strongly acidic environment. Each time a high-protein flesh food meal is consumed, said cells are challenged to elevate their efforts beyond the range of normal function. The concept of hyperfunction (i.e., excessive function) leading to hypofunction (i.e., deficient function) is one of the most crucial insights for understanding the true nature of health and disease.

Forty percent of those people over 40 years old and 50% of those over 60 (according to studies performed by the Mayo Clinic and Johns Hopkins University) produce too little stomach acid. Complete loss of ability to make stomach acid: achlorhydria occurs in 30% of people over 65 years-of-age primarily as a result of atrophic gastritis: chronic stomach inflammation with atrophy of its mucous lining and secreting glands. This is the legacy of many years of generalized overeating, improper food combining and heavy indulgence in flesh foods, which helps to explain the common incidence of B12 deficiency among elderly non-vegetarians. Studies have shown that the majority of people 80 years or older have abnormalities related to low B12-levels. A significant portion of the memory loss and neuro-psychiatric disorders common among the elderly may be so related.

Low gastric acidity encourages longer residency of protein foods in the stomach; hence, a protracted acid secretion. Though the concentration of stomach acid may be reduced, the extended period of time that the stomach is exposed to an acid challenge (even a relatively dilute one) not only encourages acid reflux, it also predisposes the stomach lining to organic changes consistent with ulcer formation.

Therefore, it is best to limit water-drinking during meals to small sips of water as needed to avoid inhibiting the digestive action of stomach acid. Thus, the suggested 8 oz. of pure, room temperature water is taken 40-to-45-minutes after the meal, at which time the strongest secretion of stomach acid has already occurred. In general, 30% of the total gastric acid secretion is stimulated prior to eating by the smell of the cooking food and the anticipation of eating it, while 60% of the acid is secreted in response to the presence of the ingested food mass in the stomach. The remaining 10% of acid secretion (stimulated by distention of the duodenum: the part of the small intestine adjacent to the stomach) occurs when the semi-digested food mass begins to leave the stomach and enter the small intestine.

The drinking of 8 oz. of water 40-to-45-minutes after eating serves two important purposes. First, it acts as a counterweight that exerts a desired downward push on the stomach contents. After all, when there is a tendency toward gastroesophageal reflux, there is an abnormal propensity for stomach acids and gases to move back, upward toward the mouth, instead of downward toward the intestines. I will provide more detail about this below when I discuss deficient chi and counterflow chi. Secondly, the water will help clear food debris from the lower esophageal sphincter, helping it to close with a tighter seal and thus discouraging the backflow of acids and gases into the esophagus.

Cool Sitz-Bath

The sitz-bath, also known as “the sitting bath,” is one of the mainstays of traditional naturopathic hydrotherapy. The famous 19th century parish priest Sebastian Kneipp, who healed thousands of sick people primarily through the offices of hydrotherapy, writes in My Water Cure that the cool sitz-bath was among: “… the most important and efficacious applications for the bowels. [It] evacuates the gases, helps weak digestion, regulates the circulation of the blood and strengthens [the system].”

The cool sitz-bath was the central hydrotherapy in the healing protocol of Louis Kuhne, a leading 19th century German naturopath, because he felt that it diminished “morbid internal heat.”

Kuhne taught that when the overburdened stomach and intestines lose vitality, after years of striving to accommodate the difficult burden thrown upon them on a daily basis, they become the venue of extensive fermentation, which, in turn, gives rise to the production of heat, gases and inflammation that serve to obstruct the passage of decomposing matter. In response to this heat congestion, the body subsequently diverts the accumulating waste products into other vital tissues such as the lungs, liver and blood vessels. In The New Science Of Healing, Kuhne writes: “Fermentation begins in the abdomen, where most of the foreign matter lies, but rapidly spreads upward.”

The cool sitz-bath not only reduces this abnormal heat in the digestive organs, but also encourages the expulsion of gases and the elimination of waste. Kuhne remarks: “Our aim must therefore be to bring about the expulsion of the [fermenting] matter. For this purpose I have introduced the [cool] sitz-bath, by the aid of which the system is excited to expel the morbid matter from the body.”

By reducing abnormal heat and the load of decaying waste matter from the gastrointestinal tract, the stomach is afforded the opportunity to heal and restore its normal function.

Instructions for Taking Cool Sitz-Bath

1) The bathroom should be comfortably warm. Add sufficient cold water (also, add some warm water if necessary regarding temperature tolerance) to bathtub so that when seated in the tub, the water level reaches to about 2-inches below the navel. Water temperature generally ranges between 55o F. to 75o F. (13o C. to 24o C.) in accordance with personal tolerance. Over weeks or months, as vigor and tolerance increases, one might wish to use progressively cooler water until only cold water, untempered by the addition of warm water, is added to the tub.

2) Step into tub (with non-slip mat in place); sit down. Turn sideways so that legs straddle side of tub with lower legs and feet outside the tub. Rest the feet comfortably on a low stool, overturned bucket, etc. which has been placed next to the tub. Throughout the bath, only the buttocks, pelvis, lower abdomen and lower back are submerged. The rest of the body is kept out of the water. In fact, chilly individuals may wish to wear a warm top during the bath.

Note: There is a second way of seating yourself in the Cool Sitz-Bath that may prove more comfortable for some people, especially those who are shorter. Place a plastic baby-bathtub and a washbasin in the regular tub. Fill the former with cold water and the latter with comfortably hot water. Then, sit down in the baby-bathtub and keep the feet warm in the washbasin.

Important: Cool Sitz-Bath should be kept to a short duration, between 2 to 5 minutesďż˝less, if necessary.

3) Once seated in the tub, use hand to cup cold water from tub and begin vigorously rubbing the abdomen in clockwise circles (from right to left). First, rub the abdomen for 10-to-15-seconds, then rest for 5-seconds. Continue this pattern of rubbing and resting throughout the entire course of the bath (no longer than 2 to 5 minutes, less if necessary).

4) After stepping out of the tub, do not dry. Instead, while still wet (after blotting excess water), put on cotton underwear, a pajama top or sweatshirt and warm pants such as thermal underwear, and immediately return to bed and cover up. If there is a “cold feet” tendency, keep feet on a hot water bottle during this re-warming phase. Fill the hot water bottle with comfortably warm water and place it beneath the covers before entering the tub, so you can begin warming-up immediately after completing the cool sitz-bath.

Remain covered for however long it takes for blood to fully rewarm the abdomen, pelvis, lower back and buttocks. During the warm summer months, or if you reside in a warm climate, you might opt for following this sitz-bath with vigorous outdoor exercise until fully rewarmed. Exercising in a warm, sunny spot is the most natural means of assisting reaction. Never take a cool sitz-bath without following it with a re-warming session. All cool water therapies must be followed by a full warming reaction or they will actually be counterproductive.

Clearly, the cool sitz-bath will require some creative scheduling if taken during the work-week. In this regard, the bath could be taken in the early morning before the usual daily schedule begins. Following the sitz-bath, allow for enough time to rewarm and still be on schedule.

As noted above, the cool sitz-bath generally continues for 2- to 5-minutes. Duration will vary with the season of the year and the relative vitality of the bather. The frequency of the cool sitz-bath can vary from as much as once daily to once or twice per week, depending upon the time of year and one’s present condition.

Enervation and Deficient Chi and GERD

One of the primary factors in the development of GERD is enervation. Enervation can be defined as a state of deficient vital energy that occurs when it is expended in excess of the body’s normal production and falls below requirements for efficient operation. Enervation is primarily due to depleting lifestyle habits, including poor diet, sedentary behavior, lack of rest and sleep, continual emotional stress, insufficient exposure to fresh air and sunlight and the habitual use of stimulants such as caffeine and alcohol.

To a certain extent, the traditional naturopathic concept of enervation correlates with the Chinese medicine concept of deficient chi (also spelled qi). “Aliveness” derives from the presence of high-vibratory, vital energy within an organism. This energy, or natural force, which fills the universe, is referred to in traditional naturopathy and homeopathy as vital force, and in Chinese medicine as chi. Hence, relative to my skin-brushing system (see discussion below), I have coined the term vital chi.

Chi is the fundamental energy that sustains life and is present in the vibratory, biological processes of every cell. It is not synonymous with the metabolically generated energy derived from the oxidation of glucose. Rather, it is the force that animates the metabolic processes that ultimately yield caloric energy.

Vital force differentiates life from death; it circulates through channels, or meridians, throughout the body. Being an essential matrix for the chi channels, the skin is a crucial medium for chi movement. The places at which the various channels and vessels reach the skin’s surface are the “acupoints” used in acupuncture and acupressure. Aside from the chi which courses through the channels, a superficial portion of chi (which the Chinese refer to as wei chi or guardian chi) flows outside the channels in a non-differentiated layer beneath the skin. The wei chi serves as a defensive perimeter protecting against environmental influences such as varying weather conditions, pathogenic microorganisms, pollutants, emotional stresses derived from human interaction and other external challenges.

When chi is deficient within the body, all the organs, including the stomach, cannot function at optimal levels. Within the context of the concept of yin and yang, yang represents the kinetic function of a given organ. Accordingly, if that organ is functioning below par, it is considered to be yang deficient. The concepts of Chinese medicine can be quite complex for the uninitiated and clearly differentiating between chi and yang is beyond the scope of this discussion. Suffice to say that chi deficiency and yang deficiency are closely related.

The yin of an organ represents its actual cellular substance and tissue structure. When an organ’s yin is deficient, there is some degree of negative organic change to that organ. When chi is deficient, yang is weakened and, in turn, persistent yang weakness ultimately weakens yin resulting in physical deterioration. Thus, it is important to address chi deficiency so that it does not perpetuate the weaknesses of yin and yang, which impact the stomach and other organs at a very deep level. Weakness of the lower esophageal sphincter, the diaphragm and the stomach are all suggestive of deficient chi. Sluggish digestion and chronic inflammation (and perhaps) ulceration of the stomach and esophageal lining are clearly associated with both deficient yang and deficient yin.

Vital Chi Skin-Brushing: the Tonification of Vital Force or Chi

One of the best ways to strengthen the flow of vital force and reconstitute its reserves is through the regular practice of Vital Chi Skin-Brushing.

Vital Chi Skin-Brushing can sustain or reestablish the skin’s functional integrity and youthful glow. The skin is as major an organ as the heart, lungs and kidneys. Its primary functions include: respiration, excretion, blood and lymph circulation, immunity and the conduction of vital chi. However, unlike other vital organs, the skin can be non-invasively accessed and mediate systemic rejuvenation by a variety of therapeutic techniques, including proper skin-brushing.

Vital Chi Skin-Brushing is a particularly powerful therapy that strengthens the bioenergy system and can positively impact the entire body including the stomach. I designed this system of skin-brushing to support normal peristaltic motion and drainage of the lymphatics that serve the digestive organs.

Variations of skin-brushing have been practiced for thousands of years. For many centuries, the Japanese employed vigorous skin-brushing with loofa sponges as a prelude to their traditional hot bath. Prior to bathing (following a hard training session or physical competition) ancient Greek athletes used strigilesspecialized spoon-like skin scrapers to remove the grime of exertion and encourage circulation. Among the Cherokee Indians, skin-brushing with dried corn cobs to enhance skin beauty and durability was once a traditional practice. The Comanche Indians scrubbed their skin using sand from the Texas river bottoms; the Texas Rangers followed their example.

Adolph Just in his Nature-Cure classic Back To Nature tells that he learned the importance of skin-rubbing by observing wild animals: “Higher land animals, especially wild boars and deer, in free nature, are in the habit of lying down in small muddy swamps and pools and rubbing to and fro in the mud. After awhile they rub themselves against the earth, trees and other objects. The birds go to brooks or springs, and, by immersing their necks, throw water over their bodies…then they rub or scrub the body using their head, bill and wing elbows.”

Unimpeded vital force or chi flow is essential to the prevention and cure of disease. Since the vital chi meridians course through the skin, they are readily accessible to the ministrations of skin-brushing. When these channels are properly brushed, the movement of vital energy along their length is stimulated and the delivery of vital chi to their associated organs greatly improved. Vital Chi Skin-Brushing can also exert a profound influence upon the wei chi: the undifferentiated layer of chi which hovers near the skin’s surface.

For information regarding my Vital Chi Skin-Brushing book and Video:

The Alternate Warm and Cool Shower

It has been my experience that the integration of my Vital Chi Skin-Brushing System with strategic hydrotherapies and essential oil selections creates powerful healing synergy for both body and soul. The Alternate Warm and Cool Shower forms a particularly powerful synergy with my Vital Chi Skin-Brushing.

While this shower therapy has been used to treat specific health conditions, it has also served well as a general health-maintenance procedure via the invigoration of blood circulation, lymphatic drainage, immune and endocrine functions and the flow of chi throughout the body. Of all the various hydrotherapies, this “unequal periods” Alternate Warm and Cool Shower (with greater emphasis on the former) is one I have suggested most commonly as an overall tonic treatment. The Alternate Warm and Cool Shower (preceded by the Vital Chi Skin-Brushing routine) employed three to four times weekly can be wonderfully restorative.

Warm and cool water can be used in alternation to prolong the initial tonic-stimulant effect of warm water. The heat (e.g., a warm shower) is applied first for 2- to 3-minutes; then, instantly, before the sedative reaction of prolonged heat can take place, a 15- to 20-seconds short, cool as tolerated, treatment (shower, in this case) is taken. Next, a second heat-application is used, and the body responds with new vigor to the tonic-stimulant effect of the warm water. This is referred to as contrast treatment during which the heat magnifies the stimulating effect of the cold, and vice versa, providing a powerful gymnastics workout for the blood and lymph systems.

In general, two to three alternations between warm and cool water are used. The first contrast cycle is always the most intense. The following ones are less so since the body’s ability to react progressively declines. Excess (more than three) warm and cool alternations are depleting, which defeats the treatment’s purpose.

Remember, that the greater the temperature differences between warm and cool applications, the greater the effect. For maximum benefit, the contrast between the two temperature extremes should be to the limits of comfortable tolerance. Always finish a contrast treatment with cold to ensure that the desired warming reaction takes place.

Note: “Warm” and “cool” are relative terms, meaning that each person must use good sense in deciding a comfortable tolerance level regarding temperatures. One should not be heroic and overtax the system. Be conscious of your relative state of vitality on a given day and adjust the temperature of the water and duration of each shower phase accordingly.


  1. First, perform the Vital Chi Skin-Brushing System routine
  2. In a pre-warmed bathroom, begin with a 2- to 3-minute warm shower. The water should be comfortably warm. Be judicious in this reference.
  3. Follow with a cool shower of 15- to 20-seconds duration. The water should be cool to a comfortable tolerance. Hand-rub your skin throughout this cool-water segment of shower.
  4. Repeat this cycle of warm and cool water one more time.
  5. Then dry by performing a vigorous towel-rub by a private, open window (weather permitting).


After your Alternate Warm/Cool Shower, you might perform a powerfully synergistic essential oil rub-down while the skin is still moist using one of my essential oil blends. My blends are all highly sophisticated formulations that are handmade and built in layers using only the finest quality pure essential oils.

Follow-Up Lemon Juice/Essential Oil Rub: Squeeze the juice of half a lemon (preferably organically grown) into a small cup. Add to the juice, 3- to 5-drops of one of my AromAnita Essential Oil Blends ( you can also use: ImmunEssence, Fragrant Chi, Fragrant Mountain Air or PrimaDerma. Next, stir with your finger. Then, using your bare hands, rub the mixture into the moist skin until completely absorbed.

The Importance of Chi Tonics

Traditionally, herbal chi tonics have been used to help resolve a chi (vital force or life force) deficiency. The Chinese consider the natural world to be permeated by chi and that human beings uptake this life force required for ongoing existence via the processes of digestion and respiration. Thus, chi tonics place emphasis upon the strengthening of the stomach, pancreas and lungs in order to facilitate greater absorption of chi from food and air.

According to Chinese medicine, the spleen is the most important organ regarding the uptake of chi. The Chinese viewed the pancreas as being part of the spleen and so some western practitioners of Chinese medicine prefer the term “spleen-pancreas” to spleen. In Chinese medicine, the spleen-pancreas is seen not only as playing a major role in the extraction and absorption of chi from ingested food but also from the air, once it has been taken into the body by the lungs.

Chi deficiency almost invariably follows from weakness of the spleen-pancreas. When the spleen-pancreas itself is chi deficient it is unable to resist the invasive influence of the liver. So from the perspective of the Chinese model, the liver energy moves beyond its natural parameters and invades the spleen-pancreas and the stomach (the spleen-pancreas and stomach are considered to be respectively the yin and yang organs of the Earth element).

GERD is considered to be the result of “liver invading spleen” and symptoms such as acid reflux, dyspepsia and biliousness are a direct result of rebellious liver energy entering the stomach and causing havoc. Thus traditional chi tonics contain a variety of herbs, which not only invigorate the body’s life force in general but also spleen chi in particular.

Since 1986 I have been formulating highly sophisticated nutritional and herbal supplements for a cutting edge company called Nature’s Design. Understanding that chi or vital force deficiency has reached epidemic proportions within the 21st century multi-tasking, stressed out population, I formulated a powerful vital force tonic that is a proprietary blend of Chinese and western herbs.

The formula, called Vital Power, is designed to strengthen and balance the body’s bioenergy system, help maintain energy levels and equilibrium and nourish essential functions including digestion. It is a foundational formula for deeply ingrained fatigue, lack of stamina, digestive weakness, circulatory weakness and nerve weakness.

Vital Power can prove of good service when there is digestive weakness and counterflow chi. The term “counterflow chi” refers to vital force that is behaving recklessly and whose movement is at odds with its natural meridian flow. This is often the product of chi deficiency in general and of spleen chi in particular.

As regards GERD, counterflow chi, propelled in part by “liver invading spleen,” manifests as upward movement of stomach acid and gases as opposed to its normal downward movement. Vital Power, via the tonification of the body’s chi in general and spleen-pancreas and stomach chi in particular, helps reverse counterflow chi.

It took me two years to formulate Vital Power, as I created 4 versions, experimented with each and after various revisions finalized the formula. I began by researching ancient Chinese medicine formulas and then proceeded to develop a unique blend of Chinese and western herbs that I tailored to the needs of 21st century individuals.

Vital Power contains: Astragalus root, American ginseng root, Chinese licorice root, ginger root, tang kwei, sweet orange peel, red jujube dates, codonopsis, rhodiola root, rehmannia root, gentian root, ho shou wu, cayenne

Suggested use: 2 capsules once to twice daily with breakfast and lunch.

For pricing information and/or to purchase Vital Power, click on the following link:

Vital Power

If you missed Part 1, please read Chronic Acid Reflux and the Decline and Fall of the Modern Stomach: Part 1

Part 3 of this 3 part series on stomach weakness and GERD will be published next month. It will focus on specific dietary measures including the high water content/high alkaline reserve diet, apples, apple cider vinegar, herbal tea and Digestive Wellness capsules.

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Interested in Joining Dr. Berkowsky's Student and Practitioner Group?

Join the membership program to have access to guidance, lectures and workshops and more by Dr. Berkowsky on the theory and practice of the Natural Health Science System (NHSS) and Spiritual PhytoEssencing (SPE).

NHSS will include instruction in healthful natural diet and cooking, strategic nutritional supplementation, Vital Chi Skin-Brushing, naturopathic hydrotherapies, herbal medicine, cell salts, homeopathy, acupoint therapy, chi kung (Qi Gong) exercise (chi kung is actually apart of both the NHSS and SPE) and much more.

SPE will include the in-depth study of specific essential oils and gemstone essences, guided blending exercises, case-study analysis work, the basics of blend formulation, interactive cosmic light projections, and more.

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Soothing the Abdominal Brain with Synergy of Blue Chamomile Essential Oil, Labradorite Gemstone Essence and Blue Light Therapy

Disturbances of the abdominal brain require a broad spectrum therapeutic response featuring dietary change, nutrient supplementation, exercises, breathing exercises, hydrotherapy, therapeutic sunbathing, improved rest and sleep habits, etc. The protocol presented in this article is being offered as an example of adjunctive measures that may prove of good service when implemented in concert with the more fundamental elements such as said dietary changes and breathing exercises, etc. .


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