Chronic stress, as will be seen in a collapse scenario, can manifest itself in ways that are both emotional and physical. One of the physical effects is increased stomach acid levels. Excessive acid can cause an inflammation of the esophagus (the tube that goes from the throat to the stomach), the stomach itself and/or the next part of the bowel, called the duodenum. The irritated lining becomes weak and forms an erosion. This erosion is called an “ulcer” and can cause bleeding or even perforate the lining.
Symptoms of an Ulcer
The major symptom of an ulcer is a burning or gnawing discomfort in the stomach area. This pain is often described as heartburn, indigestion or hunger pangs. It usually occurs in the left upper abdomen or may travel up to the breastbone. The discomfort that goes along with this problem is hard to ignore and will decrease work efficiency. Therefore, diagnosis and treatment are important to get your group member back to normal.
There are many causes of pain in the chest and stomach areas. Chest pain caused by coronary heart disease (“angina”) is just one of the possibilities. To make the diagnosis of ulcer or acid reflux disease, the timing of the discomfort is important. Ulcer and acid reflux discomfort occurs after eating but is sometimes seen several hours afterward. It can be differentiated from other causes of chest pain in another way: it gets better by drinking milk or taking antacids. As you can imagine, this wouldn’t do much for angina.
Many ulcers and lining inflammation are caused by a bacterium known as Helicobacter pylori. H. pylori may be transmitted from person to person through contaminated food and water, so proper water filtration and sterilization will decrease the likelihood of this infection. Antibiotics such as Amoxicillin and Metronidazole in combination are the most effective treatment for Helicobacter pylori ulcers. Other causes include the use of Ibuprofen and Aspirin, which can be an irritant to the stomach in some people. Avoidance of these drugs will prevent these ulcers. Smoking and alcohol abuse are also known causes.
Acid Reflux Disease
Acid reflux disease is caused by acid traveling up the esophagus. This is sometimes caused by a relaxation at the stomach-esophagus border, or by an out pouching of the area called a Hiatal Hernia. The primary symptom is heartburn, but severe disease can cause chest pain. It is usually relieved by antacids or by sleeping with the upper body raised. The patient may benefit from avoiding certain foods. These commonly include acidic fruit such as oranges, fatty foods, coffee, tea, onions, peppermint, and chocolate. Eating smaller meals and avoiding acidic foods before bedtime is a good strategy to prevent reflux. Obese individuals seem to suffer more from this problem, so weight loss might be helpful.
Medications that commonly relieve acid reflux include antacids such as Maalox, Mylanta or Pepto-Bismol, as well as Ranitidine (Zantac), Cimetidine (Tagamet), and Omeprazole (Prilosec). These medications are available in non-prescription strength and are easy to accumulate in quantity.
Home remedies abound for acid reflux:
Organic apple cider vinegar: Mix one tablespoon in four ounces of water, drink before each meal.
Aloe Vera Juice: Mix one ounce in two ounces of water before a meal.
Baking soda: Mix one tablespoon in a glass of water and drink right away when you begin to feel heartburn
Glutamine: An amino acid that has an anti-inflammatory effect and reduces acid reflux. It can be found in milk and eggs.
It’s important to remember to communicate with your patients. Many preppers are rugged individualists and are unlikely to tell the medic about something they consider trivial, like heartburn.
If you see someone that is clearly in pain, losing efficiency, or unable to sleep, make sure you talk with them and find out the reason. It could be something you just might be able to help them with!