I know that many of our readers enjoy case vignettes, especially when they employ a homeopathic remedy. This is a case which beautifully demonstrates the dynamic employment of a homeopathic remedy, for a specific acute condition: Arsenicum album.
Complaints of Heartburn and Acid Reflux
A 50 year old woman presents to our clinic with complaints of heartburn and acid reflux at night. Her primary concern is a tickling cough which comes on a couple of times throughout the day, however is a lot worse at night when she lies down, and is responsible for a significant lack of sleep. She has had the symptoms for about 2 weeks, ever since she’d begun a yoga routine emphasizing numerous inverted poses. She is a long-standing health enthusiast, who eats a very clean diet almost completely void of processed foods and sugar, exercises regularly, and normally sleeps well. She is a professional musician, and has some stress in her life, but seems to manage it well. She is very anxious about this acid reflux, which she thinks is being caused by a hiatal hernia. She has begun taking omeprazole, an acid blocker, but it has not stopped the coughing, which is very concerning to her. She is anxious that there is something else going on, or that the acid is “seeping” out of her stomach.
At the first visit, we confirmed the likeliness of a hiatal hernia based on patient history, with chapman points and muscle testing, and performed a visceral manipulation which is meant to reposition the stomach below the diaphragm. This is a very simple maneuver that takes about 5 minutes to perform, and is typically non-painful. The results are usually instant, however additional maneuvers such as diaphragmatic release, and spinal manipulation are often performed to ensure that the hiatal hernia manipulation “holds.” We also recommended she discontinue the omeprazole, explaining that the stomach acid would actually help relieve the reflux by tightening the esophageal sphincter – a counterintuitive piece of physiology, but very effective. To help with increasing stomach acid, we recommended apple cider vinegar before each meal.
One Week Later
In one week, she returned reporting an 85% improvement of her symptoms. She was able to sleep throughout the night, and was not coughing at all. However, she still had not discontinued the omeprazole, because she was concerned that the acid was still seeping out of her stomach, because she could feel a warmth in the center of her chest. It was not painful, but noticeable. We had talked extensively about the acid in the stomach being beneficial to stopping the reflux at the visit before, and did so again here. We also used pictures to show her that the stomach acid was contained within the stomach, and was not leaking out into the rest of her body.
Anxiety About Health
It was very apparent within 3 minutes of this second visit that acid reflux was no longer the primary issue. Anxiety about health was keeping this woman, who is extremely healthy, with no other risk factors or symptoms indicating any other underlying condition, from discontinuing a drug that is toxic, the effects of which were actually perpetuating her complaints. We prescribed her Arsenicum album 12c to take on a daily basis while she weaned off of her omeprazole.
Arsenicum is a homeopathic remedy that is well noted for its anxious presentation. Anxiety about health is often a primary presenting sign that Arsenicum is needed. In addition to this, burning features, and coldness are noted in Arsenicum, both of which our patient presented. These were the 3 clinical symptoms that we used to prescribe Arsenicum, and in 3 days our patient called with a full resolution of all symptoms, and had fully discontinued the omeprazole.
Node Smith, associate editor for NDNR, is a fifth year naturopathic medical student at NUNM, where he has been instrumental in maintaining a firm connection to the philosophy and heritage of naturopathic medicine amongst the next generation of docs. He helped found the first multi-generational experiential retreat, which brings elders, alumni, and students together for a weekend campout where naturopathic medicine and medical philosophy are experienced in nature. Three years ago he helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic ReVitalization (ANR), for which he serves as the board chairman. ANR has a mission to inspire health practitioners to embody the naturopathic principles through experiential education. Node also has a firm belief that the next era of naturopathic medicine will see a resurgence of in-patient facilities which use fasting, earthing, hydrotherapy and homeopathy to bring people back from chronic diseases of modern living; he is involved in numerous conversations and projects to bring about this vision.