What is Heartburn?
There are many types of heartburn, but most commonly the acid burning feeling is part of a condition known as GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease). This is caused by stomach acid building up in the stomach and refluxing or moving up into the esophagus, irritating the esophageal lining. This can cause burning, an acid taste in the mouth, coughing, wheezing, hoarseness, ulcers, cancer and/or pain.
GERD is a chronic problem. When it happens over time, the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) which separates the stomach from the esophagus fails and acid is allowed to reflux up into and irritate the delicate tissue lining the esophagus.
On the contrary and interestingly, a very large percentage of heartburn symptoms are not caused by too much acid, but too little! That’s right; heartburn can be caused by not enough acid production in the stomach.
How do you know which kind you have? Try this home test:
Too Much Acid
Mix 1/4 tsp of baking soda in a cup of water and drink during acid symptoms. If the burning is caused by too much acid, the baking soda – which is extremely alkaline – will buffer the acids and relieve the pain.
Too Little Acid
Mix 1 tbsp of lemon juice with 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar and drink this during acid symptoms. This will increase acid and reduce the burning if this is due to too little acid.
What if it Burns Right Away?
If the stomach lining burns right away after eating acidic or spicy foods, this is usually due to too little acid. When the stomach begins to turn off the production of stomach acid it is typically due to a long standing issue of excess acid, too little bile and/or pancreatic enzymes to buffer it, and chronic irritation of the stomach lining. When the stomach begins to turn off the production of stomach acid, the stomach lining becomes very sensitive to almost any foods but even worse with acid foods.
Insufficient Bile Flow
If the heartburn is caused by insufficient bile flow from the liver or gallbladder, the heartburn usually kicks in at night, or 30-60 minutes after a meal. This happens because it takes some time for the stomach acid to build up and/or spill small amounts of acid into a small intestine that has produced inadequate amounts of bile to buffer it.
Ready for GERD Solutions?
Nutrition Diet plays an important role in the prevention and treatment of GERD. To minimize discomfort from GERD, follow a low-fat diet comprised mainly of whole foods such as fresh vegetables and grains. Eat small, frequent meals throughout the day and stop eating before you get too full. Avoid eating 2-3 hours before bedtime.
Foods that can trigger GERD:
Fatty or fried foods, dairy, coffee, tea, alcohol, spicy foods, pizza, oranges and other citrus fruits, tomatoes, onions, carbonated beverages, chocolate and mint.
Foods that help prevent GERD:
Leafy greens, melons, bananas, oatmeal, tofu, fennel, parsley, and rice, Beets, radishes, cinnamon (small amounts, 1/8 tsp), fenugreek (add to food or as a tea), fennel (add to food or as a tea), chia seeds,
Herbs that help: (consult with your healthcare provider before consuming)
Turmeric – Support healthy bile and pancreatic enzyme flow
Amalaki – Support healthy bile and pancreatic enzyme flow
Slippery elm – Demulcent and healing for acid irritation
Marshmallow Root – Demulcent and healing for acid irritation
Licorice Root – Demulcent and healing for acid irritation
Avipattikar Churna – Classic Ayurvedic formula for heartburn
Shilajit – De-obstructing for bile and pancreatic ducts
Take quality probiotics and digestive enzymes supplements to aid your digestion regularly. If you are experiencing acute symptoms, take double dosage. Sonali recommends Emerald Laboratories brand. Probiotics and enzymes will assist with breakdown of foods and therefore supporting better digestion.
Both alcohol and caffeinated beverages can increase acid production in the stomach. If you suffer from chronic GERD, you may want to cut out these beverages all together.
Drink plenty of water – at least 6-8 cups a day – to help neutralize and rinse out stomach acid that has refluxed into the esophagus.
Chronic stress will trigger the release of excess cortisol, a stress hormone, which stimulates the release of excess stomach acid. So, relax and make life more playful and less stressful.
You need to raise your head higher than your stomach by about 6 inches, if you experience symptoms of GERD during sleeping hours. Use wood/ cement blocks under the feet of the bed, or by inserting a wedge between the mattress and the box spring. Just adding more pillows will not be enough. It may be awkward sleeping this way at first, but it will help keep stomach acid from rising.
Research shows that the more excess weight you carry, the more likely you are to suffer from GERD. Belly fat, also known as omentum fat, puts pressure on the stomach, causing fluids to rise up. If you are overweight, losing even 5-10 pounds can reduce your chance of developing GERD.
Don’t Ignore GERD If GERD persists, despite lifestyle changes and the use of OTC meds, see your doctor who may refer you to a gastroenterologist. Left untreated, GERD can develop into serious health problems, including esophagitis, esophageal bleeding, Barrett's esophagus and an increased risk of esophageal cancer.
1. National Digestive Disease Information Clearinghouse Survey
2. International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders Survey
3. Jones, K. K., March 1931, A Comparison of the Buffer Value of Bile and Pancreatic Juice Secreted Simultaneously. Retrieved on January 29, 2013. http://ebm.rsmjournals.com/content/28/6/567.extract
4. Oz, Mehmet, March 27, 2013, Say Goodbye to GERD. Retrieved on March 27, 2013. http://www.doctoroz.com/slideshow/say-goodbye-gerd#