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Gut Check: Top 10 Natural Recommendations for Heartburn

 

Do you experience bloating or gas? How about frequent belching, upchucking or bad breath after eating? You should consider dyspepsia or heartburn to be the cause.

Common Causes of Heartburn

  • Caffeine (sodas, tea, coffee, Monster drinks),
  • Nicotine (all forms),
  • Chocolate
  • Alcohol
  • Fried /greasy foods
  • Medications (NSAIDS (Advil/Aleve/Motrin), Bisphosphonates (fosamax)
  • Hiatal hernia (slippage of lower esophagus into chest cavity)
  • Stress (stress lowers gastric mucus lining, raises gastric acid production)
  • Processed sugar
  • Fast food
  • Dysbiosis (unbalanced types and quantities of intestinal bacteria)
  • Antacid usage
  • Artificial sweeteners

Traditional Medications for Heartburn

  • Antacids (Pepto, Maalox, Mylanta, Rolaids, Tums)
  • H2 Blockers (Pepcid, Zantac)
  • PPI’s (Proton Pump inhibitors – Prilosec, Protonix, Nexium, Dexilant)

These medicines treat heartburn symptoms but can make the problem worse over time.   Moreover, these medications inhibit proper digestion and lowering the stomach acidity.

A common teaching in traditional medicine is that we must “LOWER ACID.” This suggests that our body makes so much acid that we need medication to keep us in balance.

Certainly, conditions exist like tumors and stomach cells that produce high acid secretion.  However, these conditions are rare causes of heartburn.

Another explanation fits with my clinical experience explains the more common heartburn people experience most often.

Many herbalist, nutritionists, chiropractors and medical doctors understand that acidity can also come from the food we eat. FOr instance, take an example of eating a large fast-food meal, loaded with breading, trans-fats, french-fries and condiments (loaded with artificial sweeteners and high fructose corn syrup), all washed down with a huge biggie soda.

Some may decide to take a Tums to avoid “heartburn” – just in case.

In the alternative approach, one understands that lower stomach acidity weakens digestion. Low stomach acidity means that the meal will not break down and pass to the lower intestines as quickly. In addition, the food incompletely digests and putrefies, leading to excess gas, bloating and various types of byproduct acid production.

Taking an antacid further degrades digestion and slows the natural trigger (strong acid/low pH) for the stomach to empty into the small bowel.

What happens then?

Many people experience nausea, indigestion, heartburn, bloating, belching and a host of unpleasant digestive problems.

What you don’t see is that food is incompletely broken down for absorption in the lower intestines.  Food particles are more coarse and less digested.  Normal digestive enzymes and healthy gut bacteria have more difficulty digesting food properly.

Worse yet, unhelpful (bad) bacterial colonies work on partially-digested food give off harmful byproducts in great excess. This means passing gas, cramping, diarrhea, constipation, leaky gut syndrome and colon inflammation.

So what happens if the above cycle continues for 20 years or more?

Poor digestion over years leads to vitamin, mineral and essential fat lead to chronic medical conditions.  These conditions include gastritis, esophagitis, cancer, IBS, heart disease and osteoporosis.

Top 10 Natural Recommendations for Heartburn

These ideas will cure or improve many common forms of heartburn.

  1. Stop Dairy Products(includes milk, cheese, cottage cheese, etc.)**
  2. Eliminate Wheat (cereals, breads, pasta, crackers, etc.)**
  3. Stop all alcohol (beer, wine, liquor)**
  4. Cut caffeine, stimulant drinks, and high fructose corn syrup**
  5. Avoid fast foods and prepackaged foods as much as possible
  6. Consider starting a probiotic: Acidophilus 4×6 Billion (1-2 twice day) and a digestive enzyme like Super Enzyme (1-2 per meal)
  7. Stress reduction: (Top 10 recommendations)
  8. Seek Work-up if not already performed and if symptoms persist to include: CBC, CMP, TSH, ESR, Stool Blood test, upper GI series, ALCAT testing and colonoscopy.
  9. Consider medication or medication interactions as a cause of symptoms. High offenders are listed above. (Take time off potential offending medications – with your doctor’s supervision)
  10. Don’t eat within 3 hours of lying down. Eat smaller meals.

**Eliminate for a minimum 2-3 weeks to gauge basic effectiveness. Some of the eliminations may require permanent removal from the diet. You will simply need to avoid them for best health.

This list is not exhaustive, but the point is to start somewhere and stay consistent.

My best outcomes with heartburn relief have come from food eliminations, digestive enzymes, probiotics and a combination of stress-reduction techniques.

I encourage feedback on this important and common problem. I welcome comments, questions, and stories of success or failure!

Image credit: David Hitt

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Ginette Asselin February 19, 2016, 10:57 am

    I’ve been on PPI’s for many years. I’ve been diagnosed with a huge hiatal hernia. I’ve taken myself off the PPIs and felt I was going to die. Took apple cider vinegar and ate red delicious apples which helped but short lived. is there any way I can get off PPIs for good?

    • William Curtis February 19, 2016, 1:18 pm

      Ginette, thanks for the great question. If you have a large “mechanical” abnormality like hiatal hernia, you may require surgical repair prior to full resolution.

      If you have followed the recommendations in the post and still have an ongoing issue, the large hernia may be your culprit.

      In that case, discussing this condition with a quality surgeon might make sense. Really try the top 10 steps listed here however…these steps usually work.

      PPI’ drugs are associated with osteoporosis, dementia, kidney failure, and a variety of vitamin/mineral triggered ailments….it’s important avoid using them chronically.

      Hope that helps!

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