Beat the burn - Tips to relieve reflux naturally.
Let’s debunk the myth that heartburn only happens to the highly stressed, overeater’s, and lovers of Vindaloos. Let us also get to the bottom of WHY we experience this painful, irritating symptom and how we can relieve it and support our health.
What is Heartburn?
This might sound like a silly question, but the fact is it is often answered incorrectly. Most people attribute the burning sensation of the stomach and oesophagus being on fire to excess stomach acid production, however it can, and very frequently is caused by the exact opposite. Low Hydrochloric Acid (HCL) leads to the incomplete digestion of proteins, fats and carbohydrates due to a lack of digestive enzymes, causing food to linger in the stomach. This increased pressure on the lower oesophageal sphincter forces it open, leading to regurgitation into the sensitive tissues of the oesophagus, causing the burning sensation.
It’s not just burn you feel when this occurs, but a whole host of symptoms that can be linked to inadequate digestion, these include:
- Iron deficiency
- Mineral deficiencies
- Weak fingernails
- Feeling full quickly
What can cause decreased stomach acid?
- Age – studies show HCL secretion declines with advancing age.
- Stress – in times of either acute or chronic stress, digestive function is decreased with the sympathetic nervous system kicked into over-drive and focusing on adrenaline and cortisol production.
- Certain Medications – can make a bad situation worse, by decreasing stomach acid further. Check with your doctor or pharmacist to see if your medications are reducing your stomach acid.
- Infections – Helicobacter Pylori has been found to be one of the prime causal factors of heartburn, indigestion, and stomach ulcers. This is due to the microbe inhibiting gastric acid secretion in order to survive and in so doing damaging the stomach lining. Speak to your doctor about being tested for H. pylori if you frequently suffer from heartburn.
- Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) – The prevalence of this condition is slowly increasing - and although not necessarily a cause of low HCL, it can result from it and perpetuate symptoms further by inhibiting digestive function. SIBO is a condition in which the beneficial bacteria found in the colon have migrated up to, and proliferated in the small intestine. The increased abdominal pressure this intestinal environment creates causes a myriad of digestive complaints related to reflux. Speak to your doctor about having a lactulose breath test to see if SIBO is contributing your heartburn.
Top Tips for Regulating Stomach Acid:
The underlying principle of treating Heartburn is to increase digestive function. This involves regulating stomach acid in order to adequately digest food, break it down and allow for the proper absorption of nutrients. As well as using stomach-friendly ways to help calm inflammation and gut irritation.
1. Apple Cider Vinegar:
Start the morning with a tablespoon of Organic Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar in a warm glass of water, the acetic acid present helps increase levels of Hydrochloric acid and will therefore improve the break-down of food. Adding a teaspoon of high-grade Manuka honey will not only make it more palatable by tempering its tang, but provide antibacterial actions that may be beneficial if there is infection present.
2. Digestive Enzymes:
The presence of Hydrochloric acid stimulates pancreatic enzymes including proteases, lipase and amylase that break down proteins, fats and carbohydrates respectively. Supplementation with these enzymes before meals can aid digestion and improve symptoms associated with reflux and an irritable bowel. Supplemental forms of enzymes can be extremely useful when the body is not making enough, however it should be seen as a short-term treatment, as you are effectively training the pancreas to increase enzymatic production.
Herbs have a long tradition in being used for the effective treatment of digestive conditions, think of chamomile and Slippery Elm for heartburn, Peppermint and Fennel for bloating, and Gentian for stimulating digestive juices.
4. Eliminating FODMAP’s:
FODMAP’s… or Fermentable-Oligosaccharides-Disaccharides- Monosaccharides and Polyols are types of specific carbohydrates that may cause digestive problems when there is bacterial overgrowth present in the small intestine, and are found in many fruits, vegetables, starches and dairy foods. The bacteria in the intestine feed off these fermentable carbohydrates, contributing to bloating, gas, and symptoms of indigestion including heartburn.
It is important to consult a health care practitioner such as a Holistic Doctor, Naturopath, Dietician or Nutritionist when embarking on a low FODMAP diet. As it is primarily meant as a short term treatment plan to assess for food intolerances and gastrointestinal disorders including SIBO. You need to make sure you are still getting the required daily nutrients.
Naturopathic medicine is all about addressing the cause of an ailment, and Heartburn is usually always a symptom of an underlying issue. If you are suffering from heartburn seek help from your healthcare practitioner today.