What to do for Heartburn

So you have heartburn? Tired of taking all those pills and potions that help but still don’t fix the problem? There is help!

Heartburn can be from many different causes and it can be hard to know which it is. All those commercials for antacids and acid blockers make you think it really is a problem of too much acid in your stomach. Well, if it burns it must be right? Actually in most cases this is not true. More often the cause is not enough stomach acid.

You are probably thinking I am crazy about now right? Let me explain. When you eat, your stomach produces acid to digest the food you just ate. This also signals the muscular sphincter at the junction of the esophagus and stomach to close. This keeps the acidic mixture in your stomach from going back up into your esophagus and throat. When there is not enough acid in your stomach this does not happen and the fluid in your stomach can go back up. This mixture has enough acid to cause the familiar sensation of burning, cutting pain because the stomach has a nice protective coating and the esophagus does not.

This acid is also really important once the food moves on to the small intestine, it signals the pancreas and other organs to release their digestive enzymes so that your meal gets completely digested and then absorbed. When there is not enough acid, either from under production in the stomach or being blocked by acid blocking drugs, it prevents digestion from happening properly or so you can become deficient in certain vitamins and nutrients.  Ineffective digestion can lead to other problems as well such as gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and others.

You can do something! There are some very simple things you can try at home that don’t involve expensive medications.

1. The first thing I have my patients try is to add 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar (raw, organic, & unfiltered) or lemon juice to a glass of water and sip slowly 15 minutes before a meal. This signals the digestive system to be ready for food.

2. Another thing is not to drink anything with your meal – including water. Wait until half an hour after eating to drink, it can dilute your stomach acid otherwise.  If this helps but not enough, you may need some supplemental HCl and/or enzymes to help.

3.If you are having an attack of heartburn acutely, take a straight dose of either the lemon juice or apple cider vinegar and this should help.

4. Another option would be to try some marshmallow root powder, 1 tsp in a glass of water, stirred and swallowed. You can also keep this in the refrigerator in a larger quantity, soaking it cold overnight makes it even more effective. You can go as high as 1 tbls or more in water, whatever works. This is safe and effective even during pregnancy.

There can be other causes of stomach pain that are underlying the heartburn and you may need to see a doctor to rule out other potential causes of the pain. A naturopath can help make up a customized treatment plan for you, stop in for your personalized consult.

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