If you suffer from heartburn, or a burning sensation in the chest, you’re in good company. Antacid are among the most popular drugs in the U.S. in terms of sales, both by prescription and over the counter. Yet too much acid or even stomach acid itself may not be the culprit.
Is Acid the Problem?
Also be aware that the burning sensation you feel may not be simple heartburn. It may be gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD), likely caused by either a hiatal hernia or weakness of the esophageal sphincter. Helicobacter pylori, the bacteria that causes peptic ulcer disease, may also be related to simple heartburn symptoms. If heartburn is troubling you three or more times per week, the first step is to see a physician to rule out GERD or ulcers. Become aware of lifestyle factors that may be contributing to your symptoms, and then put out the fire naturally with the right nutrition.
A Symptom of Lifestyle
Begin by switching to a fiber-rich, whole-foods diet. Increasing dietary fiber may help put out the fire by helping to ease sluggish digestion. Avoid eating close to bedtime, and eat smaller meals, especially since overeating puts pressure on the esophageal sphincter, leading to reflux. Also be sure to drink plenty of water—at least six to eight glasses a day. In addition to excess weight, stress contributes to heartburn as well. Do what you can to keep your stress levels at a minimum—meditation, relaxation, yoga, and breathing exercises are helpful. And while exercise is inarguably healthy, timing your exercise is important if you suffer from heartburn. Avoid vigorous exercise right after eating, as that may bring on symptoms.
Additional supplements to consider are zinc (provided by your multivitamin) to promote healing and carotenoids for their antioxidant effects, which support healing gastric erosions. Curcumin (from turmeric) is an anti-inflammatory herb that also has excellent antioxidant properties and can be helpful for easing symptoms of heartburn.
“Obesity and Gestroesophageal Reflux . . .” by S. Ayazi et al., J Gastrointest Surg, 2009 l Prescription for Nutritional Healing by Phyllis A. Balch, CNC (Avery, 2006)
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