Ounce of Prevention | Heal your heartburn naturally
What is heartburn? It has nothing to do with the heart. The term is used to describe a painful burning sensation in the throat and chest. It often originates in the chest and may then radiate to the neck or throat. This pain results from the reflux of digestive juices containing hydrochloric acid from the stomach into the oesophagus or gullet. The medical term for it is GERD (gastro-ssophageal reflux disease).
More than 10 per cent of the population has heartburn regularly, and in most cases, it's mild and temporary. But some have chronic heartburn that hits them day and night. Those who are just trying to ease the heartburn also need to be aware that they may be in danger of developing esophageal cancer if the problem is not corrected.
Contrary to what virtually every television advertisement about heartburn tells you, neutralising stomach acid is not the real answer. As with peptic ulcers, conventional medicine has focused on acid as the villain and the cause of the problem, and a vast array of powerful, expensive and dangerous drugs are prescribed along with the old-fashioned antacids for this disorder.
ACID IS NOT THE PROBLEM
The stomach is meant to produce acid. This acid is essential for preparing the food for digestion, and it also destroys unhealthy germs present in the food we eat. Taking drugs and antacids that block or neutralise the acid is in fact working against the body's natural function. The real problem is that the acid is getting into the wrong place the oesophagus (gullet).
Normally, there is a sphincter (valve) between the stomach and the oesophagus that prevents the acidic stomach juices from refluxing or flowing backwards. Proper digestion allows for a high concentration of acid in the stomach while tightening the sphincter and protecting the oesophagus. Healthy digestion requires an effective sphincter. If you try to knock out stomach acids with antacid drugs, the sphincter may relax and allows some stomach acid to slip past and irritate the oesophagus. For many people, this sets off a viscous cycle in which the oesophagus and causes pain, antacids are used, the sphincter is relaxed, the oesophagus becomes more irritated by acid, and more pain results.
Because several things can cause that valve to malfunction, resulting in heartburn, it is important to deal with the underlying cause for the problem to disappear. Here are some natural approaches that I have found both safe and effective in dealing with heartburn: I call them "The Five Cs of Heartburn"
CHANGE YOUR EATING
Avoid fatty foods, alcohol, coffee, highly spiced foods and any other foods that bring on heartburn. Do not eat large meals, especially at night. Remain upright and active after eating and allow the food to digest and the stomach to empty before lying down.
Obesity, especially around the waist, promotes acid reflux. A weight-loss programme using
frequent small low-carbohydrate meals is excellent for this condition as healthy proteins neutralise acids better than starch and sugar. The weight-loss program I use is particularly useful for people with heartburn and employs a strategy called Cellular Nutrition.
CHECK YOUR DRUG USE
Many drugs frequently prescribed for common problems such as arthritis, hypertension, diabetes, cholesterol control, pain, anxiety, and even stomach problems can themselves cause heartburn.
Discuss with your doctor the possibility of reducing or eliminating your need for medication.
The activity of the stomach is controlled by one of the largest nerves in the body (the vagus nerve) that comes directly from the brain. Chronic stress, anxiety, nervous tension and depression can all contribute to heartburn, and drugs often prescribed for these problems can make it worse. The irritable bowel syndrome is a classic example of how the nervous system can affect the digestive system. Learn to manage these problems in as holistic a way as possible. Simple relaxation and stress-management exercises can be very useful.
I have rarely prescribed drugs for heartburn in over 20 years. Here is what I recommend for my patients:
ALOE VERA A proprietary aloe vera juice and chamomile combination (Herbal aloe Drink) is very effective in dealing with acid reflux. The aloe extract restores and heals the normal protective lining of the stomach and oesophagus, while the chamomile relaxes the stomach and reduces acid reflux.
PROBIOTICS Healthy bacteria like lactobacillus acidophilus combined with fibre assist in rapidly healing and restoring normal function to the oesophagus and stomach, as well as the entire intestinal tract. This combination is available in tablet form as a nutritional supplement (Florafiber), and along with the aloe vera juice extract, does wonders for heartburn.
Remember, it is always better to deal with the underlying problem rather than just treat the symptoms.I wish for everyone a healthy and happy holiday season