Traditionally, as the temperatures drop, our consumption of heavier fare goes up. For some that means an increase in unpleasant post-meal sensations as well, namely heartburn. Michele Helfgott, MD, FACOG, PPG – Integrative Medicine, shares the common symptoms of this condition and some natural approaches to cooling the effects.
Heartburn is felt as a burning sensation in the chest, caused by acid regurgitation into the esophagus from the stomach. This occurs when the ring of muscle, the lower esophageal sphincter relaxes. The lower esophageal sphincter keeps stomach acid in the stomach. It is located where esophagus meets stomach, if the lower esophageal sphincter opens too often or doesn’t close tight enough, this allows stomach acid to reflux into the esophagus, causing heartburn.
Obesity and pregnancy put pressure on the sphincter and cause the acid to reflux into the sphincter causing heartburn. Certain foods such as coffee and chocolate relax the lower esophageal sphincter. Smoking also relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter. Stress and lack of sleep can cause increased acid production, as can eating large meals or eating too quickly. Not chewing the food well can also lead to the acid refluxing from the stomach into the esophagus.
According to Web MD, heartburn is a weekly occurrence for up to 20% of Americans and Nexium® is one of the top ten medications for Americans.
Antacids and acid blockers
Medications such as Nexium®, Zantac® and Prevacid® were all designed for patients to take for only two weeks. Most patients, however, continue to take these medications well past the two weeks. Long term side effects of these medications include decreased protein synthesis needed for building muscle, and nutrient deficiencies – which can lead to osteoporosis.
Other ways besides medication to alleviate acid reflux is to know your food triggers and eliminate them. Be mindful when you are eating; so sit down to eat and don’t eat while talking on the phone or watching TV. Chew each bite so it is fine like oatmeal; put your fork down after several bites.
Eat a high fiber diet! A recent study found that people who followed a high-fiber meal plan were 20% less likely to have acid reflux symptoms, regardless of their body weight. You'll find fiber in fruits, vegetables, beans and seeds such as hemp, flax and chia.
Eat small frequent meals every three to four hours, each meal should consist of a palm-size protein, 2 cups of non-starchy vegetables, a healthy fat (such as avocado, coconut oil, olive oil or grape seed oil) and a complex carb such as ½ cup of quinoa, brown rice or 4 oz. of sweet potato.
If despite, all of this, acid reflux is still an issue, consider taking plant based digestive enzymes, aloe liquid or papaya enzymes; all of which you can get from a compounding pharmacy or the health food store.