Healthy Living

A Naturopathic View of Heartburn 

Heartburn is a common symptom that many people will experience. It is diagnosed as Gastrointestinal Esophageal Reflux Disease when it becomes a recurrent or chronic problem. It may occur with or without known triggers. Some commonly known triggers such as coffee, spicy foods, citrus fruits, and tomatoes are often avoided by people who are suffering from heartburn. Interestingly, as a Doctor of Naturopathy, I find that the “known” problems are rarely the root cause of the problem. Yes, they can create irritation once the problem has evolved, but we rarely find spicy foods or tomatoes, for example, to be the causative factor.
Prevention is always best. My advice is to take the preventive approach. Many simple changes to your diet and lifestyle could prevent heartburn, not to mention avoiding any further complication. One of the most common culprits  I find is food sensitivity. These often turn out to be the root cause of the problem. As I mentioned above, you may be reacting to foods that are not usually associated with heartburn. These can include common sensitivities such as gluten containing grains and dairy products as well as unhealthy foods containing high sugar or preservatives. It is important to remove any foods creating sensitivity as removal of triggers is the first step in healing. Five things to remember while the body is overcoming heartburn are as follows.
1. Never leave your stomach empty. This is not a pass to overeat, but a golden rule to avoid heartburn. It is important to insure that you do not have stomach acid floating around with no food to digest. Eat a small meal/snack every 3 to 4 hours. 

2. Eat breakfast within the first hour of waking up. 

3. Avoid caffeine drinks.  The worst thing to do first thing in the morning is to pour coffee or tea, acidic foods, into your empty stomach. If you insist on having tea or coffee, have it with your breakfast. Green tea is your best option in terms of least amount of caffeine and high amounts of healthy antioxidants. 

4. All your meals and snacks should include proteins and good fats. Examples of these include nuts, seeds, beans/lentils, eggs, organic cold cuts, tuna salads.

5. Drink water! Sipping on water throughout the day rather than gulping a glass every few hours is recommended. To be properly hydrated, try to drink half your weight in ounces of water daily.
Contrary to popular opinion, heartburn is not always caused by excess acid. In fact, most is caused by the lack thereof. This can be due to inappropriate eating patterns and excessive stress. If you have a history of infections or parasites, abnormal bowel movements, bloating and gas, you may be in this catagory. When there is inadequate acid in the stomach, any food that contacts its irritated lining will cause pain. Also, such people often have spurts of excess acid production as the body tries to recover from the stress. High amounts of acid when there is no food available can cause that intense burn and chest pain. Appropriate snacking and adequate acid with meals is key. As always, it is important to find the root cause underlying the problem of low stomach acid.
Can you pass the burp test? First thing in the morning, even before brushing your teeth, add 2tsp  baking soda to 4oz water. Stir and drink it down. Ignore the initial burp you get after you have gulped down the water. Monitor yourself for 3 minutes. If you get 1 or more large burps during the 3 minutes, you probably make adequate stomach acid. If you do not get a significant burp, you need to balance your stomach acid.
I hope you have found this helpful. Heartburn is very common, but easy to deal with if you know the right things to do. Simply masking the symptom with medication is not only temporary, but can result, long-term, in mor serious diseases. There are natural products that balance stomach acid. 
For more information about Homestead Nutrition, or to make an appointment, email me at homesteadnutrition@dr.com. Have a healthy and blessed week!

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