How to Combat Heartburn and Acid-Reflux Naturally
It starts as a grumbling rumble. You know what’s coming. You think if you work up some saliva and spit it out you can avoid the inevitable. Then, the rumble stretches, rapidly inching its way upwards, pounding your innards, burning fire along the way until it leaves a bad taste in your mouth and cramps in your stomach.
Do you know this monster? When is it most likely to pay a visit? After a meal? Or does it wait until you’re lying peacefully in bed to knock rudely just beneath your breastbone?
Until recently, I only experienced heartburn at the tail end of my pregnancy when my unborn babe was pressing on my internal organs. Now, it seems that unborn babe has returned in the form of weight gain, and it’s messing with me, but only at night when I’m in a horizontal position seeking comfort and pleasant dreams. Why is that?
Do you suffer from heartburn or acid-reflux?
Well, first let’s take a look at the definitions of heartburn and acid-reflux. According to the Medical Dictionary section of The Free Dictionary by Farlex, heartburn is defined as follows:
“Heartburn is a burning sensation in the chest that can extend to the neck, throat, and face; it is worsened by bending or lying down. It is the primary symptom of gastroesophageal reflux, which is the movement of stomach acid into the esophagus. On rare occasions it is due to gastritis (stomach lining inflammation).”
Now let’s look at acid reflux, as cited in the same source.
“The regurgitation of stomach acid into the esophagus, causing heartburn.”
As you see, they go hand in hand. One is the cause of the by-product. Lovely.
This video produced by the Mayo Clinic explains heartburn, acid-reflux, and GERD.
Causes of Heartburn
So, what causes this nasty stuff to roil around in the dark regions of our sacred bodies?
Normally, our lower esophagus sphincter (LES) closes as soon as food passes through it. If it doesn’t close completely or opens too often (can you say ‘stuff your face’?), stomach acids get through and travel into the esophagus, leading to heartburn. Additionally, if you bend over or lie down immediately following a heavy meal, you’re likely to kick-start acid reflux. If you experience heartburn more than twice a week, chances are good that you suffer from acid-reflux disease or GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease).
There are several factors that can spur the onslaught of heartburn:
- Hiatal hernia – a condition causing the upper stomach and LES to move above the diaphragm
- Being overweight or obese
- Eating too close to bedtime – lying in a prone position before your food has had time to digest
- Certain spicy, fatty, or acidic foods
- Alcohol, coffee, tea, and carbonated beverages
- Meds such as those taken for blood pressure; ibuprofen, aspirin, and some muscle relaxers
Traditional Treatments for Heartburn and Why They Do More Damage Than Good
What’s the first thing people do when heartburn hits? Probably pop a Tum or two, right? Some may even rely on the latest over-the-counter drugs that claim to ward off heartburn for 12-24 hours.
These remedies will eventually do more damage than good, and I’ll tell you why.
First, let’s take a look at antacid tablets. Do you know what’s in them?
Most antacids contain one or more of the following:
- Calcium carbonate acts quickly and adds calcium to the body. Because the calcium levels are pretty high (500 mg-1,000 mg per tablet) do not exceed the recommended dosage.
- Magnesium hydroxide acts quickly but can cause diarrhea.
- Aluminum hydroxide dissolves slowly and may cause constipation. Aluminum also depletes the body of phosphorus and calcium, which can adversely affect bone strength. Aluminum hydroxide affects your body’s ability to absorb many prescribed medications. Consult your doctor before using antacids containing aluminum hydroxide.
- Sodium bicarbonate works quickly but is eliminated from the body just as fast. It also creates carbon dioxide gas, leading to belching, bloating, and farting. People who are on a restricted sodium diet should not take antacids containing sodium bicarbonate.
A medical professional discusses the dangers of proton pump inhibitors (PPI).
Over-the-counter drugs and prescription remedies such as Pepcid AC, Zantac, and Tagamet contain proton pump inhibitors (PPI) which control or limit the amount of acid the stomach produces. This can be helpful for people who suffer from heartburn, GERD, or stomach ulcers.
However, as we’ve learned from various TV commercials, they don’t come without possible side effects. Face it; sometimes the side effects just aren’t worth it.
Are you willing to risk any of these?
- Muscle pain
- Easy bruising or bleeding
- Hair loss
I don’t know about you, but I’d rather deal with heartburn. But none of us have to. There are much healthier alternatives to help eliminate or alleviate heartburn, acid-reflux, and GERD. I wouldn’t be doing my duty as the self-proclaimed Mrs. Greenjeans if I didn’t fill you in, now would I?
Alternative (and Healthier) Treatments for Heartburn
I know most of us prefer natural remedies over taking medicine of any kind. We’d also prefer to avoid heartburn. For those of you who don’t have a problem with gastro discomfort, I commend you. I didn't either, until I put on far too much weight for my liking.
Pay Attention to Your Body and Learn the Triggers
As the saying goes, "prevention is better than the cure." Pay attention to the foods you eat. What foods or drinks give you a belly ache that reaches up to and through your esophagus? What time of day do those triggers fire you up? And what activities (or lack thereof) stoke the fire?
Keep a journal of what you eat for a few days; record which foods and beverages result in heartburn. Track the time of day. Are your bouts of heartburn triggered when you eat dinner at 8:30 and go to bed at 9:00?
Eliminate the foods that don’t agree with you. Adjust your schedule to allow plenty of time for your food to digest before crashing on the couch or going to bed.
Natural Combatants for Heartburn
Even when we have the best intentions and fuel our bodies with good stuff, we sometimes fall off the wagon and end up paying for it. Here are some things you can do to relieve heartburn naturally and why they work.
My mother turned me on to this trick. Chew three to six unsalted almonds immediately following a spicy or heavy meal. Some people do this before every meal as a preventative measure. If you forget, down a handful of almonds as soon as you feel heartburn symptoms creeping up. I keep a bag of almonds at my bedside since heartburn usually finds me when I’ve settled in for the night. My son, who has been diagnosed with GERD, keeps a bag at work and one in his car. Trust me; almonds do the trick.
Why it works: the amino acids naturally found in almonds neutralize stomach acids.
Drink Ginger Root Tea
I discuss the many benefits of ginger root in another one of my articles where you’ll find my recipe for ginger root tea. I honestly don’t know if you can buy it ready-made; I make my own. It’s so easy to do, and you don’t run the risk of having a bunch of crap you don’t want (pesticide laden tea) in your body.
Ginger has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries by native peoples all over the world. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?
Why it works: ginger combats everything from colds and flues, to inflammation, to excessive stomach acid. With regard to heartburn, ginger absorbs acids and calms the nerves that get irritated by stomach juices.
Apple Cider Vinegar
I know this might not make sense at first, but think back to basic math: two negatives make a positive.
Drink a glass of water mixed with two teaspoons of organic, raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar before each meal if you suffer from chronic heartburn.
Making a salad dressing of apple cider vinegar and organic first cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil is a great way to ward off heartburn as well. Sprinkle it on your raw veggies for great flavor and a tummy-friendly alternative to bottled dressings.
Why it works: oftentimes acid reflux is caused by not enough acid in your system. It is also believed that apple cider vinegar aids in breaking down fats, which are heartburn triggers. Additionally, the acetic acid found in apple cider vinegar is purported to calm the level of stomach acids. If you find this remedy doesn’t work for you, discontinue.
Note: eating an apple before going to bed has been reported to prevent heartburn. You know what they say, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”!
You can be a heartburn survivor.
These are just a few of the natural remedies you can use to prevent or combat heartburn. The best practice is to avoid foods and habits that lead your body to let you know it’s not happy. Excessive weight gain, alcohol, smoking and things that generally aren’t good for you anyway put your body into rebellion mode.
Even so, life often gets in the way of our best intentions and practices.
When your tummy feels the need to travel all the way up your body to let you know it’s not happy, try these remedies. They’ll save you a trip to the drug store and won’t do further harm to your precious innards.
How ‘bout you? What natural remedies have you found work for battling heartburn, acid-reflux, or GERD? Let me know in the comments section below.
Questions & Answers
© 2015 Shauna L Bowling