Natural approach to Heartburn
Many people take anti-acid medication when they get heartburn because they believe that heartburn is caused by excessive secretion of stomach acid. In fact, it is caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). There is a muscular valve called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) at the junction between the esophagus and stomach, which seals tightly to prevent the reflux. As long as this valve works, food does not go back into the esophagus, even if you do a headstand right after a meal. When the LES doesn’t work properly, GERD happens.
Things that loosen the LES include:
- Orange juice, tomato juice
- Coffee, tea
- Dairy products
- Spicy food
- Fatty meal
- Various medications
Stress, smoking, obesity, food allergies, hiatal hernia (herniation of the stomach above the diaphragm) are factors that aggravate GERD. To prevent GERD, do not lie down right after a meal, elevate your head with several pillows in bed, and avoid consuming the foods and beverages listed above.
Supplements like vitamin A and zinc help prevent GERD. Herbs like slippery elm and licorice will help reduce the heartburn symptoms, without side effects. If your esophagus is damaged by chronic heartburn, take calendula, vitamin B (especially niacin) and vitamin A for a quick recovery.
Several research studies show that D-limonene, which is extracted from orange peel, prevents GERD and provides relief from heartburn and upset stomach. In one study, participants took 1000 mg of D-limonene every other day for 20 days. Eighty six percent of them noticed a significant reduction in symptoms of GERD. D-limonene does not shut down acid production, but improves digestive function.
Melatonin is well known as a sleep-inducing hormone. Melatonin also helps to strengthen LES function. One to three mg of melatonin at bedtime improves GERD.
Hypochlorhydria (Low stomach acid secretion) and GERD
A healthy stomach secrets a lot of stomach acid, which is very strong (pH1-2.) That strong acid is required to digest food. There are people who tend to have heartburn and a high level of stomach acid secretion. However, more people tend to have heartburn with low stomach acid secretion. It may sound like a contradiction, but it has a scientific basis in fact.
The stomach protects itself from such strong acids by secreting mucus. In a healthy stomach, foods usually can be digested in the stomach and moved into the small intestine immediately. But in a stomach that does not secret enough acid, food remains for long time in the stomach. And pressure in the stomach gradually builds up, causing reflux back to the esophagus when LES is loosened. The level of acid is not strong enough to digest food, but strong enough to damage the esophagus, since it does not secret mucus to protect itself.
This is when many people reach for anti-acid medication and feel sure it will take away the burning sensation. But the problem here is not too much acid – it is the lack of acid. So the symptoms will get even worse if you take anti-acid medication at this point. If your heartburn is caused by Hypochlorhydria, you should take stomach acid supplements with your meal. People who take anti-acid medications regularly tend to be lacking in some nutrients, since stomach acid is important for digestion.
These nutrients tend to be lacking in people with Hypochlorhydria or who use anti-acid medication:
- Other minerals
- Vitamin B12
- Amino acid
Diseases related to Hypochlorhydria and anti-acid medication:
- Hormonal imbalance
- Neurological disorders
I suggest that you get a stomach acid secretion test if you’ve been taking anti-acid medication for long time. Your problem could be too little stomach acid, not too much of it. You can check your stomach acid secretion using the Heidelberg Test here at this site: http://www.phcapsule.com/
Patients with a hiatal hernia are prone to have GERD, and it will not go away unless the hiatal hernia is cured. Hiatal hernias can be healed by visceral manipulation, which is an abdominal massage. Also relieveiving tension in the back muscle help hiatal hernia.
Chronic GERD can damage your esophagus and/or LES. It might cause esophageal cancer or of LES, which may require a surgery. If the pain continues for a long period, it could be chronic gastritis or an ulcer. You should consult your physician instead of diagnosing yourself. If you choose a natural therapy, make sure your physician is familiar with natural therapies and nutrition.