Ever experience heartburn or stomach ache after eating?
You may want to think twice before grabbing that antacid.
Isn’t there a more natural approach that works in harmony with the body? After all, what is stomach acid for? You need stomach acid for digestion of protein and absorption of minerals like calcium and iron. Stomach acid is also essential for preventing the growth of bacteria and yeast in your stomach.
Drugs that reduce stomach acid are among the most frequently prescribed drugs in the U.S. Although these drugs can be effective at relieving symptoms like heartburn and abdominal pain, they may have serious long-term side effects. In addition, heartburn is almost never caused by an excess of stomach acid. The problem occurs when the stomach acid ends up in the wrong place, coming up into the esophagus instead of remaining in the stomach.
Regular use of acid-suppressing drugs is associated with increased risk of hip fractures, probably because of impaired calcium absorption. Taking acid-suppressors may increase the risk of acquiring a food-borne intestinal infection or lead to the overgrowth of bacteria in the stomach and small intestine.
Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), causes inflammation of the esophagus(esophagitis). With GERD, the contents of the stomach flow backward up the esophagus and may reach all the way to the mouth. Symptoms include heartburn, regurgitation of food, sore throat, hoarse voice and cough. Although acid suppressors are commonly prescribed, GERD is not caused by excess production of acid. It is caused by failure of the valve that separates the esophagus from the stomach (the LES or lower esophageal sphincter valve).
This valve is usually closed and opens only for swallowing, so that it keeps the stomach contents out of the esophagus. Because acid is among the most irritating components of stomach juice, reducing the acid may reduce the irritation. But acid suppression doesn’t prevent reflux, it merely converts acid reflux into non-acid reflux.
The cause of reflux is the inappropriate opening of the LES and the usual cause of that is excessive fullness or distension of the stomach. The following may help reduce GERD:
– Eat relatively small meals, frequently. This decreases stomach distension.
– Avoid very high fat foods. They directly weaken the LES.
– Avoid cigarette smoking and limit coffee, chocolate and alcohol. These directly weaken the LES.
– Don’t eat for 3 hours before lying down. When you’re upright, gravity works with you.
– Lose weight. Being overweight increases your risk of GERD.
– Don’t eat just before strenuous exercise. Strenuous exercise increases the tendency to GERD.
– Avoid foods that you know cause symptoms, until you’re better. So-called “acid” foods, like oranges and tomatoes, do not cause GERD, but they may irritate an already inflamed esophagus.
There are two natural products that we reach for when heartburn strikes. The first is a digestive enzyme, Absorbaid, which helps speed digestion, allowing the stomach to feel less full. The second is Calcium Citrate, which can help soothe the burning feeling associated with heartburn. We have personally found these products to be helpful and make sure to keep them on hand for relief after meal times.