Primarily Paleo

A path to wellbeing

3 Ways To Improve Heartburn Without Medication

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Americans love an easy fix. For example, I find it preposterous that so many people would rather take a pill to lose weight than actually physically excercise and alter their food choices. This is apparent because millions of people are on medications to lose weight, whereas, if they would just move their bodies a little more and make better food choices, they could achieve their weight goals in a healthier and effective way.

Taking acid reflux medications is a further example of this “easy fix”, so to speak. Acid reducing medications were intended to be a short term solution to improve the painful symptoms caused by stomach acid entering the esophagus from the stomach. However, most people are using these meds for long term use without fully understanding the health risks involved. As reported in a recent New York Times article, studies have shown long term use of acid-reducing medications can inhibit the absorption of many vitamins and minerals, possibly leading to bone fractures and even possibly the risk of developing pneumonia.

Here’s the scoop on stomach acid : our bodies need it ! Without adequate acidity, the stomach cannot properly break down the food we eat, especially animal protein. Acid-reducing meds block the production of stomach acids and, therefore, food cannot be digested properly and sufficiently. This begins a whole new set of issues like creating a “leaky gut” and potentially experiencing symptoms of food sensitivities. Furthermore, the stomach responds to the lack of acidity by creating more acid producing cells ! Once off the medication, patients then experience more acid in the stomach than is needed. Thus, the vicious cycle of repeating the medication over and over again begins.

Making lifestyle changes and choosing the right foods to eat can reduce the symptoms and severity of acid reflux and associated diseases in most people. Changes don’t have to be overwhelming. Focusing on eating a more whole foods/ Paleo diet can improve the symptoms of heartburn. Paying attention to the specific foods which seem to trigger one’s heartburn should be especially important. These foods are most likely not being well tolerated by the body in general. If they are not being properly digested, they will cause excess gas and pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter

Here are 3 lifestyle changes which could improve heartburn without using medication:

1) Maintain a healthy weight. Abdominal obesity can put unneccessary pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) causing it to open or leak. This valve is only meant to open to allow food into the stomach or for excess gas to escape. When the valve is forced to open at other times or more frequently, stomach acid can escape leading to heartburn. Eating too much food on a regular basis can also put unwanted pressure on the LES causing it to stretch and loosen. When this valve is loose, unwanted stomach acid hits the unprotected esophagus and causes heart burn.The LES is a muscle and like any muscle it can get stronger when given the right environment.

2) Relax while eating. Digestion is meant to occur in a relaxed state. Taking the time to slow down, chewing food thoroughly, and enjoying a meal can improve digestion. Stress can inhibit the release of the necessary digestive enzymes and slow down the transition time of food from the stomach. Without the proper amounts of digestive enzymes, food cannot be broken down which can cause more gas and pressure on the LES. The longer food is in the stomach, the more stretched the stomach can get and the longer the LES has to work to stay shut.

3) Eliminate carbonated and alcoholic beverages. Carbonated beverages increase the amount of gas inside of the stomach. This can not only cause more pressure on the LES, but also force it to open more frequently to expel the gas. Alcohol acts as a relaxant and loosens the LES. Both of these actions can cause stomach acid to leak into the esophagus.

4 Comments

  1. Hi! I came across your blog yesterday via ‘livin’ the vida low-carb’… I liked what I saw so I subscribed!

    While the cycle precipitated by the use/overuse of antacids you describe is correct, I just wanted to mention that the root cause of heartburn ISN’T too much acid, but not enough stomach acid to complete digestion in a timely manner (yet another example of how conventional wisdom fails us). Antacids exacerbate the problem by further weakening the strength of our stomach acid and the problem intensifies… and, as you’ve pointed out, creates a number of others.

    A simple, immediately effective and whole food based solution is eating an apple (any kind) a day! Or, if the problem is severe, eat a few slices of apple to end each meal, and at any time the ‘heartburn’ surfaces. Depending on the severity of the problem, the heartburn should reduce dramatically within the first day and be rectified within a week.

    Eating clean whole foods (Paleo) will complete the ‘treatment’. A return to a SAD diet will, of course, cause the heartburn to return.

    Cheers!

    • Hi Ramona, Thank you for your comment and for subscribing. Yes, not having enough stomach acid is a huge issue for so many people; including those with heartburn. I haven’t heard of eating an apple specifically to ease the symptoms of heart burn. Do you have more data on why this seems to help? Stephanie

  2. Apples and Acid Reflux
    http://suite101.com/article/apples-and-acid-reflux-a148155

    How to Cure Acid Reflux With Apples
    http://www.livestrong.com/article/30092-cure-acid-reflux-apples/

    How to Naturally Relieve Heartburn
    http://www.ehow.com/how_4771210_naturally-relieve-heartburn.html

    Apple Cider Vinegar Cure Acid Reflux / Heartburn GERD
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qJBXdWrYXPU

    I had HORRIBLE GERD for months (had to sleep sitting up, everything I ate caused immediate pain and burning, over the counter stuff just made things worse)… nothing worked. In desperation one day I decided to google remedies… apple cider vinegar with honey, and a continued regime of apples was recommended. One treatment and I finally had relief… lasted four hours. After the second treatment I slept through the night, lying down, for the first time in months. The next day I added apples to my meals for a week and I haven’t had GERD or heartburn since… it’s been six years… and I eat whatever I want, with apples as part of my regular fruit rotation (I’ve only been Paleo for 2 months).

    You’re welcome! 🙂

    • Thanks for sharing your experience Ramona. I’ve had many folks improve their heartburn using raw apple cider vinegar or even drinking a few sips of kombucha with their meals. It is nice to know that incorporating apples has helped you to be symptom free for so long.

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