One of the most common complaints among my patients is dealing with the all-too-common heartburn. With 44% of Americans having heartburn monthly, 10-20% weekly, and 10% daily, heartburn has nothing to do with the heart (Lipski, 2012).
What Is Heartburn?
It’s a form of indigestion felt as a burning sensation in the chest. This is due to the opening of the muscular valve where the esophagus meets the stomach, or the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which causes stomach acid to reflux into the esophagus. Normally, the LES opens to allow food into the stomach and then closes tight. The abnormal opening of the LES is a problem, and when it occurs chronically, it is called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and can lead to serious problems.
The Causes of Heartburn
There are many lifestyle factors that reduce and relax the LES set the conditions for reflux, such as:
- Eating too fast
- Eating too much
- Late-night eating before bed
- Wearing tight-fitting clothing
- Drinking carbonated beverages
- Zinc and magnesium deficiencies
- Low stomach acid
- Yeast overgrowth from the use of antibiotics, steroids, hormones
- Hiatal hernia, where a portion of the stomach pushes through the diaphragm
Food allergies and sensitivities can trigger GERD, as can certain foods like fried foods, spicy foods, citrus, tomatoes, caffeine, alcohol, chocolate, mint, and gluten (Wright & Hyman, 2013). Also, a diet high in refined sugars and fat delay gastric emptying, which affects reflux.
Conventional medications to treat GERD, such as calcium carbonate, antacid combinations, and proton-pump inhibitors, can cause many health implications like a depressed immune system due to blocked acid production. They can also cause vitamin B12 deficiency, decreased bioavailability of vitamin C, and decreased mineral absorption that results in bone loss measurable in a year or less.
In our practice, we always work to get to the root of the problem through a thorough health analysis, and approach treatment from a holistic, biochemically unique perspective.
Our healing recommendations include:
- Eating a nutrient-dense, mostly plant-based diet devoid of processed foods and refined sugars.
- Avoiding common trigger foods as mentioned above, including caffeine and alcohol.
Addressing other lifestyle factors can drastically improve symptoms as well, like getting to an optimal body composition
, chewing food thoroughly, reducing the size of meals, practicing active relaxation, quitting smoking, and finishing dinner at least three hours before bed.
Lipski, Elizabeth. (2012). Digestive Wellness 4th Edition. New York, New York: McGraw Hill.
Wright, E.M., Hyman, M. (2013). Advancing Medicine with Food and Nutrients, 2nd Edition. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.