Natural Remedies for Heartburn
Heartburn is one of the ways your body tells you things need to change. Effective relief from heartburn deals with the symptoms, and treats the underlying cause.
what is heartburn?
Often referred to as GERD – gastroesophageal disease, heartburn is the result of an imbalance in stomach digestion, the pressure of which opens the muscular valve separating the oesophagus from the stomach, causing acidic contents to travel back up the oesophagus. Mild symptoms include burping, bloating, pain and gas production, a feeling of being overfull, stomach discomfort and an acidic taste in the mouth. More significant symptoms can involve nausea and a burning sensation of the oesophagus (burning near the heart), which can result in damage to the lining of the oesophagus if left untreated.
what causes heartburn?
low stomach acid: Many believe heartburn is caused by an overproduction of stomach acid, which is much less likely than the more common lack of stomach acid. In fact, when we don’t have enough stomach acid to adequately start stomach centred digestion, some foods are more difficult for our gut bacteria to break down, causing fermentation of the stomach contents, pressure build up that then pops open the valve between the oesophagus and the stomach, and heartburn results.
medication: Some medications can reduce the production of stomach acid, leaving us more prone to difficulty digesting in the stomach and creating heartburn. Check with your prescribing doctor if these are symptoms you are experiencing.
stress: Such a common issue, and creates a cascade of responses in the body, including impairing digestion.
some foods: alcohol, caffeine containing foods and beverages can be triggers for heartburn. As are tomatoes, garlic and onion, and packaged, preprepared foods with additives.
pregnancy: heartburn is common during pregnancy, with hormonal changes that can affect digestion, and added pressure on digestive organs common in the last trimester.
improve stomach acid: by adding a teaspoon to a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, or lemon juice or something like Hilde Hemmes Bitters into a glass of water between half to one hour before your meals. Include grapefruit and fruits with active enzymes like pineapple and kiwi fruit. Fermented vegetables like sauerkraut and kim chi are effective and tasty side dishes to a meal. Digestive enzymes support the body’s digestion. Eat smaller meals to allow for more efficient digestion, and try not to eat too late in the evening. Healing teas like fennel, ginger and chamomile can be very soothing to the stomach, as is aloe vera.
check with your doctor: to find a medication that is more compatible for you.
stress management: if stress is the culprit, chances are there are other ways the body is affected, and it’s important to address your response to stress to avoid more complicated health issues. We’ve got some great articles on stress management, like our 6 Lifestyle Habits article.
food choices: initially, avoiding the triggers that cause your heartburn will provide relief and allow your body the opportunity to reduce inflammation and feel calm. These could be common culprits as outlined above, or more general foods like grains which can have irritated and caused damage to the gut lining over a period of time. If gut repair from systemic damage is required, removing offending foods and implementing a healing phase is the best course of action. A nutritionist or naturopath, or good integrative physician can support you with a journey like this. A great quality raw honey can be an incredibly healing addition to your routine with powerful effects. Adding other sources of acid to help the stomach (as outlined above) and including a good broad stream probiotic to balance your gut bacteria will allow for more efficient digestion, so that you may then enjoy those trigger foods, in small amounts, and not all at once!
Heartburn isn’t a life sentence – it’s the body’s way of letting us know it needs help to rebalance.