There are countless health issues that modern medicine claims can be treated; however most treatments come with side effects that alter your body’s homeostasis. Heart burn is one of these issues. This post will give you more information on using alternative medicine and natural foods to dramatically help you to regain comfortable and enjoyable dining.
What is heart burn?
Conventionally, heart burn, also referred to as acid reflux, occurs when the esophageal sphincter (the lower part of the esophagus that connects to the stomach) does not close properly and therefore allows the acidic contents of the stomach to rise up into the esophagus.1
Common symptoms of heart burn:
The most common symptoms of heart burn include a burning feeling in the chest and regurgitated food/liquid in the throat. Also, coughing and wheezing can sometimes occur. In extreme cases, erosion of the teeth can occur as well. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, don’t put off getting help!
What causes heart burn?
- A high intake of meat and fat2
- Hiatal hernia4 (a condition where the stomach pushes up through the diaphragm)
- Certain medications5 (antibiotics, Fosamax, Boniva and others)
What is the problem if it goes untreated?
If heart burn persists, occurring more than twice/week, it is considered Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). If GERD is left untreated it can result in serious conditions such as esophagitis or Barretts esophagus (damaged esophagus tissue due to stomach acid exposure). This can also end in cancer of the esophagus as well (adenocarcinoma).6 Again, this is another reason why it’s so important to listen to your body when it gives you red flags… Don’t wait until the flag is on fire!
Medication- Pros and Cons: Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs)?
The most common medical answer for heart burn is medications. There are three main, most common medications: 1) Antacids, which neutralize the acid in the stomach (i.e. Tums), 2) H2 blockers which reduce the production of stomach acid, and 3) proton pump inhibitors such as omeprazole (i.e. Prilosec- can be prescription or over the counter).
How do PPIs work? Your stomach has tons of gastric pumps in it that release stomach acid. This stomach acid is helpful for digestion of food as well as protecting you from potential pathogens that you may inadvertently consume.7 PPI’s (permanently) block those pumps so that they don’t secrete the stomach acid. The good news is that the pain goes away, at least initially. However, now you are left without the needed stomach acid to help with digestion, so you’ve opened yourself up to multiple other digestive challenges. This medication is typically given with the understanding that the patient will need to take it for life. It normally works to stop the pain/burning sensation; however, as with any medication, it comes with a price. All medications have side effects and this is no different.
Serious and common side effects of PPIs:8
- Liver impairment
- Kidney impairment
- Abdominal pain
- Flatulence (gas)
Nutritional deficiencies of PPIs:
Taking PPIs over a long period of time cause many nutritional deficiencies including B12, vitamin C, calcium, iron and magnesium.9 To really understand the depth of the dangers of this medication, let’s take a super simple look at the role of just B12 alone in the body. Although many symptoms of B12 deficiency go unnoticed, some common issues include: complications in pregnancy, vascular challenges, issues with the bones, eyes and cognition.10 This issue is further complicated by adding deficiencies of vitamin C, calcium, iron and magnesium, all nutrients that are needed in abundance for multiple functions in the body. If you must take these (or any) medications, it is important to understand what they are doing and how you may be able to support yourself along the way.
Lifestyle changes you can take to improve acid reflux symptoms:11
- Lose weight if needed. There is a strong correlation between heart burn and being over weight or obese.
- Quit smoking
- Eat smaller portions. When you overfill your stomach, heart burn is more likely.
- Eat less in the evening. Those who eat late at night/right before going to bed are more likely to have issues with heart burn.
Other helpful changes to make your digestion more comfortable:
- Reduce stress12
- Reduce intake of meat2
- Increase fiber by eating more whole plant foods13
- Reduce your intake of sugar13
- Supplement with digestive support (Digest and HCL are my two favorites)
The bottom line:
As is the case with so many conditions, a healthy lifestyle is a simple and powerful way to reduce or eliminate this condition. Eating a whole-food plant diet, drinking lots of pure water and taking your time to eat in a relaxed and calm environment is the best way to start. If you are challenged with heart burn symptoms, try these things. If you still don’t have relief, please don’t wait… Let us help!
- Stipanuk MH, Caudill MA. Biochemical, Physiological and Molecular Aspects of Human Nutrition. Fourth. Elsevier; 2019.
- O’Doherty MG, Cantwell MM, Murray LJ, Anderson LA, Abnet CC. Dietary fat and meat intakes and risk of reflux esophagitis, Barrett’s esophagus and esophageal adenocarcinoma. Int J Cancer. 2011. doi:10.1002/ijc.26108
- Cremonini F, Camilleri M, Clark MM, et al. Associations among binge eating behavior patterns and gastrointestinal symptoms: A population-based study. Int J Obes. 2009. doi:10.1038/ijo.2008.272
- Hyun JJ, Bak YT. Clinical significance of hiatal hernia. Gut Liver. 2011. doi:10.5009/gnl.2011.5.3.267
- Mungan Z, Şimşek BP. Which drugs are risk factors for the development of gastroesophageal reflux disease? Turkish J Gastroenterol. 2017. doi:10.5152/tjg.2017.11
- Glarrett MD DM, Hachem MD C. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). Mo Med. 2018;115.
- Hunt RH, Camilleri M, Crowe SE, et al. The stomach in health and disease. Gut. 2015. doi:10.1136/gutjnl-2014-307595
- Heidelbaugh JJ. Proton pump inhibitors and risk of vitamin and mineral deficiency: Evidence and clinical implications. Ther Adv Drug Saf. 2013. doi:10.1177/2042098613482484
- O’Leary F, Samman S. Vitamin B12 in health and disease. Nutrients. 2010. doi:10.3390/nu2030299
- Ness-Jensen E, Hveem K, El-Serag H, Lagergren J. Lifestyle Intervention in Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2016. doi:10.1016/j.cgh.2015.04.176
- Song EM, Jung HK, Jung JM. The association between reflux esophagitis and psychosocial stress. Dig Dis Sci. 2013. doi:10.1007/s10620-012-2377-z
- Newberry C, Lynch K. The role of diet in the development and management of gastroesophageal reflux disease: Why we feel the burn. J Thorac Dis. 2019. doi:10.21037/jtd.2019.06.42
Nothing said or implied in this post is intended to treat, cure, diagnose or prevent any disease. It does not take the place of a qualified health care practitioner and is intended for educational purposes only.