Heartburn is the term that is used to describe a hot, burning or acid feeling in the middle of the lower chest. It usually comes on soon after a meal and can last for several hours. It has nothing to do with your heart although the pain can be so great that heart attack may be suspected. Other symptoms are nausea, regurgitation of food into the mouth and bad taste in the mouth.
Heartburn is also known as GERD (gastric esophageal reflux disease) or simply acid reflux. It is condition where the acid contents of the stomach refluxes from the top of the stomach into the esophagus where it causes a burning sensation and damage. The delicate lining of the esophagus, the tube that leads from the mouth to the stomach was never designed to come into contact with the strong acid of the stomach.
Many people take over the counter or prescription antacids or acid blocker medicine which they will take for years without giving a thought to the cause. They in fact are only masking a symptom of something more serious. Chronic heartburn is a serious condition to leave untreated because the constant irritation and damage to the esophagus can lead to cancer. So many prefer to seek out natural remedies.
Overproduction of stomach acid or lack of stomach acid (resulting in fermentation).
Large meals which put pressure on the sphincter at the lower end of the esophagus.
Obesity causes pressure in the abdomen which can cause hiatus hernia.
Pregnancy which also puts pressure on the sphincter.
Hiatus hernia where the stomach protrudes through a weakness in the diaphragm.
Yeast or bacterial overgrowth & fermentation in the stomach.
Delayed emptying of the stomach common in diabetes and when taking certain medications.
Incomplete clearing of the esophagus due to insufficient saliva caused by dehydration.
Slow movement of food down esophagus due to aging, medication or certain diseases such as Parkinson's, scleroderma, MS.
Food intolerance- gluten or dairy intolerance are common causes but could be any food.
Smoking decreases the mucus barrier of the esophageal lining.
Self help remedies:
Poor diet choices are probably the biggest cause of overproduction of acidity in the stomach. Coffee, tea, alcohol and spicy foods increase gastric acidity. Also take care with citrus fruits and their juices and tomatoes.
Avoid high fat foods such as fatty meat, butter, pasta, sour cream, ice cream, mashed potatoes, chicken nuggets, buffalo wings .
Peppermint or spearmint can cause relaxation of the muscle at the top of the stomach so watch those mints.
Other food triggers include chocolate, raw onions and garlic, vinegar, black pepper, and carbonated beverage.
Eat small frequent meals rather than several large ones. Chew food well and eat slowly. Avoid eating late at night to allow your meal time to digest before you go to bed.
Stop smoking, try to reduce stress and lose weight
Natural Remedies for heartburn
There are a number of natural remedies that can soothe and heal the esophagus in combination with the diet changes above.
Aloe Vera Juice or Gel - take 1 - 2 oz three times a day 20 minutes before meals.
Licorice has anti-inflammatory and healing properties but look for chewable deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL)as it has had the glycyrrhizin removed that can cause blood pressure problems if taken over a long period.
A combination of marshmallow root powder and slippery elm bark powder in capsule form or taken as powder can be very soothing. Mix one teaspoon of each powder with a little water and take after meals.
Heart burn is a highly treatable condition and once you have your acid reflux symptoms under control you will likely find you can reintroduce some items back into your diet from time to time without experiencing any painful side effects. Keeping a food diary and making a note of any reaction should give you an idea of which foods are the worst triggers for you.
For more information about heartburn and the natural treatments to permanently cure your heartburn take a look at Heartburn No More.