by Andrew Pacholyk MS, L.Ac ~
Heartburn occurs when a muscular valve, called the lower espophageal sphincter functions improperly, which allows stomach acid to back up into the esophagus. This tube, which leads from the stomach to the throat can be greatly effected by stomach acid, causing a burning, painful sensation in this area. Lack of proper enzymes are also a cause. Heartburn, indigestion, acid reflux are all usually defined by a vague chest or abdominal discomfort or burning in the solar plexus area, with no apparent organic cause, that occurs during or soon after eating, drinking, or stressful situations.
About 20% of all adults get heartburn at least once a month. Between 5% -15% of adults have severe heartburn. About 25% of pregnant women have daily heatburn and 50% have heartburn at least once a month.
There are two sphincter muscles located in the esophagus. The upper esophageal sphincter and lower esophageal sphincter. Underlying conditions that could possibly be the cause of heartburn include:
The bacterium Helicobacter pylori is the culprit in nearly 80% of stomach ulcers and in more than 90% of ulcers in the duodenum, the first portion of the small intestine.
In the Western world, up to half of all people harbor H. pylori in their stomachs, as do even more people in undeveloped countries. While infection with H. pylori often causes no symptoms, it can cause gastritis, or chronic inflammation of the lower stomach wall. This in turn results in increased acid production from the non-infected upper stomach, which creates favorable conditions for the erosion or ulceration of the mucosal lining in the stomach or duodenum. About 10-15% of individuals infected with H. pylori will eventually develop peptic ulcer disease. Stress and spicy foods often aggravate this condition.
When the upper region of the stomach is also infected with H. pylori, the resulting inflammation sets the stage for stomach cancer or a specific type of stomach lymphoma. Eradicating H. pylori is therefore important not only to avoid ulcers, but also to lower the risk of developing malignant tumors.
Conventional treatment for ulcers and H. pylori infection has focused on long term dosing of antibiotics to eradicate the bacteria. As is to be expected, H. pylori often develops resistance to antibiotics, thus rendering treatment ineffective.
GERD or Gastroesophageal reflux disease, also referred to as acid reflux disease, occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter does not close properly and stomach contents back up or reflux into the esophagus. This condition can damage the lining of the esophagus, causing such problems as ulceration and even esophageal cancer. Do get a doctor’s or practitioner’s opinion to see if further treatment is necessary. If you have asthma, this may be an underlying cause of GERD. It has been found that asthmatics are twice as likely to have GERD as non-asthmatics. Obesity seems to increase the risk of GERD. Research documented in the Annals of Internal Medicine show that as body fat increases, so did symptoms of GERD.
Gastroparesis is a delay in the gastric emptying of the stomach. This delay causes the contents of the stomach to back up into the esophagus.
Hiatal Hernia occurs when the upper part of the stomach pushes through an opening in the diaphragm causing reflux of stomach acid.
Peptic Ulcers in the stomach are considered gastric ulcers or stomach ulcers. Duodenal ulcers occur in the duodenum. Both of these types of ulcers are referred to as peptic ulcers and can be an underlying cause of heartburn.
Laryngopharyngeal Reflux occurs when the upper esophageal sphincter doesn’t function properly. Acid will flow into the throat. When this occurs, it is referred to LGR.
Pregnancy is also an underlying of cause of heartburn, even if a woman has never experienced this before she was pregnant.
Observe episodes of indigestion for changes in symptoms. If character, timing, frequency or severity changes, a more serious disorder may be responsible. These include heartburn from irritation of the lower esophagus, gallbladder disease, ulcers or stomach cancer.
Heartburn symptoms in some people can cause chronic cough, asthma, wheezing or choking.
Heartburn at night appears to be worse than heartburn during the day. According to research in The Chest Journal, people have more trouble sleeping at night because of the pain they experience from the heartburn. Acid stays in the esophagus longer when one lies flat.
Although food is not the root cause of heartburn, it can aggravate the situation. Foods such as onions, garlic, tomatoes, chocolate, peppermint, citrus fruits, alcohol, soda, coffee and fatty foods can worsen heartburn symptoms. A bland diet will not cure heartburn.
Aspirin and Ibuprofen can aggravate heartburn.
Top 20 Tips for Helping Heartburn:
1. Over all lifestyle changes. Stress can aggravate this situation.
2. Change in diet can greatly decrease symptoms. (See foods above). Write down what you eat in a heartburn journal in order to identify which foods trigger pain.
3. Allow time for leisurely meals. Chew food carefully and thoroughly. Avoid conflicts during meals.
4. Avoiding refined carbohydrates (sugar, white rice, white bread), even honey & other “natural” sugars, except Stevia. Reduce acid production so that even if the reflux occurs there is less to irritate the esophagus.
5. Eat small frequent meals so pressure in the stomach does not push contents back up.
6. Do not eat late at night. Allow several hours of digestion time before laying down. Acid stays in the esophagus longer when one lies flat. Stay propped up at least 30-45 degrees after eating or drinking & while sleeping. By placing 2 in. blocks under the two legs of your bed at the headboard, can helped tremendously!
7. Avoid caffeine for a while.
8. Peppermint, which helps many digestive problems, can irritate reflux because it may cause spasms of the cardiac valve.
9. Avoid excitement or exercise immediately after a meal. Avoid situations that make you swallow air, such as exercising with your mouth open (breathing through your mouth) or chewing gum.
10. Learn relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, controlled breathing and stress reduction.
11. At first sign of heartburn, drink a large glass of water.
12. Antacids are an over the counter medicine that relieves heartburn temporarily by neutralizing stomach acid. Dependence on antacids are dangerous. They can mask serious problems if symptoms persist. Antacids can also interact with certain prescription drugs and HIV medications. Check with your pharmacist or doctor.
13. Stop Smoking. Chemicals in cigarette smoke can weaken the lower espophageal sphincter and worsen heartburn.
14. If you have a juicer, juice a raw potato, peel and all, then add an equal part of water to the juice and drink it immediately after preparation, 3 times a day.
15. Fresh papaya and its seeds (or Papaya tablets) can be eaten to help with digestion.
16. Plant-based enzymes and probiotics can be very beneficial and should be taken daily. The enzymes in pineapple are also good for digestion but, this is an acidic fruit and for some people is not the right choice. It depends on the individual.
17. Aloe Vera juice is incredible for healing of the intestinal tract.
18. Vitamin B complex, 50 mgs, 3 times daily with meals is needed for proper digestion.
19. Plus 200 mcg of Vitamin B 12, 3 times daily will enhance the Vitamin B complex.
20. Acupressure massage. At the first sign of heartburn, massage the 3 acupressure points between your solar plexus and navel. These points are evenly spaced between the two landmarks. Massage these points first, gently in a clockwise motion and then slowly work deeper. This can actually relieve heartburn pressure and pain for months! Also, acupuncture works very well in treating heartburn and other gastrointestinal issues. There is a wonderful Chinese herbal remedy, which is a modified version of a Classical Chinese formula that is brilliant when it comes to treating heartburn.
1. Annals of Internal Medicine
3. The Cleveland Clinic
4. The National Institute of Health