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Natural Ways to Fight Heartburn

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Natural Ways to Fight Heartburn

Who hasn’t overindulged in a meal and paid the price later? Whether the food faux pas was a celebratory hot fudge sundae, a third chili dog at the ballpark or that burrito hastily eaten behind the wheel, the outcome is nauseatingly familiar a sour taste at the back of the throat, a burning sensation in the middle of the chest.

Heartburn is a familiar foe. Roughly 50 percent of Americans feel the heat at least once a month; 20 percent suffer from symptoms two or three times a week and have chronic heartburn or GERD (short for gastroesophageal reflux disease). And those numbers are rising on the tide of obesity, which is a major contributing factor to the malady.

In fact, heartburn is such a universal sensation, says Elizabeth Lipski, PhD, clinical nutritionist and author of Digestive Wellness: Strengthen the Immune System and Prevent Disease Through Healthy Digestion (McGraw-Hill, 2011), that many have come to accept the associated discomfort as normal. “People think ‘this is just how my body works,’” she says.

The pharmaceutical industry is happy to lend a hand, of course. Prescription drugs that target heartburn are one of the top-10-grossing classes of drugs on the market in the United States.

In 2011, according to the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, Americans spent more than $10 billion on heartburn medications, namely H2 blockers and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs).

Chronic heartburn can lead to sleep loss, fatigue, nutritional deficits and disruptions of healthy intestinal flora. And while heartburn medications do a good job of temporarily relieving symptoms, long-term reliance on them (especially big-gun H2 blockers like Pepcid AC) can undermine your health over time.

Gastroenterologist Jorge Rodriguez, MD, has firsthand experience with heartburn, and with how to heal it. Overweight for most of his adult life, Rodriguez, author of The Acid Reflux Solution: A Cookbook and Lifestyle Guide for Healing Heartburn Naturally (Ten Speed Press, 2012), had excruciating heartburn after nearly every meal. “I thought the pain was simply the price I had to pay to eat,” he says. “Happily, I was wrong.”

Acid Wash


Think of heartburn as faulty plumbing. The mouth and stomach are connected by a pipe, called the esophagus, and after you swallow, food slides down the pipe before it plunks into the stomach.

On splashdown, an O-ring of muscle at the base of the esophagus (called the lower esophageal sphincter or LES) cinches tight to keep the mixture of food and gastric juices from moving back up the pipe. If the sphincter doesn’t seal correctly, the stomach’s contents slosh up into the esophagus and irritate the lining.

Stomach acid is strong stuff. “It’s meant to burn through flesh,” says Rodriguez. “After all, that’s what a hamburger isť — flesh.” A drop or two of the stuff won’t burn a hole in your gullet, but when you have GERD it’s like continuous waves of acid lapping against the delicate lining of the esophagus. Eventually, that acid will erode the shoreline, making matters worse.

The most common sign of heartburn is a painful sensation in the stomach, throat or chest. Other signals include belching, persistent sore throat and a sour taste in the back of the mouth caused by food regurgitating.

Up to 50 percent of people with GERD have some damage to the lining of their esophagus. As many as 15 percent of people will develop Barrett’s esophagus, a lesion at the base of the esophagus that ups the odds of esophageal cancer.

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Read more: Diet & Nutrition, Health, , ,

By Catherine Guthrie / Experience Life

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Megan, selected from Experience Life

Experience Life magazine is an award-winning health and fitness publication that aims to empower people to live their best, most authentic lives, and challenges the conventions of hype, gimmicks and superficiality in favor of a discerning, whole-person perspective. Visit experiencelife.com to learn more and to sign up for the Experience Life newsletter, or to subscribe to the print or digital version.

82 comments

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5:20PM PDT on Apr 30, 2013

Thank you

7:53AM PST on Mar 3, 2013

this was EXTREMELY informative. Thank you

4:17PM PST on Feb 5, 2013

gerd is a much more serious condition than an occasional attack of heartburn. it can lead to serious complications especially if your doctors convince you to take acid suppressing drugs. i had the hiatal hernia operation a few years ago...most of my stomach had moved up above my diaphram. i have been taking those awful inhibitors for years and have an upper endoscopy once a year to make sure that my barretts hasn't developed into a very aggressive cancer. i also have a condition that prevents stomach contents from emptying as quickly as they should. the more research i do, the more i distrust my doctors.

this is an enlightening series of articles...
http://chriskresser.com/what-everybody-ought-to-know-but-doesnt-about-heartburn-gerd
it confirms my unanswered questioning and growing suspicions and i am finding more and more support for this. if you or someone you know, you should read this...

3:31PM PST on Feb 3, 2013

Thank you Megan, for Sharing this!

10:57AM PST on Feb 2, 2013

This is a good explanation of the mechanics of GERD - the weak of non- existence of the lower sphincter is major reason for my family to have GERD and taking PPI etc... will not help that.

12:11AM PST on Jan 26, 2013

I was also a long time sufferer of GERD. Diagnosed with hiatal hernia as well, erosive esophagitis & gastritis. I've experienced similar pains that people described here and been taking PPI's for 15 yrs now. One of the biggest problem I have is belching, heaviness on my chest & generally don't feel well. It happens anytime & no patterns that I can trace, which I found very disturbing. Also avoided foods on the list that my Dr gave me. I have done all the test, had 3 endoscopy procedures, taken zantac, maalox, tums, gas-x prevacid, prilosec & aciphex. My doctor tells me that I probably have to take these medicines indefinitely. After reading an article from new york times a few months ago (google "ny times combating acid reflux", I got scared & decided that I would refuse taking any meds that may pose bigger problems for me. I'm glad that I ran into a long time friend who introduced me to alkalete. Excited to say, been 2 months now & no more aciphex for me. I've never felt like this for so many years! Feel like a new person. I have always thank my friend & praise him everyday for sharing it with me. Please read this report to find out more about it.
http://www.goyoli.com/hbpage.php?p=eba_report&PHPSESSID=269e95faa425...
I know that I am marketing this product but as a past sufferer, no one understands what anyone is going through unless you've been there. I wish you all good health!

10:26AM PST on Jan 12, 2013

I get occasional heartburn and find something as simple as sucking an extra strong mint helps.

10:25PM PST on Jan 6, 2013

thanks...

7:29PM PST on Jan 1, 2013

Hmmm...I've been having heartburn lately, especially at night. I've looked into info about GERD, now I'm gonna do the same about hiatal hernia. In 2007, I had my gall bladder removed because of gallstones. It felt like heartburn to me for several years before that, so I definitely need to do more digging!

9:26AM PST on Jan 1, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

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