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Heartburn and Reflux

First, I will start with this – all people are individual.  The base cause of your issues may be different – this is general information.

Common symptoms of heartburn include burning sensation in the chest or throat, belching, bloating, abdominal pain, dry cough, feeling like you have a lump in your throat and sometimes a sour taste in the mouth.

Most of the common medications available either work to neutralise stomach acid (such as antacids) or reduce stomach acid production (using H2 blockers and/or proton pump inhibitors).  Unfortunately, these do have side effects.  Some of the more common ones are diarrhoea, nausea, headaches, gut problems – and they may also be implicated in dementia, increased bone fracture risk and nutrient deficiencies.  We actually need stomach acid – there is your catch 22 – you want to stop the burning, but these all impact stomach acid and gut function.  Most of these drugs were only ever designed for short-term use, unless a specific issue needed to be addressed (such as Barrett’s Oesophagus – which involves actual changes to cells in the lower oesophagus).

So why is lack of stomach acid a problem?  Without adequate stomach acid, nutrient absorption is dramatically affected, microorganisms can overgrow in the stomach and intestines and we can become more susceptible to infection (particularly food-borne bugs) and allergies.  There are certain gut bugs that just love a good feed of carbohydrates in particular – causing fermentation and gas, leading to bloating, belching, flatus and cramps.

Why do we get heartburn?  Because the lower oesophageal sphincter (the valve) doesn’t close properly, allowing acid to travel upwards.

What to do about it?

  • Well for a start, make sure you chew your food properly. It stimulates saliva and helps it digest.  It is the pressure of the food in the stomach, combined with enzymes and stomach acid, plus the release of certain hormones (eg gastrin) that makes the sphincter/valve close when appropriate.
  • Make sure your gut is working well – if your digestive process is impaired, gastric emptying is slower, so food sits longer than it should.
  • Make sure your gut bacteria are at appropriate levels – you need enough good ones to control any bad ones.
  • Ensure your body has enough stomach acid and enzymes for digestion.
  • Avoid drinking liquids just before, during or after meals. A sip of water is fine if you are thirsty, but you want to avoid dilution of stomach acid while it has a job to do.
  • Elevate your pillow or bed if you find heartburn is worse at night.
  • Don’t eat near bedtime.

Get help – this is where a naturopath comes in (I love guts 😊)

I can help with issues such as soothing the inflamed tissues, improving digestion and balancing gut microbiota.  Get your gut working as it is supposed to!

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