Say Goodbye to Heartburn: Natural Ways to Treat with Naturopathy

How often do you use PPIs?
Do you know what they are? I’m talking about antacids!
These could be amongst others: omeprazole (Prilosec) and esomeprazole (Nexium)…
These are over the counter, easy to get, easy to use.
What could possibly go wrong, right?
Well, research shows that quite a lot could, really.

It would appear as though taking antacids regularly may affect risk of heart disease

A study of more than 19,000 people with type 2 diabetes in the UK found that regular use of PPIs was associated with:
❗ A 27% relative increase in Coronary Artery Disease incidence
❗ A 34% relative increase in Myocardial Infarction (heart attacks)
❗ A 35% relative increase in Heart Failure
❗ A 30% relative increase in all cause death.
This study isn’t the only one suggesting this,
An Australian study including 1000 people with diabetes found that use of PPIs was associated with a 3.6-fold increase in risk for Cardio-Vascular Disease events.
Another recent study included 4300 US residents and documented that cumulative PPI exposure for more than 5 years was significantly linked with a twofold increase in the rate of Cardio-Vascular Disease events compared with people who did not use a PPI – these people were not necessarily diabetics.

Should you avoid PPIs at all cost? NO!

Should you start thinking differently about how often you should use antacids, and whether or not a dietary adjustment will help solve the problem without need for medication? YES!

What is heartburn?

Simply put, heartburn is caused by stomach acids going up from the stomach to the oesophagus. The main symptom – a burning sensation of pain in the chest area, which can continue to the neck and up to the mouth. It can be accompanied by a feeling of pressure in the chest similar to that characteristic of a heart attack, and heartburn usually occurs after eating, but can also occur at night, or when lying down or leaning forward.

In its chronic form, it can even occur daily, and this can be a sign of gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a disease in which gastric juices, and sometimes even bile, return back into the oesophagus. If you have heartburn regularly and severely, have difficulty swallowing or recurrent nausea and vomiting, or if you notice a change in appetite, it is recommended that you report this to your family doctor.

What happens is that there is a muscle in the lower part of the oesophagus whose function is to prevent the acidic gastric juices from rising into the oesophagus and causing heartburn. Normally, when we swallow food this gatekeeper steps aside and lets food and drink pass through into the stomach, and after we have finished swallowing, the gatekeeper returns to its place. When the gatekeeper does not function properly (I will detail the reasons for this below), gastric juices can rise back into the oesophagus and cause a burning sensation.

Our stomach is lined with mucus that protects it from the acidity of the digestive juices, but the oesophagus does not have such a strong lining, so if the gastric juices touch it, it causes a burn – which is heartburn.

Why do we suffer from heartburn?

Earlier I explained that heartburn is caused as a result of some malfunction of the gatekeeper.

This dysfunction can be due to a variety of reasons, including muscle weakness, diaphragmatic hernia, recurrent vomiting, pregnancy, Helicobacter pylori infection, overweight, asthma, diabetes, delayed emptying of the stomach, connective tissue disorder, use of certain medications, smoking, overeating fatty and acidic foods, under or over gastric acidity, and stress.

In order to identify which of these reasons is the cause, a personal diagnosis must be made, and you may be asked to perform tests such as a breath test, gastroscopy, or scan to monitor the acidity in the oesophagus. It would also be a good idea to check levels of nutrients in the body to rule out problems of absorption following heartburn (if caused, for example, by recurrent vomiting, hypo- or hyperacidity).

How can we avoid heartburn?

In situations of heartburn, we will always want to combine three main elements: diet, lifestyle, and stress management.

Let’s start at the beginning, with nutrition to prevent heartburn:

Generally speaking, we want to reduce acidic foods, and add alkaline foods. In a nutshell we can divide it like this –

Alkaline foods: nuts and almonds, fruits and vegetables.

Acidic foods: meat, dairy products, solanaceous vegetables (tomatoes, aubergines etc), and citrus fruits.

We will try to create eating habits that include smaller meals, at smaller intervals – instead of eating 3 large meals, it is better to eat smaller meals every 2-3 hours, and it is important to chew the food for a long time.

It is advisable to avoid foods that are known to aggravate heartburn symptoms, such as spicy foods, mint, fatty and fried foods, alcohol, ketchup, carbonated beverages, and coffee.

Depending on the situation, you may need a diet adjusted according to sub- or hyperacidity.

Lifestyle factors:

  1. Maintain a healthy weight and avoid tight clothing, as these can cause an increase in intra-abdominal pressure.
  2. Avoid large and heavy meals, and eating late in the evening.
  3. Avoid lying down after meals, and raising your head in bed.
  4. Avoid of smoking, which weakens the gatekeeper.

Stress Management:

Exercise improves the function of the digestive system, and helps reduce stress and pressure. It is highly recommended to include stress-relieving exercises in your daily routine, to suit your character – it can be yoga, qi gong, or any other physical activity which you enjoy!

Ensuring you’re also incorporating other stress relieving activities such as meditating, knitting, listening to music, reading, or anything that relaxes you!

The truth is that in clinic, other than this trinity of nutrition, lifestyle and stress management, the use of medicinal herbs here produces the fastest and most effective results.

Heartburn is a common condition that affects many people. It can be caused by a variety of factors, such as eating spicy foods, drinking alcohol, or being overweight. While over-the-counter and prescription medications can provide short term relief – it doesn’t solve the problem – meaning you have to keep taking these day in and day out, which is why you should prefer to use natural methods to treat heartburn.

Naturopathy, a system of medicine that focuses on the use of natural remedies, offers a number of effective ways to treat heartburn.

Heartburn can be a frustrating and painful condition, but it can be treated naturally with naturopathy. By making changes to your diet, trying herbal remedies, practising relaxation techniques, getting regular exercise, and considering probiotics, you can find relief from heartburn and improve your overall health.

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