One of the most common problems that Americans experience with their digestive system is heartburn. Other names for this condition include acid reflux, Gastro-esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), indigestion, acid indigestion, and “agita”. This is specifically the uncomfortable sensation that occurs in the area of the chest between the stomach and the throat, usually after eating or drinking something that one would have been better off avoiding.
Very often it is a burning sensation that could be associated with an acid taste in the mouth and possible regurgitation of food. Some people experience other kinds of symptoms like a sore throat after eating or a cough. The biggest problem with acid reflux is that it can damage the esophagus, and this can lead to a precancerous condition called Barrett’s Esophagitis.
The most commonly prescribed treatments for this condition include over-the-counter antacids, acid blocker medications, and prescription acid blocking drugs known as Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPI). The problem with these medications is that they seldom address the underlying causes of the symptoms and provide only symptomatic relief at best. These medications attempt to neutralize the acid or turn it off completely without really considering the cause of the acidity in the first place.
Stomach acid is actually a very important substance in the body. It is necessary to digest food. Proteins are broken down into their components which are called amino acids by the actions of acid and a stomach enzyme known as pepsin. The acid is also crucial for the absorption of minerals and vitamins. Food is sanitized by the acid in the stomach, and this prevents infections further on down the line. In fact, one of the side effects of PPI drugs is an increase in both respiratory infections and intestinal infections.
In order to preserve the normal functioning of the stomach, the best approach to addressing symptoms of heartburn is to identify what is causing it. There is an easy 3-part strategy that can help determine what is causing the symptoms.
The first part is to consider what things in the diet are exacerbating the heartburn symptoms. The most common triggers for heartburn include: spicy foods, alcohol, coffee, citrus fruit, nuts, onions, food allergies and tomato sauce.
If you have not had an IgG food sensitivity blood test to help determine the foods to which you are sensitive, then that may be the first step. You could also consider trying a hypo-allergenic diet.
The second part is to consider the possibility that the heartburn is the result of insufficient stomach acid levels or inadequate digestive enzyme production. It can sometimes be helpful to take a digestive enzyme supplement at the start of your meals.
The third important part of the program is to balance any physical or emotional stress which could be contributing to the symptoms.
Naturopathic doctors are aware of all of these strategies. If you would like additional help with your heartburn symptoms, please contact us to set up an appointment. Our Detox & Cleanse Program is fabulous at addressing this situation. Come join us on your journey to optimal health.