Updated: Dec 15, 2019
It's a common misconception that heartburn (as suggested by the name) is caused by excess stomach acid creeping up the esophagus and causing a burning sensation in the chest and throat. This is only part of the truth. It may not be that there is an excess of acid but instead, inadequate levels stomach acid finding itself in the wrong place and causing discomfort. Stomach acid is necessary to digest food, absorb nutrients and kill any bacteria or other pathogens we consume. It is kept within the stomach by the closing of a structure called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). When food enters the stomach, the LES closes and prevents the contents of the stomach from moving backward into the esophagus. It closes in the presence of stomach acid. It may malfunction when exposed to caffeine, nicotine, alcohol or food sensitivities in some but it can also become relaxed/open when there is low stomach acid. If heartburn can occur when stomach acid is low, then antacids, which neutralize acid, and medicines like Prilosec and Zantac which decrease stomach acid production, may not provide lasting relief or target the cause of symptoms in the first place. Simple steps toward lasting relief: 1. Find the cause: The best way to treat chronic heartburn, or any disease for that matter, is to determine it's cause. It is possible to test stomach acid levels and determine any food or chemical sensitivities that can trigger symptoms. You can find that out through an elimination diet or by being tested for food intolerances/sensitivities. 2. Diet and Lifestyle Options: a) Avoiding triggers, b) Eat smaller meals c) Eat slowly and chew completely before swallowing 3. Natural Supplements: There are many foods and herbs that promote adequate stomach acid production, effective digestion and nutrient absorption. These may include bitters, betaine hydrochloric acid, digestive enzymes and other natural medicines. As always, consult your Naturopathic Doctor to discuss your natural medicine options before beginning any new treatments or supplements. Here's to your health, Dr. Adeola Mead, ND Contact Dr. Mead today for a complimentary 15-minute consultation regarding your health and how naturopathic medicine can benefit you!