Taking the burn out of heartburn and reflux


I am amazed at how many people struggle with issues related to acid reflux, commonly known as heartburn. From a woman with a true burning feeling in the chest and throat to a child with sinus issues to a man with a chronic ticklish cough (even without the heartburn), all of these patients are likely suffering from acid reflux.

Medications like Prevacid, Nexium and Larry the Cable Guy’s favorite, Prilosec, have long been used to lower stomach acid levels and reduce symptoms. They are now available over the counter. These meds work for some patients. Others may require a surgery to restrict acid flow.

It’s fine to reach for acid-blocking meds on an occasional basis. But long-term use of Prevacid, Prilosec and Nexium have now been associated with lots of other health issues, including higher risk of infections including pneumonia and bacterial colitis called Clostridium difficile, osteoporosis, iron deficiency, poor absorption of vitamins and minerals, fatigue and irregular heartbeat.

You can minimize acid effects by raising the head of your bed at night and by watching how, what and when you eat — not too late, not too spicy and not too much. Avoid tight waistbands. Smoking and alcohol use both relax the muscles of your esophagus and allow acid to backwash upward.

Here are some other tips:

1. Ginger tea. Ginger is loaded with antioxidants. People around the world value it for its antibacterial, antiviral, antioxidant and anti-parasitic properties. It can help calm stomach and digestive problems, especially reflux. You can find it in powdered form as a supplement, but try some fresh ginger root. Peel a section and cut off two to three ¼-inch slices, add to simmering water for 10 minutes and then steep for another 20 minutes. You can add some cinnamon, too, for extra flavor. Drink warm or cold.

2. Baking soda, as sodium bicarbonate is more commonly known, can help your reflux and in turn help your heartburn because it is a base substance. It has a pH higher than 7.0, and therefore neutralizes stomach acid. Put ½ teaspoon in a glass of water and mix thoroughly.

3. D-limonene is an extract from orange peel. In one study, 90 percent of the people taking D-limonene reported complete relief of their heartburn symptoms in just two weeks. And the effect lasted for six months after they stopped taking it. D-limonene is available at your local health food store. Dr. Al Sears recommends one 1,000 mg capsule every other day for 20 days and feels it is one of the most effective remedies.

4. Aloe vera juice can be drunk 30 minutes before a meal for a soothing effect.

5. Mint leaves have been used for hundreds of years to promote digestion and soothe cases of inflammation. The aroma of mint activates your salivary glands as well as glands that secrete digestive enzymes.

You can grow mint leaves in a pot in your kitchen or backyard. Don’t plant it in the garden; It spreads everywhere. I speak from personal experience. Simply chew a leaf, then tuck it back against your molars and let it dissolve. Or drink mint tea or eat sugar-free mint candies. Just make sure they’re made with real mint and not artificial mint flavoring.

6. Apple cider vinegar or lemon juice. When you have acid burning your esophagus, it seems quite counterintuitive to ingest even more acid. In some cases, though, acid reflux is caused by having not enough acid in your stomach, rather than having too much. It is the acid itself that signals the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) to tighten and close off.

If you don’t produce enough acid, your LES is going to think it’s OK to relax for a little bit. Then of course, you get a reflux of acid into your esophagus. If you think this may be your case, try drinking 1 tablespoon of Bragg’s unfiltered apple cider vinegar mixed with a glass of water to see if this minimizes reflux. You can also try a spoonful of fresh lemon juice.

7. Almonds. Chew four to five nuts in the evening for possible relief.

8. Chamomile tea about a half hour to an hour before you plan on going to sleep can help reduce inflammation in your stomach, and also does wonders for relieving stress, which can worsen acid reflux.


~Dr. Sue

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