Heartburn affects more than 60 million Americans every month, its not actually anything to do with your heart though, its a burning sensation in the chest caused by stomach acid which travels up towards the throat and it has the ability to show up when you least want it to, usually while you are at a nice restaurant and have just taken your first bite of delicious food and a sip of red wine, a burning feeling arises in your chest, you start to turn down the wine and request water instead and you wonder how you are going to get through the meal without embarrassingly having to leave the table and your friends or hot date to find a pharmacy so late at night. Does this ring a bell?
One pop of an antacid, such as Tums or Rennie and it usually gives instant relief so what’s the problem? the problem being, what happens when it doesn’t go away after a Rennie or two?
I had a recent heartburn flare up which lasted for 4 weeks and I was terrified, I thought I would have the symptoms forever. I realised how complex the condition was when I researched it online, the symptoms were similar if you had too much stomach acid to if you didn’t have enough, so how does one know? It’s more common to not have enough stomach acid than too much, but western medicine seems to focus on getting rid of the symptoms with a quick fix rather than looking into it too deeply. I made appointments to see 3 different doctors over the four weeks who all prescribed me PPI’s (Proton-pump inhibitors) a group of drugs whose main action is to reduce stomach acid production. One doctor said I had gastritis due to Ibuprofen use and one told me I had a hiatal hernia and one said I had acid reflux caused by anxiety. Not one doctor gave me any nutritional advice, considering it was a digestive condition I found this quite strange and surely blocking all my acid production isn’t going to be a great idea in the long run?.
I was mortified when I researched the side effects of the PPI drugs, if taken long term they could cause Kidney Disease and Osteoporosis and other awful conditions! I had already started taking the drugs as I had such extreme discomfort in my chest, upper stomach, hoarseness, sore throat, neck pain, and earache and flu on top of it all, so I was pretty low. I looked into ways to reduce my symptoms and heal my condition through food and ayurvedic medicine while gradually weaning myself off of the PPI.
It took me three weeks before I saw a significant difference. I firstly avoided all trigger foods such as chili, spicy foods, alcohol, chocolate, coffee, tomatoes and citrus fruits and I stuck to a diet that was easy to digest, ensuring that I chewed my food many times so that my digestive system which was already under strain didn’t have to work harder than it needed to.
Here are some of the foods that I tried that worked well for me and eased my symptoms and put me back on the road to good health.
- Almond Milk – Coat your stomach and esophagus lining with a protective layer to stop the acid damaging your stomach wall, I found almond milk and a little ghee butter very comforting before I went to bed, I also added caprylic acid which can kill any bad bacteria in your gut.
- Fennel – I roasted some fennel seeds which I snacked on in between meals and it did ease my discomfort, I also juiced fennel, cucumber, and celery which cooled the inflammation.
- Pomegranate juice – I started taking this as my symptoms were starting to improve, it balances PH levels and neutralises any excess acid. I juiced fresh pomegranates which felt more nutritious than buying it from concentrate in a supermarket.
- Papaya – Full of great digestive enzymes and anti-bacterial properties, felt very soothing to my digestive tract.
- H-Pylori – Acid reflux symptoms could be caused by a common bacteria called H-Pylori so I would recommend eliminating these bacteria, ask your doctor for a stool test.
- Ginger – fresh ginger tea with manuka honey soothes the esophagus and also kills any bad bacteria in your tummy. Ginger is anti-inflammatory and has been used for digestive health for hundreds of years so it’s a safe bet.
- Parsley – I boiled a handful of parsley in a saucepan, strained it and then sipped on the water throughout the day, I noticed vast improvements but it tasted really bad. Parsley is known for its super healing powers on the intestines.
- Bananas- The texture just felt like the right thing to eat, it coated my throat in a protective layer and staved off any hunger pains, I don’t think bananas work for everyone, but they definitely worked for me.
- Chicken – I kept my food quite simple, chicken in chicken broth soup really felt nourishing and bone broth is one of the best foods to eat with any inflammatory condition, its healing and contains collagen vital for healing and repairing the gut.
- Pro-Biotic – I made sure when I became hungry that I would eat some yogurt as it was easy to digest and hunger would bring on symptoms so I wanted to avoid hunger pains. I chose a sheep yogurt containing bio-cultures as sheep’s milk is 10% lower in lactose than cow’s milk.
- Basil Leaves- I placed basil beside my bed as when the acid reflux flared up in the night, I would take a few basil leaves and chew on them, I was quite amazed at how effective it was and it helped ease the pain pronto. Basil helps reduce excess acid production. Tulsi Tea was also great which is made from Holy Basil leaves.
- Aloe Vera Juice – Healing to the intestinal tract and digestion, normalizes ph balance in the gut and encourages good digestive bacteria.
- Melatonin – Tests show that melatonin improves GERD symptoms such as heartburn (Gastroesophageal reflux disease) by decreasing esophageal acid exposure. This really helped me as my symptoms were often worse at night when I was lying down and so it helped me to sleep through the night.
Avoid These Habits:
- When taking pain killers or supplements, make sure you take them with lots of water and maybe even eat a small piece of bread with it to ensure it’s gone into your stomach properly. If it’s exposed for too long in your esophagus it can irritate the lining and create damage to the tissues and cells.
- Avoid NSAIDS such as ibuprofen if you regularly take pain killers for a condition, they are irritating to the stomach and can cause irreversible damage.
It’s always good to get the advice from your health practitioner if you suffer from heartburn, but its also good to know that we can heal our bodies naturally to give it gentle support rather than harsh treatments, which often only cause more problems further down the line.