Natural Relief for Heartburn

As the weather heats up, so do the grills. It’s BBQ time and for many Americans that means heartburn season. Look around you at your next picnic and realize that about 1 in 18 Americans (1) suffer from heartburn daily. In a month over 60 million Americans experience it! Heartburn is a burning or painful sensation in the stomach or chest because stomach acid backs up into the esophagus, causing sensitive tissues to become irritated. You may also feel bloating, gas, nausea, shortness of breath, or an acidic/sour taste in the throat. This is called gastroesophageal reflux (GER) and has many contributing factors and causes. Types of foods, activities and positions can all exacerbate the condition. More severe and chronic symptoms are referred to as gatroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). GERD can strike anyone, at any age. GERD can scar the esophagus, and if stomach acids make their way into the lungs, it can cause asthma-like symptoms. GERD can also cause changes in the cells lining the esophagus that can lead to esophageal cancer.

Evaluation:
Proper evaluation and diagnosis is important because GERD can cause serious health problems if not treated. If your symptoms last longer than two weeks, worsen over time, or you are taking antacids more than three times per week you should come in for an exam. These same symptoms can also be mistaken as heartburn and mask early symptoms of angina and heart attack. Since there are numerous factors that contribute to GERD, a detailed history regarding symptoms, diet, exercise and a physical exam are critical in proper diagnosis.

Treatment:
The usual method of managing GERD and heartburn is to take medication that decreases the acid output of the stomach, called Proton Pump Inhibitors. This can be quite effective, but it is not a cure, has side effects and requires that you continue to take the medication long-term. (2) Occasional use is without much risk, but prolonged indefinite use can cause headache, nausea, increased risk of fracture (3) and increased risk of bacterial infections. (4) The decreased acid production may also impair your ability to digest food and lead to a vitamin B12 deficiency (5). There are many natural ways to manage heartburn and early symptoms of GERD that we use at LGCWC including supplements, lifestyle changes and chiropractic adjustments. (8)

Supplements: (7)
These methods tend to have fewer side effects than medication. Many of them are most effective when combined with lifestyle changes. Each individual will have different requirements and needs, so please consult with us before starting any course of therapy. Some of the elements to consider include:

  • Vitamins are not properly absorbed if you are having digestion problems and supplementation may be necessary until your digestive tract is functioning properly again.
  • Enzymes are necessary for proper digestion and can be supplemented with meals.
  • Probiotics augment friendly bacteria in the digestive tract and aid proper digestion.
  • Minerals have an alkalizing effect that binds up stomach acid and can relieve hyperacidity without disturbing the normal acid-alkaline balance.
  • Herbs can relieve esophageal irritation, aid in the healing of the intestinal tract, proper digestion and act as a buffer to stop heartburn.

Lifestyle: (6)
Lifestyle changes are often some of the most effective ways to eliminate GER. This doesn’t mean that you can only eat bland food for the rest of your life or can’t enjoy the activities you love. In fact making these changes will allow you to continue to eat the things you love without the discomfort and long-term damage that you may be suffering from now. Again, the success of these methods will depend on the severity of your condition. Because GER has so many factors, please consult with us before making any radical changes. Most of these changes are reasonable and safe though, including; changing your sleeping position, exercise habits, managing stress **link to stress article** and changing your eating habits.

References
(1) http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/gerd/gerd.pdf
(2) http://www.mendeley.com/research/dyspeptic-symptom-development-after-discontinuation-of-a-proton-pump-inhibitor-a-doubleblind-placebocontrolled-trial/
(3) http://www.cmaj.ca/content/179/4/319.full
(4) http://www.cghjournal.org/article/S1542-3565(11)01078-0/abstract
(5) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21365243
(6) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/gerd/DS00967/DSECTION=lifestyle-and-home-remedies
(7) Prescription for Nutritional Healing. Phyllis Balch and James Balch.
(8) Differential Diagnosis and Management for the Chiropractor, Third Edition: Protocols and Algorithms. Thomas Souza.

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