Greetings dear reader, today I am going to tell you about heartburn , a digestive problem that affects and has affected many people at some point in their lives.
Along with acid reflux, heartburn is the main symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Typically, when you have heartburn, it is treated with over-the-counter medications and antacids as a quick way to find relief.
On the other hand, for longer bouts of heartburn, doctors often prescribe acid-suppressing medications such as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) and H2 blockers, also known as H2 antagonists.
However, these drugs are very powerful that can bring very dangerous side effects, in addition, excess stomach acid is not always the cause of heartburn.
In this article, I will explain more about this kind of painful burning or stinging, why it happens and how we can prevent and neutralize it effectively.
What is heartburn ?
Heartburn is a digestive disorder and a symptom of GERD. In general, the symptoms that it produces are the following:
- A burning sensation in the throat and mouth.
- A chronic cough and a hoarse voice.
- Difficulty swallowing; sufferers often have difficulty swallowing.
- A burning sensation or sharp pain behind the breastbone.
- Excessive belching
- Chest pain, especially after eating or when bending over, exercising, or lying down at night.
Heartburn and its causes
Heartburn occurs when acid from the stomach backs up or leaks into the esophagus. This leak occurs when a muscular valve called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES, also called the cardia) fails and does not close properly.
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The LES is a kind of barrier that has the function of preventing stomach acid from entering the esophagus. Although most people believe that the cause of heartburn is excess stomach acid, in reality this is different.
In fact, there are several causes of heartburn that may be more likely and share a common relationship:
- Bacterial overgrowth in the intestine.
- Too little stomach acid.
What to do when you have heartburn?
It is natural for any patient to always look for ways to get rid of heartburn quickly, but quick relief is not always the best method.
Unless we address the underlying factors causing the condition, the result will be chronic heartburn. On the other hand, medications mask and alleviate symptoms , but in reality, they do little to resolve the causes mentioned above.
Next, we will analyze some ways of how to neutralize acidity, very viable alternatives in relation to drugs such as H2 blockers that ultimately bring adverse health effects.
How to neutralize heartburn?
Here I share 4 alternatives that can help reduce heartburn and that do not require the consumption of strong medications.
1- Increase the acidity of the Stomach.
I know, it sounds counterintuitive to get rid of acid reflux by increasing acidity in your stomach.
However, too little stomach acid (hypochlorhydria) is a particularly common cause of heartburn. In fact, a study from the University of Manchester explains that low stomach acid is a very common cause.
Without sufficient production of hydrochloric acid, food cannot be broken down and properly digested. In the long term, this can lead to all kinds of nutrient deficiencies and health problems.
How can you increase stomach acid?
The first thing to do is make sure the problem is really related to low stomach acid and for that, there are different ways to test this, from extensive lab tests to easy tests done at home.
If a lack of stomach acid is the problem, there are several ways to improve the situation:
- Chew food well: When stomach acidity is low, it is advisable to work less on the stomach, so it is necessary to chew (pre-digest) food as much as possible, slowly and avoid eating too fast.
- Digestive Bitters: Bitters are dietary supplements with digestive benefits that have been proven in people with poor digestion after eating.
- Apple Cider Vinegar: A small portion of this just before dinner is ideal when heartburn occurs.
- Betaine HCI: This is a supplement that has been in use since the 1800s. It contains hydrochloric acid and has been shown to safely re-acidify the stomach.
2- Avoid “trigger” foods
One of the best ways to alleviate acid reflux is to avoid trigger foods , however it is important to realize that these foods do not cause heartburn / GERD therefore avoiding them offers no cure and the underlying problem will still need to be addressed.
The foods that trigger heartburn vary from person to person, but some common foods that can cause problems include:
- Caffeinated drinks in general.
- Citrus fruits like grapefruit, lemons, and limes.
- Garlic and onion.
- Spicy food and hot peppers.
Some other triggers for heartburn can include:
- Eat before bed: Heartburn can be particularly severe in these cases.
- Intense exercise: Vigorous activity can cause symptoms of heartburn.
- Significant amounts of food in a meal.
- A high body mass index (BMI): Being overweight is a primary risk factor for heartburn.
A famous home remedy for heartburn is to use baking soda when you experience a severe flare-up.
Sodium bicarbonate is a natural antacid with an alkaline pH; Drinking a teaspoon dissolved in water will help relieve acid reflux.
3- Reduce bacterial overgrowth.
Bacterial overgrowth is another potential cause of heartburn. A common condition known as small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) could be to blame.
Additionally, some studies imply that Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) also has a close connection with acid reflux. They often develop through excessive consumption of refined carbohydrates such as bread, cakes, and sugar.
These bacteria ferment carbohydrates into gas and once they are grown into “colony” they can create excessive amounts of gases. This gas can then rise and cause a significant amount of pressure on the LES valve, causing it to open and allow gas and stomach acid to enter the esophagus.
How can bacterial overgrowth of the small intestine be reduced?
It is possible to reduce and eliminate bacterial overgrowth through dietary change, although it is not an instant fix and it may seem that GERD will never go away, the key is to restrict the food source (carbohydrates) of the bacteria.
Slowly, the bacteria will die and since the carbohydrates will be low, they will have little food to ferment into gas. As a result, the pressure that forces the LES valve to open will dissipate and acid reflux and heartburn will decrease.
4- Restore beneficial intestinal bacteria.
After you resolve the imbalance between good and bad bacteria in your gut, the next thing you need to do is restore a high population of good bacteria.
In recent years, emerging science suggests that gut bacteria play an important protective role in our overall health. In addition to improving the health of our intestinal tract, it also has benefits for the whole body.
On the other hand, the consumption of probiotics helps protect the body against the overgrowth of “bad bacteria” and can be useful in the treatment of GERD.
While you can find all kinds of probiotic supplements, real food is always the best option. Unlike supplements and food products that may or may not contain live probiotics, we can be sure that fermented foods do and are much cheaper.
Some probiotic foods include:
- Apple cider vinegar.
- Raw cheese
By including these types of foods in your diet, intestinal health will be dramatically improved, allowing carbohydrates to be limited and the diversity of good bacteria to predominate over bad bacteria.
In general, heartburn and GERD are frustrating, sometimes chronic conditions that cause a lot of stress and discomfort.
However, taking acid-suppressing medications right away can often do more harm than good, especially since the real cause of heartburn is often a lack of acid.
Fortunately, there are also natural ways to get rid of heartburn and stop acid reflux, and the good thing is that they have no side effects, some of them are:
- Eat Bananas at least 2 a day.
- Ginger Tea Infusion.
- Eat almonds, it can be 4 a day.
- Drink Vinegar before meals.
- The Water with lemon.
- Fennel tea.
Finally, if your heartburn is constant, always consult with your GP or gastroenterologist, to help you identify the cause of your heartburn and properly treat your problem.
Here on my blog, you can find other types of very effective home remedies that can benefit you and alleviate any discomfort or pain you may have, due to another digestive problem.