growing number of people suffer the pain and discomfort of heartburn or reflux on a regular basis. It has been estimated that up to twenty percent of the population are affected at least once a week. Acid reflux and heartburn occur when the LES (lower esophageal sphincter) allows the acid content of the stomach to flow back up into the esophagus.
The esophagus is a tube like structure that connects the mouth and throat to the stomach. The LES is a valve which naturally protects the delicate esophagus from harmful acids. It is almost like a trapdoor, which opens up to allow the food we eat to enter the gut. Hydrochloric acid is then produced by the body to help break these substances down.
When heartburn or acid reflux strikes it is an indication of the LES temporarily relaxing, or in more serious cases, of it not functioning properly. If a person suffers from more regular or even constant heartburn and reflux, it may be a symptom of a far more serious condition called GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease.)
The symptoms of GERD are; heartburn, chest pains (especially at night), regurgitation of foods and liquids, a feeling of ‘sourness’ in the mouth and at times a sore throat and coughing and wheezing. If you suffer from any of the above symptoms on a regular basis, an appointment should be made with your doctor as soon as possible. GERD can lead to severe medical complications and should not be ignored.
Pregnancy is often the cause acid indigestion. If you are pregnant, always consult your doctor or obstetrician before taking any heartburn or reflux remedy. Both antacid and herbal treatments can be harmful to an unborn child. If however, you only experience occasional heartburn or acid reflux, there are many natural remedies which can help to ease your symptoms.
- Aloe Vera Juice
- Chewable DGL (deglycyrrhizinated licorice)
- Marshmallow root tea
- Peppermint tea
- Aniseed or anise
- Digestive enzymes that contain pepsin or betain
- Papaya digestive enzymes
- Chicory root
- Pineapple juice, which contains an enzyme called bromelain (bromelain can also be bought in tablet form)
Taking herbal remedies, rather than antacids, to relieve the symptoms of heartburn or reflux, can be extremely beneficial. Nevertheless, herbal remedies may also have side affects, particularly if you have been prescribed pharmaceutical drugs from your regular doctor. In such cases, a reputable herbalist should always be consulted if any form of medication is being taken.
Certified Herbalists can be sourced in your local business directory, or on the internet. Remedies that include herbal teas, aloe vera juice and digestive enzymes are usually found in health stores and are not generally thought to have many side affects. Always speak with a store assistant before you purchase a treatment. They often have a vast knowledge of herbal remedies, as well as their uses and effects. The most common causes of heartburn and reflux are the foods we eat.
Food and beverages to avoid include;
- Spicy foods
- Citrus fruits and juices
- Fatty foods
- Carbonated drinks (sodas)
- Black peppers
- Chillies (hot and spicy capsicums)
- Alcoholic beverages
- Fatty foods
- Foods high in sugar
- Raw onions
There are several other foods which can cause a reaction. Some people are more sensitive than others and may even have food allergies. If you think you might have an allergy to food, the best course of action is to consult your doctor or a dietician, before you modify your diet.
To achieve optimum health, eat a sensible, balanced diet and try not to consume too much food in one sitting. Meals that contain carbohydrates, meat, processed foods, sugar and fats can aggravate the causes of heartburn and reflux. Eat slowly and make sure that you chew each mouthful properly.
Undigested food will often create excess acid in the stomach, producing gases that can put pressure on a weakened LES and result in a painful bout of heartburn or reflux. As with all medical conditions, treating the cause rather than the symptom is the most logical way to control the discomfort of acid reflux and heartburn.