It’s not food causing your heartburn - 5 ways to address acid reflux naturally
It is very common to think that heartburn is caused by excessive acids going out from your stomach and into your oesophagus, causing this burning feeling, often accompanied by pain and irritation. You may be very surprised to learn that in the majority of cases reflux is caused by low rather than excess gastric acid (hypochlorhydria). Imagine taking antacids to manage heartburn when you are already producing less acid!
Other parameters that should be researched in order to identify the underlying cause of your heartburn is:
1. Rule out a hiatal hernia. The hiatus is an opening in the diaphragm - the muscular wall separating the chest cavity from the abdomen. Normally, the esophagus (food pipe) goes through the hiatus and attaches to the stomach. In a hiatal hernia(also called hiatus hernia) the stomach bulges up into the chest through that opening.
A hiatal hernia can be ruled out by endoscopy, reflex or muscle testing.
2. Check for food sensitivities/intolerances, gluten and/or lactose intolerance. Can be done through a blood test (IgG antibodies) or through a food elimination protocol (you may want to ask for the help of a naturopath/nutritional therapist).
3. Test for small intestine bacterial overgrowth. In SIBO gut bacteria translocate from the large to the small intestine causing a range of digestive symptoms, including bloating, change in bowel motility, flatulence, fatigue, pain or may be totally asymptomatic.
A lactulose breath test can be ordered through your practitioner.
4. Test your pancreatic function. The exocrine glands of your pancreas secrete a number of digestive juices that contain enzymes that help break down food, to absorb and digest it properly. Many people have a lower number of digestive enzymes due to many different factors, including stress, rapid eating, overconsumption of food, constant snacking etc.
A comprehensive digestive stool test can help you rule out pancreatic digestive insufficiency. Talk to your practitioner about it. Low stool chymotrypsin or elastase will indicate low pancreatic enzymes.
5. If you suspect more serious disease you should discuss with your GP the possibility of having an endoscopy.
The simplest way to manage heartburn is to avoid certain foods, chemicals, and habits that aggravate the problem (but that are not necessarily the trigger, rather mediators).
Cut out the CRAP!
- Refined carbohydrates (white flour, white sugar etc).
- Rapid eating.
- Rx (medical Drugs eg antihypertensives, muscle relaxants).
- Acid foods (eg tomatoes. Lemons become alkaline in your body! However some people may still find them problematic).
- Allergic foods.
- Pop soda.
- Packin’ in food at bedtime.
- Progesterone (medication or excess production).
Here is a more extensive list of medications that can cause reflux by relaxing the oesophageal sphincter (between your stomach and your oesophagus):
- Calcium channel blockers.
- Alpha adrenergic antagonists.
- Beta adrenergic agonists.
Having talked about low stomach acid, you might imagine that it is not always wise to gulp down the one antacid tablet after the other without thinking a moment to think what is the reason behind your symptoms. Further blocking the production of stomach acid when it is already low, will only add to your problem. There are many natural alternatives that can work on the deeper cause of your problem. Talk to your practitioner in order to find out together what is the reason of your suffering, before starting any medical or supplemental protocol.
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About Olianna Gourli
Olianna Gourli is a qualified naturopath/nutritional therapist, with a background in science and research (BSc hons.), mBANT, rCNHC). She has great expertise in gastrointestinal issues, such as IBS, hormonal imbalances and women's health, stress and chronic fatigue. She sees clients in her clinics in London, Athens and through Skype.