The odds are that you or someone you know experiences heartburn. Around half of North American adults experience it at least once per month. Somewhere between 10-20% have it at least once per week!
Heartburn, also known as reflux, occurs when the strong acid in your stomach creeps up into your esophagus.
It can feel like a burning sensation; hence the name "heartburn." Other common symptoms include bloating, burping, difficulty swallowing, or a sore throat. Often there is a bitter or sour taste as well. It's important to know that stomach acid is good! Stomach acid is essential for good health and optimal digestion.
We need the acid in our stomach to protect us against harmful microbes (i.e. bacteria) that lurk in our food and drinks. Stomach acid also helps us break down our food, and digest nutrients. But we need that acid to stay in the stomach, and not get up to our esophagus!
Stomach acid doesn't usually burn the stomach itself; this is because the stomach is protected by a layer of mucus.
But your esophagus doesn't have that same protection. It has a valve that is supposed to prevent things from going the wrong way (i.e. keep food, drink, and acid down; not allow it back up). And when your esophagus is exposed to stomach acid too often, it can cause the infamous burning, inflammation, and other potential issues.
Here are some tips that can help you overcome your heartburn symptoms naturally. Of course, if symptoms last for a long time, or get worse, it's probably a good idea to see your doctor.
Foods to eat (and avoid)
You may notice that when you eat or drink certain things, you get heartburn soon afterward. These triggers may be different for everyone; but often include onions, garlic, chocolate, citrus, tomato, mint, spicy foods, greasy foods, coffee, carbonated drinks, or alcohol. If any of these affect you, reduce them or even try cutting them out to see if it makes a difference.
Heartburn might also result from a food intolerance. Try eliminating grains, dairy, and processed foods for three weeks and see if that helps. Now, you may be wondering: “If I eliminate these foods/drinks, then what can I put in their place?”
Try increasing fiber intake. Yes, this means more whole, unprocessed foods, especially veggies! Try getting at least five servings of veggies every day.
How and when to eat Eat slowly. Use meal times to release stress. Chew your food very well. Don’t eat meals that are too big. And don’t eat too close to bedtime. You want to avoid lying down with a full stomach. We’re talking finishing eating 2-3 hours before lying down, so schedule your dinner or snack with this in mind.
Sometimes strenuous exercise can make heartburn symptoms worse. If this happens to you, then focus on low-intensity exercises like walking and easy cycling.
If symptoms come on as you’re lying down to sleep, try adding a pillow or two so your head is a bit higher than your stomach.
Now I know that some of these things are easier said than done. If you'd like help adjusting your lifestyle to gradually move from the foods you currently eat to a more nourishing diet and to identify techniques that can help you implement new habits, give us a call (1-866-JOYVIAL).
I'm personally working with a client right now who made it clear at the start that he'll never give up bread. We are 4 sessions into the program and he voluntarily has replaced bread with much better alternatives.
You are much stronger than you think and simply need a few techniques to address your unique goals and challenges. We are here for you whenever you're ready.