I am very familar with these conditions as they have been persistent in my family for years: acid-reflux, GERD, over-production of acid -- whatever you want to call it, it's no fun. In fact, when I was a teenager I was popping Tums and Maalox like candy because I was in a constant state of pain from heartburn and always bloated to the point of having to undo the top button of my jeans. Sound familiar?
Rather than stuffing yet another pill down your throat and suppressing those symptoms, let's look at these conditions a little closer as this might surprise you. Not only were these conditions prevalent in my family, but they are probably one of the most common problems I see with my clients. This statement might come as a surprise and shock you, but the majority (not all) of people actually don't produce enough stomach acid to adequately digest and break down their food.
The majority (not all) of people actually don't produce enough stomach acid to adequately digest and break down their food.
Simple test to determine if you have too much stomach acid.
This is one of the oldest tests you can perform on yourself at home to determine if you have overproduction of hydrochloric acid: http://www.drdebe.com/stomachacidtest.html As well, if you are one of many people now following my daily tip of drinking lemon and water every morning on an empty stomach and you do this WITHOUT stomach pain, I can assure you, you are NOT producing too much acid. In fact, this is one of the simplest (older than your grandmother) tests to determine if you have too much acid - simply drink lemon and water. Once digested, the lemon leaves an alkaline ash, but going down the pipe it's acidic and will give you pain if you have too much acid in your gut.
Before you go taking any pills to suppress acid production, consider these points:
Here are some natural ways to reduce heartburn.
1. First rule out Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), a bacterium that causes chronic inflammation of the inner lining of the stomach, which translates to "pain". This is a simple blood test your doctor can order and if you test positive, it's very easily corrected.
Food combining will ease the burden of food digestion on your gut.
2. Practice food combining. This will ease the burden of food digestion on your gut. Protein and fats take the longest to digest. If you mix all your macronutrients together (protein/carb/fat) this could be a recipe for disaster. Carbs ferment and rot very easily causing gas, pain and bloating because they are digested in the small intestine and not meant to hang around in your gut while your steak digests in your stomach. Practice food combining and eliminate these problems. There are varying levels of food combining that I advise my clients on and every person is unique, but here are some basic rules to follow:
|All meat, chicken, turkey||Most vegetables||Cakes and cookies|
|Yogurt and cheese||All salads||Sweet potatoes|
|Fish||Nuts and seeds||Bread, crackers, pasta|
|Olive oil||Juice and sweet|
3. Spice up your meal with: ginger, dill, turmeric, cinnamon, cumin, fennel. Or drink a cup of peppermint tea, ginger or dandelion 30 minutes after a meal to improve your digestion.
4. Avoid dairy products, they are very acidifying and may provide immediate relief of heartburn because they are alkaline, but the problem is they leave an acidic residue - making heartburn WORSE and they increase inflammation in the gut.
5. Avoid heartburn triggers: greasy fried foods, sugar, alcohol, coffee. I'm sure you already know this from the hundreds of commercials showing a guy in a diner eating bacon and eggs, chased by a coffee and then he's doubled over in pain. Coffee in particular is a heartburn inducer big time. Why? Simply stated, it's a stimulant. It stimulates your gut to secrete acid at the WRONG time, just like how it stimulates your bowels to immediately evacuate.
Yet another reason to avoid coffee - a premature bowel movement inhibits proper absorption of vital nutrients to your health. Your B vitamins that keep anxiety in check are absorbed in your small intestine, throw some coffee into the mix and you may well be preventing your gut from having enough time to absorb these brain loving nutrients.
6. Exercise. Studies prove that a healthy gut stems from a healthy lifestyle. Aim to move every single day! Especially if you sit at a desk all day, your organs are all scrunched up especially if you don't have the posture of a ballet dancer which is not ideal for good gut health. As well, an increase in exercise will improve your circulation overall and this translates to good gut health.
7. Lastly, but certainly not least is STRESS. I'm sure if you suffer from heartburn your doctor will tell you "cut back on stress and this will decrease heartburn". Your doctor is bang-on, but I wonder if he knows why. Well, I'm going to tell you! Did you know that when your body is in "sympathetic nervous system mode" (stress response), your brain literally shuts down blood supply and energy to your stomach? This means, if you are eating while at work stressed out, your gut will not be supplying the enzymes and HCL needed to break down that tuna wrap at your boardroom meeting you are about to devour. Result? Pain in your stomach.
I could keep going on here with even more tips, but every person is unique. These are really the tip of iceberg. If you've read this very long post then I congratulate you and I want to share one last story, a personal one.
A Case Study:
My dad is a 60 year old man with a warm loving energy - ya my dad lights up a room, but that's not the point. I just felt like writing that because he's so damn cute and well... it's my blog so I can say what I want! Haha. Okay so, about three years ago while I was learning all about gut health, I asked my dad to be my guinea pig. Of course, he obliged because he'd been on acid suppressing meds for OVER 30 years, I kid you not. He wanted to go off meds, but had just believed his doctor that it was the best and seemingly only solution to prevent painful heartburn. Here's what we did:
1. Supplements: I put him on a super intense high quality probiotic and digestive enzyme that he takes with 2 meals a day.
2. Exercise and relaxing activities: Walking, kundalini yoga, elliptical (actually, my mom emailed me that he uses the "ellipitCATOR"), apparently it's been re-branded as this.
3. Drinks more water, at least 5-6 glasses per day and lemon and water first thing in the morning! But of course! :)
4. Change in eating habits: he eats less, practices food combining, switched to organic, STOPPED drinking cow's milk ya! My dad is a cheesehead and still eats the occasional cheese, but that's okay at least we got him off the milk. My parents drink almond milk now!
5. LESS stress from his career: He has less stress in his current job, his business partner is my mom and for some that might seem like a nightmare, but my parents actually really like each other. Yes I realize there is a small percentage of the population who stay married after 30 years and still love each other. I'm very grateful for this and my dad says having a business he loves and is passionate about really reduced his stress levels significantly.
So my dad has been following this for a few years now and guess what? He's a MILLION times better now!! He gets heartburn maybe once every other month and very rarely has to take any meds for relief. THIS is precisely the reason I love being a nutritionist SO VERY MUCH! When the root cause is addressed and a holistic approach is taken, nearly every health problem can be fixed with some dedication and openness to change.
I do hope that you share this post with someone you know suffering from digestive problems because they don't have to suffer in silence and pop meds for life that are NOT meant for long-term use and have many negative side effects.