How to reduce reflux and heartburn

Do you suffer from reflux or heartburn? Mullen Health are experts in how to reduce reflux and heartburn with a naturopathic approach. Reflux, heartburn, burping, nausea, indigestion, bloating; all of these symptoms are signs that your digestion may not be working as effectively as it should. If you experience any one of these symptoms I want you to take a moment and think about how often they occur. Are they sporadic, occurring only when you eaten specific foods? Or are they persistent, and it doesn’t matter what you put in your mouth you know you’ll feel the effects of it soon enough? Reflux medications are one of the most common digestive medications prescribed today and the role of these medications is to actually lower stomach acid. The theory is by lowering stomach acid symptoms will resolve, however, often what I notice in clinic, is once a person starts on reflux medication, they soon can’t live without it and are gradually increasing their dose. Their symptoms haven’t resolved and they are now reliant on reflux medications.

What if I told you that those medications are actually doing the exact opposite of what is needed? That in actual fact, your stomach acid may already be too low, which is what first ignited the reflux, heartburn and indigestion?

There are three parts implicated in these symptoms; the oesophagus, the lower oesophageal sphincter (LES) and the stomach and they work like a forward moving pump. Food goes down your oesophagus, the LES pushes it through into the stomach, the stomach contracts and relaxes to break down food using digestive acids and enzymes before moving it along into the small intestine. GORD (gastro oesophageal reflux disease) occurs when the LES fails to function correctly, allowing the contents of the stomach, including acid and gas, to pass back through into the oesophagus causing symptoms. In healthy adults it takes approximately 45 minutes for stomach acid to drop to a certain pH to stimulate digestion, unfortunately as we age this time lengthens. Additionally, diet and lifestyle factors can also impact how effectively stomach acid is produced and how long it takes to be produced.

Factors causing reflux and heartburn 

  • Low stomach acid – this can be caused from so many things (see list below) but it really is the common reason for reflux and heartburn. To resolve this symptoms we first need to understand the cause of low stomach acid
  • Stress – there is a reason why our parasympathetic nervous system is also known as rest and digest state, because when we’re stressed (physically or mentally) our body goes into survival mode and digestive processes slow right down, because digesting food is not a priority
  • Medications – certain medications will cause or worsen symptoms by either reducing stomach acid, or aggravating the tissue of the oesophagus
  • Food – fried food, processed food, coffee, spicy foods, fatty foods such as meats and cheese will all exacerbate symptoms of reflux. Diets that consistently favour these types of foods will also induce indigestion and heartburn if they aren’t present already
  • Nutrient deficiencies – Zinc and B vitamin deficiency can cause symptoms as they are required for optimal stomach acid production. Additionally, chronic impaired digestion can cause deficiencies in B12, iron, vitamin C and vitamin D, among other essential nutrients
  • Age – digestive capacity reduces as we age
  • Smoking and alcohol consumptom
  • Drinking with meals – dilutes digestive enzymes and acids inhibiting food breakdown
  • Pathological conditions – Candida overgrowth, Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth
  • Functionality – if chronic indigestion and reflux has occurred and a person has consistently relied on medications to lower stomach acid, the LES may have become lazy causing faulty functioning of the valve itself

Tips to support digestion

  • Chew well and eat slowly – notice do you have saliva on your tongue? Is breath slow and steady? These are all signs that your body is ready for digestion and remember digestion begins in the mouth, your stomach does not have teeth. Stop to enjoy your food and chew well, eating slowly.
  • Avoid drinking with meals – aim for fluid 15mins before or 60mins after eating, if you’re reaching for a sip of water it may be that you’re not chewing slowly enough or that you weren’t initially ready for food!
  • Have bitter foods with your meal – this may mean you start your meal with a small salad of bitter leaves (rocket, radicchio, dill, mint) and a squeeze of lemon or lime juice. Bitter foods send a message to your stomach and stimulate the digestive enzymes and acids.
  • Have a shot of apple cider vinegar (diluted in a small amount of water) 15mins before meals, additionally you can use apple cider vinegar as a dressing on your salads and meals
  • Sit down to eat, avoid multi-tasking – eating food should be a mindful practice and time to slow down and check in with yourself. If you’re eating on the go your body hasn’t received the signal its time to rest and digest!
  • Consuming smaller, more frequent meals can also assist in efficient digestion of food
  • Opting for a wholefood plant heavy diet to reduce gastric inflammation and support microbiome diversity will also aid overall digestion of food
  • Herbal teas such as ginger, lemon balm and chamomile can help alleviate digestive discomfort post meal
  • Gentle exercise such as walk after meals can aid digestion

Reflux and heartburn getting you down? Tried some of the tips below and you’re still suffering discomfort? Why not give the clinic a call 02 4961 4075 and speak with an experienced gut health practitioner on how to reduce reflux and heartburn. We’re here to help and we’re here to remind you that eating should be fun and enjoyable!

Yours in health,

Samantha Wilson

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    Disclaimer – This website is designed to inform clients about ways to possibly improve their health. The opinions of the Mullen Natural Health Centre are our opinion only. Please consult your own healthcare provider to determine the best course of treatment for you.

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