Ask Mira: Natural Remedies for Reflux & Heartburn

Today’s ‘Ask Mira’ is a question from the lovely Georgia, who posted a question on my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/MirandasWellness);

Hey Miranda! I think this page is a great idea, so many cool recipes I want to try! I was wondering if you have any foods or recipes that would help acid reflux? I’m looking at your delicious food but I can’t really eat much and it’s making me hungry!

Thanks Georgia – this is a great question! Reflux and heartburn are incredibly common, so I’d like to answer this question in 3 parts:

  1. What is reflux and heartburn?
  2. What causes reflux and heartburn?
  3. How can I reduce and relieve reflux and heartburn?

I’d like to explain it all to you so that I know you understand what is happening to you and why. This way you will understand how the remedies will help you and be more likely to try them (well, that’s my theory, anyway!).

WHAT IS REFLUX AND HEARTBURN?

Reflux or gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) occurs when stomach contents, including stomach acid and partially digested food from the stomach is forced into the oesophagus, and sometimes into the mouth and oral cavity. This causes pain, burning in the chest, and regurgitation, and if left untreated, may damage the lining of the oesophagus or lead to oesophageal cancer. Heartburn is a symptom of this reflux, and occurs when stomach acid repeatedly passes through the sphincter at the base of the oesophagus. Stomach acid burns the lining of your oesophagus, because unlike the stomach, it does not have a layer of mucous over the tissue to protect it from the highly acidic fluid.

The lower oesophageal (esophageal) sphincter normally relaxes periodically to allow food to pass through from the mouth to the stomach and closes to prevent stomach acid from flowing back up into the oesophagus. When this muscle is under-functioning, it relaxes open, allowing stomach contents to enter the oesophagus (reflux)(http://buzzdocument.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/125537.jpg.gif)

WHAT CAUSES REFLUX AND HEARTBURN?

There are a few different reasons why you may be experiencing reflux and heartburn, but by figuring out which reason it is, it will be easier to know what treatment will work for you.

Firstly, reflux can be caused by both an excess of stomach acid, or, a lack of stomach acid. While an excess of stomach acid can occur, and causes reflux because it can’t be contained in the stomach, it is a lot more likely to not have enough stomach acid. There are a couple of ways to test this.

  • When you experience heartburn, take a large drink of water. If the heartburn subsides, it is likely you have too much stomach acid, as the water helps to neutralise the acid. However, if it makes it worse, it is likely you don’t have enough stomach acid, as the neutralising effects of the water make it even harder for your food to break down.
  • You could also try 1 tbl organic apple cider vinegar in warm water as it has an alkalising effect.

Reflux can also be caused by the food you are eating;

  • Do you experience reflux after specific foods? Such as, coffee, chilli, tomato, chocolate, alcohol, citrus, high fat meals, bread, pasta
  • Do you eat past the point of being full for most meals?
  • When you eat your food, do you relate to Fat Bastard from Austin Powers? As in, you see food, and your first though is ‘GET IN MA BELLEH!!!” before you wolf it all down in three minutes?

If you answered yes to any of the questions above, dietary intervention is going to be a very powerful healing tool for you, but we’ll discuss particular remedies in the next section.

Your reflux may also be caused by a dysfunction in the emptying of the contents of your stomach into your small intestine, or by reduced function of the lower oesophageal sphincter, making it unable to keep the stomach contents in the stomach.

Reflux and heartburn can also be aggravated by smoking, stress, weight gain, some medications, pregnancy and hiatus hernia.

HOW CAN I REDUCE AND RELIEVE MY REFLUX AND HEARTBURN?

  • Avoid the foods in your diet that aggravate your symptoms; tomato, chilli, coffee, caffeine, chocolate, alcohol, citrus, high fat foods, breads, pasta, etc. This will be hard, but it is achievable, temporary and essential for reducing your symptoms
  • Start your day with a glass of warm water and either the juice of 1/2 a lemon, 1/4 grapefruit or 1 tbl organic apple cider vinegar, before breakfast. This drink not only stimulates your digestion, but helps your body detoxify, due to the bitter flavour.
  • Quit smoking. This is a big aggravator of reflux and will aggravate the inflammation caused by oesophageal erosion by stomach acid (try the Quit Buddy app https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/quit-now-my-quitbuddy/id527485761?mt=8)
  • Slow down when you eat and chew your food! This will stop you from filling your stomach too much and make it easier to digest your food. It will also stimulate digestive secretions, such as stomach acid, pancreatic enzymes and bile that are essential for the digestion and absorption of nutrients from your food. There are two ways to achieve this; either put down your fork between mouthfuls and don’t pick it up until ALL the food is chewed and swallowed; OR make sure you chew each mouthful a MINIMUM of 20 times.
  • Drink water away from meals. This puts lets pressure on your oesophageal sphincter and also means you will absorb more nutrients from each meal, because they aren’t being washed away.
  • Regular exercise (every day). This reduces stress, and aids weight loss which may be aggravating your symptoms
  • Elevate the head of your bed with pillows. Utilise gravity if you get reflux at night, by elevating your head, allowing the contents of your oesophagus to slowly empty back into your stomach.
  • Avoid peppermint tea, as it relaxes your lower oesophageal sphincter, allowing the contents of your stomach to empty into your oesophagus easily.

If you find that these remedies do not help, please consult your doctor.

Thanks again for your question Georgia, I hope that this was easy to understand and helps you out.

If you would like to ask me a question, either leave a comment below, or go to my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/MirandasRecipes).

MORE INFO – WEBSITES

Heartburn information Australia – http://www.heartburn.com.au/

ABC Health & Wellbeing – http://www.abc.net.au/health/library/stories/2006/09/25/1831764.htm

My Dr Australia – http://www.mydr.com.au/gastrointestinal-health/gastro-oesophageal-reflux-what-causes-it

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References

Iwai, W, Abe, Y, Iijima, K, Koike, T, Uno, K, Asano, N, Imatani, A & Shimosegawa, T 2012, ‘Gastric Hypochlorhydria is Associated with an Exacerbation of Dyspeptic Symptoms in Female Patients’, Journal of Gastroenterology

Kaltenbach, T, Crockett, S & Gerson, L 2006, ‘Are Lifestyle Measures Effective in Patients with Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease: An Evidence Based Approach’, Archives of Internal Medicine, vol.166, no.9, pp.965-971

Kumar, P & Clark, M 2009, ‘Kumar & Clark’s Clinical Medicine’, 7th edn, Saunders Elsevier, Sydney, pp.249-252

Mahan, L, Escott-Stump, S & Raymond, J 2012, ‘Krause’s Food and the Nutrition Care Process’, 13th edn, Elsevier, USA, pp.8

Sarris, J & Wardle, J 2012, ‘Clinical Naturopathy: An Evidence-Based Guide to Practice’, Churchill Livingstone Elsevier, Australia, pp.75-80

Tortora, G & Derrickson, B 2009, ‘Principles of Anatomy and Physiology’, 12th edn, John Wiley & Sons Inc, USA, pp.936-938

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