During the holidays it can tempting to overeat and make poor foods choices. Heartburn can be a result of this indulgence. Heartburn is medically known as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, GERD, which is directly a result of an increase in intra-abdominal pressure that causes stomach bloating. This bloating will force acidic contents of the stomach into the esophagus via the lower esophageal sphincter, resulting in discomfort and a burning sensation.
Over the counter ant-acid medication is a common solution. It is important to consider the side effects of the medication and how to treat the underlying cause of this disease. Long term use of these medications are expensive, and negatively impact our ability to fully absorb all nutrients from our food as acid production is inhibited!
With that said, let’s get down to the root of heartburn:
- Remove Triggers (and Identify Cause): While we work on identifying the cause, we need to remove the common trigger foods. The top trigger foods include spicy and fried foods, coffee, tomatoes, citrus fruit, and soda. Once you have successfully identified and treated the cause, there should no longer be an issue with these foods (although, most of these foods are unhealthy anyhow and should be consumed minimally, if ever). Identifying the root cause is the key to success! Working with your functional medicine provider to assess for production levels of stomach acid, presence of harmful bacteria, or physical obstructions like a hiatal hernia or belly fat is the path to full resolution!
- Ramp Up Digestion: Contrary to popular thought, LOW stomach acid is often a cause of heartburn! Adequate stomach acid is SO important for digesting and absorbing nutrients from our food. Digestive enzymes are great for breaking down our fats, proteins and carbohydrates for optimal nutrient uptake. A teaspoon of apple cider vinegar before meals can also be a mild, yet effective, digestive aid.
- Replenish Good Bacteria: Healing the gut and ensuring the presence of adequate beneficial bacteria is crucial for absorbing our nutrients once they move from the stomach into the intestines. Several factors contribute to low beneficial bacteria, such as recent infection or antibiotic prescription, low fiber diet and high sugar intake. Replenishing beneficial bacteria with a high-quality, multi-strain probiotic is the solution!
So, what will you do - continue to mask the problem with a band-aid solution OR treat the problem once and for all?
Northwest Functional Medicine Team