Heartburn – Do you suffer with it and can you help it with diet and lifestyle?
I was recently talking to one of our members and they mentioned they’d been suffering a lot with heartburn recently. It’s not an uncommon complaint with around half of all adults experiencing it at least once a month and about 10-20% of adults have it at least once a week.
It’s caused by the strong stomach acid creeping up into the oesophagus and feels like a burning sensation, hence the name! Other common symptoms include bloating, burping, difficulty swallowing or a sore throat.
Don’t get fooled into thinking that stomach acid isn’t a good thing. It’s essential for good health and optimal digestion and we need the acid in our stomach to protect us against harmful microbes (i.e. bacteria) that lurk in our food and drinks.
But we need that acid to stay in the stomach, and not get up to our oesophagus!
Stomach acid doesn’t usually burn the stomach itself because the stomach is protected by a layer of mucus. But your oesophagus doesn’t have that same protection. What it does have is a valve that is supposed to prevent things from going the wrong way (i.e. keep food, drink, and stomach acid in the gut where it’s supposed to be).
When this valve isn’t working properly your oesophagus is exposed to stomach acid too often, it can cause the infamous burning, inflammation, and other potential issues.
If you suffer with heartburn and have done for a while then it’s probably a good idea to visit your GP but I’m going to share a bunch of tips that may help you overcome your heartburn symptoms naturally.
Tip #1 – Foods to eat (and avoid)
You may notice that when you eat or drink certain things, you get heartburn soon afterwards. 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 sneaky food intolerance. You could try eliminating grains, dairy, and processed foods for a few weeks and see if that helps.
Often, people don’t realise that they have an intolerance to a food because they eat it so often, they just assume that how they feel is normal. It’s not until you remove the food for a few weeks and then try to re-introduce it that you’ll really notice how it makes you feel.
Now, you may be wondering: “If I eliminate these foods/drinks, then what can I put in their place?”
Try increasing fibre intake. Yes, this means more whole, unprocessed foods, especially veggies! In fact, potatoes may be a great addition to meals if you suffer from heartburn. Try getting at least five servings of veggies every day.
Tip #2 – 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.#
Tip #3 – Lifestyle techniques
Sometimes strenuous exercise can make heartburn symptoms worse. If this happens to you, then focus on strength training and low-intensity exercises like walking and 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.
Another interesting tip is to try sleeping on your left side. Lying on your left side works because the valve that prevents the acid from “leaking” into your oesophagus is located on the right side of the stomach. So, when you’re lying on your left, the acid is away from that valve.
Heartburn is a very common condition where stomach acid creeps up into the oesophagus (where it’s not supposed to be).
If you suffer from symptoms of heartburn, there are many things you can do. There are foods and drinks to avoid and veggies to increase. You can eat slower, chew more thoroughly, and don’t lie down within 2-3 hours of eating. Also, try low-intensity exercise and sleeping on your left side.
Try these simple, natural strategies. They can help prevent or relieve heartburn symptoms for you.