Over-the-counter relief often provides little help. This leads many to turn toward pharmaceutical grade antacids, which either do not work or do not work for very long. Most antacids are meant to be used for 6 weeks or less, and those who use them are at a 50% greater risk of developing a bacterial infection in the small intestine.
Try these steps to reduce or eliminate your heartburn symptoms before turning to commercial medications:
STEP #1: Support Your Stomach Acid
Taking a pharmaceutical grade antacid won't provide long-term heartburn relief. Even worse, it will increase your risk of developing a bacterial infection in the small intestine by 50%!
Rather than muting the acidity of your gastric juices, which is the function of many antacids, do the opposite. In other words, if you want relief, take a hydrochloric acid (HCl) supplement.
Gastric acid is formed in the stomach and has a low pH of 1.5-3.5 (think battery acid). This level of acidity is crucial. In addition to unraveling proteins and activating enzymes, it is also one of the body’s first lines of defense against disease-causing microorganisms.
Additional HCl can rev up your stomach’s ability to break down food and fight infection.
Assist Dairy & Protein contains HCl and other enzymes to help along the digestive process. As we age or after eating a vegan or vegetarian diet, the body will naturally produce less stomach acid.
A collection of herbs known as Digestive Bitters will also encourage stomach acid production. Bitter herbs have been used traditionally in several cultures to improve digestion.
STEP #2: Change the Foods You Eat
It turns out that the inner ecology of the gut plays an important role in whether or not heartburn develops.
Sometimes, the stomach itself is infected with a bacterium called H. pylori. Other times an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine can lead to heartburn. Either way, the inner ecology of the gut is out of balance.
Studies have found that H. pylori infection is more common in patients with acid reflux. (1) In order to survive, it is theorized that H. pylori reduces the acidity of the stomach. If this is the case, is there really anything an antacid can do with an H. pylori infection? Unfortunately, since most patients that are prescribed an antacid are not tested for infection, the real issue of infection is never addressed.
These are foods like:
- Grains: Grains, especially those with gluten, feed bacterial overgrowth. While getting rid of heartburn, it is best to avoid all food made with grains.
- Sugar: Sugar, even fructose, can feed an infection. Get to know the hidden sugars in foods and monitor the amount of fruit you eat.
- Fiber and Carbohydrates: A certain percentage of fiber and carbohydrates that we consume escapes absorption, becoming food for bacteria. Fibrous vegetables fall into this category. While it isn’t necessary to avoid all fibrous vegetables, it is a good idea to pay attention to those that may ignite a burning sensation in the center of your chest.
STEP #3: Incorporate Probiotic Rich Foods and Beverages
If you are going to take supplements and avoid certain foods, you will eventually want to get to the point where you can eat whatever you like without relying on a supplement for proper digestion.
While fermenting food at home may seem like a lost art, the reality is that traditional ferments are becoming more and more popular. High-profile culinary wizards are rediscovering the flavors (and benefits) of cultured foods, while families interested in nutrient-dense meals are turning their attention to old-fashioned fermentation crocks.
If you are interested in culturing your own food at home, you may want to begin with a starter culture like Veggie Culture Starter. A starter ensures that the final product will be full of healthy, beneficial bacteria rather than questionable wild strains.
The good bacteria available in fermented foods and probiotic beverages keep aggressive colonizers in check. This means that H. pylori and other microbes are not totally eradicated from your inner ecosystem. Instead, good bacteria that have a knack for cooling inflammation and healing the gastrointestinal lining are enlisted to control any overzealous microbes. (2)(3)
STEP #4: Stop Treating Symptoms
Getting rid of heartburn may be an ongoing process, depending on the state of your gastrointestinal system. Healing the gut may take several months, if not more, depending on the depth of the imbalance.
The solution to painful heartburn flare-ups? Put together an HCl supplement with a specific diet and fermented foods. When we learn how to nurture our inner ecology and get to know trigger foods, we do more than heal heartburn. We safeguard our overall health and wellbeing.
What to Remember Most About This Article:
Most sufferers of heartburn can attest to the fact that over-the-counter medications do very little to provide long-lasting relief. On top of that, using an antacid increases the risk of developing a bacterial infection in the small intestine by 50%!
To heal heartburn naturally and for the long-term, consider these 4 helpful tips to get your digestion back on track:
- Support your stomach acid with a hydrochloric acid supplement like Assist Dairy & Protein to help your stomach better break down food and fight infection.
- Change the foods you eat to stop feeding infection in the stomach and small intestine that can trigger heartburn.
- Include fermented foods, probiotic beverages, and kefir in your daily diet to boost digestion and build friendly bacteria in the digestive tract, which will keep pathogenic bacteria in check.
- Stop treating only the symptoms of heartburn and focus on healing the gut for lasting relief!
- A. Chiecchio, et al. Increased incidence of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth during proton pump inhibitor therapy. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2010 Jun;8(6):504-8. Epub 2010 Jan 6.
- J. Nutr. March 1, 2007 vol. 137 no. 3 812S-818S.
- Applied and Environmental Microbiology. February 2011, p. 1335-1343, Vol. 77, No. 4 0099-2240. doi:10.1128/AEM.01820-10