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  • Natural Ways to Battle Heartburn

    Did you know? Many natural remedies are available for reducing symptoms of acid reflux, GERD or heartburn. Here, Dr. Brad Jacobs talks about strategies for reducing acid reflux, as well as supplements that can coat the stomach and increase tightening of the esophageal sphincter, including marshmallow root, DGL, d-Limonene and melatonin.

    Acid reflux (otherwise known as heartburn) is more than just a minor health concern. People who live with chronic heartburn can experience serious discomfort, to the point that they have trouble eating and can’t sleep at night. Here are some natural ways to ease—or erase—acid reflux symptoms.

    “There are many different causes of heartburn,” says Dr. Brad Jacobs, MD, and chair of Pharmaca’s Integrative Health Advisory Board. An important one to keep in mind, he says, is anxiety or stress. “That can increase your production of acid in the stomach and thus increase your chances of having heartburn.” That’s why he tells his patients experiencing heartburn to try and reduce anxiety or stress through meditation, yoga or anything else that will help calm and center them.

    Different foods and eating behaviors can also aggravate heartburn. “You want to avoid things like alcohol and caffeine that can relax the sphincter between the stomach and esophagus,” says Dr. Jacobs. Other foods, such as tomatoes, can have the same effect. Because each person’s trigger foods are different, it’s a good idea to work with a health care professional to identify which foods might be causing the problem. Dr. Jacobs also encourages patients to avoid large meals toward the end of the night, since lying down on a full stomach can increase the chances of reflux.

    As far as treatments, Dr. Jacobs says there are a variety of herbs and supplements to consider. Marshmallow root, for example, helps provide a coating around the stomach that limits acid reflux. Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) is another helpful supplement. “DGL can be quite effective—take 1-2 pills before meals to again provide a nice coating in the stomach,” he says.

    For a more intensive treatment—especially good for people who experience long-term heartburn symptoms—try d-limonene, says Dr. Jacobs. He recommends taking one every other day for a minimum of a 10-day course (find it in Enzymatic Therapy's Heartburn Free).

    Finally, Dr. Jacobs points to recent research about melatonin’s usefulness in treating heartburn. “A dose of 3 mg, taken in the evening time (usually 1-2 hours before you go to bed), has been shown to actually increase the tightening of the esophageal sphincter, thereby decreasing your risk of recurrent reflux.”

    While many people turn to medications to ease heartburn symptoms, Dr. Jacobs strongly suggests looking into these non-prescription solutions first. Why? “Those who take medications such as proton pump inhibitors often have a hard time getting off of them,” he says. “Studies have also shown that your reflux symptoms can increase as you’re coming off those medications.”

    Finally, Dr. Jacobs recommends a full examination by a physician if you have persistent symptoms and are over 40 years of age. They can take a closer look at your esophagus and stomach to ensure nothing more concerning is going in.

    Speak with a Pharmaca practitioner about natural solutions to acid reflux.

  • Good Digestion All Stars

    InflammationDigestion issues? Good news. There are a variety of tools that can help smooth out indigestion and other intestinal issues. Here, Kate Brainard, naturopathic doctor, gives some suggestions for natural digestive aids that can make everyday meals more pleasant.

    If you need long-term digestive support

    "There's not anyone out there that shouldn't be on a probiotic," says Kate. "Especially if you have regular bouts of indigestion, like constipation or diarrhea, probiotics are crucial."

    For travel-ready probiotics that don't need refrigeration, turn to Dr. Ohhira's or Jarrow Formulas' Jarro-Dophilus EPS. But Kate's favorite is Bio-K: "It's a life-changing product. They're in a live culture, so once it goes into the digestive tract it immediately starts colonizing," says Kate. "I've had people say 'this product has saved my life'."

    If you're about to eat something you know doesn't agree with you   

    "If you're eating a big meal, or something that you know will cause heartburn," says Kate, "that's a great time to take enzymes to help break down the food." As we age, especially, our natural production of enzymes decreases and can leave behind big food molecules that enter the bloodstream and throw our immune system out of whack.

    That's why Kate suggests taking enzymes right at the beginning of a big meal. "It's going in and supplementing what your body is already making," she says. For a simple approach, chew papaya enzymes like Zand Herbals' Quick Digest. You can also try MegaZymes by MegaFood, a formula that combines powerful enzymes with probiotics, as well as carminative (or gas-fighting) herbs like ginger and marshmallow. For more chronic digestive issues, try Enzymedica's Digest Gold.

    If you tend to get heartburn

    Heartburn can come from a number of issues, including dysfunction in the lower esophageal sphincter caused by low stomach acid, hiatal hernia or even certain foods (acidic or fatty foods are often culprits).

    If you're worried about heartburn, take some preventive measures-Kate recommends Natural Factors' Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice (DGL) , which goes in and coats the lining of the esophagus to promote healing. "It doesn't necessarily treat the heartburn, but will definitely make the meal experience more pleasant," she says.

    Kate also suggests a customer favorite called Heartburn Free, from Enzymatic Therapy. Formulated from orange peel extract, the capsules only need to be taken every other day until you get more permanent relief.

    If you overeat

    Those carminative herbs--like fennel, ginger and other spices--can be a great post-meal digestive as well. Try a cup of hot tea like Traditional Medicinals' Eater's Digest, which combines digestion-enhancing herbs with the benefits of warmth, which Kate says will naturally help move digestion along. Or simply take a few of Gaia Herbs' Gas & Bloating capsules.

    Ultimately, Kate recommends simply slowing down and enjoying your holiday meals. "We all know that this is the time we're going to indulge," she says. "But you're going to walk away feeling a lot better if you can take breaks between eating."

    Bring your specific digestion questions to a Pharmaca practitioner.

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