Occasional heartburn affects more than one-third of adults in the US, or nearly 100 million people. It is most often caused by an inefficient digestive system, which can cause pain and occasional gas or bloating.
For most people, heartburn feels like a burning pain near the chest or throat. It is often felt behind the breastbone, or sternum. Because the discomfort is in the region of the heart, it became known as heartburn, even though it does not actually involve the heart. Heartburn occurs when the valve between the stomach and esophagus, called the lower esophageal sphincter, does not close correctly to prevent acid reflux from the stomach into the esophagus. The irritation caused by the acid and stomach contents causes the burning sensation of indigestion or heartburn.
Many drug treatments for heartburn involve ways to block and decrease stomach acid, but these treatments do not treat the root cause of an impaired digestive system. In addition, acid-blocking drugs can cause detrimental side effects.
Here are four tips that can help ease these symptoms.
Avoid heartburn-causing foods.
Everyone has different foods that trigger heartburn, so avoiding the ones that cause the most discomfort can lessen chances of feeling uncomfortable. Here are some common foods that often trigger occasional heartburn:
- Fatty foods
- Spicy foods
- Oily foods
Slow down and don’t overeat.
Take your time eating your food and be sure to chew thoroughly. Many occasional digestive issues like heartburn can be caused by eating too quickly. The faster you eat, the more the lower esophageal sphincter has to work, which increases the likelihood that acid may escape from the stomach and into the esophagus.
By eating more slowly, you are also allowing more time for chewing, which can also reduce the chance of overeating, another common cause of heartburn. Sometimes we overeat without realizing it, and it can happen when we eat our food too quickly or eat too many large meals. By overeating we increase the pressure placed on our stomach—both physical pressure and the pressure to digest more quickly. The faster we try to force our digestive systems to work, the more discomfort we can experience, like occasional gas, bloating and heartburn.
Take a digestive enzyme supplement.
Digestive enzyme supplements are a great way to improve your digestive health and reduce heartburn. By taking a supplement that’s rich in enzymes, you can better digest your foods and make sure your digestive system is functioning efficiently. Look for digestive formulas that contain vegetarian enzymes for digesting proteins, carbohydrates, fibers and fats, such as a blend of protease, amylase, cellulase and lipase.
Enzymedica’s Acid Soothe was created specifically to tackle the pain of occasional heartburn. In addition to digestive enzymes, it contains papaya leaf and marshmallow root extracts along with zinc carnosine to help soothe the stomach lining. The combination of these key ingredients may reduce your heartburn and help maintain your digestive health as well.
To heal the stomach and intestinal lining, take DGL
DGL is short for deglycyrrhizinated licorice (but I tell people that it stands for Darn Good Licorice). DGL is produced by removing glycyrrhetinic acid from a concentrated licorice extract (note that this molecule can raise blood pressure in some individuals).
My fondness for DGL is the result of having used it effectively in treating even the most severe peptic ulcers. Rather than inhibit the release of acid, DGL stimulates the normal defense mechanisms that prevent ulcer formation. It improves both the quality and quantity of the protective substances that line the intestinal tract, increases the lifespan of the intestinal cells, and improves blood supply to the intestinal lining. There is also some evidence that it inhibits growth of H. pylori.
In several head-to-head studies, DGL has been shown to be more effective than Tagamet, Zantac or antacids in both short-term treatment and maintenance therapy of peptic ulcers. Most people experience significant immediate relief with DGL, with complete healing of the ulcer within 30 days.
The standard dosage for DGL is two to four 380 mg chewable tablets taken between meals or 20 minutes before meals (taking DGL after meals or in capsule form is associated with poor results). DGL should be continued for at least 8 to 16 weeks after there is a full therapeutic response.