Heartburn, acid reflux, GERD… no matter what you call it, the symptoms can be painful, including tightening of the chest and burning in the stomach and throat.
Acid reflux results from having too little hydrochloric acid (HCl), the “good” stomach acid; although many assume it is from an abundance of it.
When the stomach does not produce enough HCl, foods cannot be digested properly. This causes indigestion, and as the food sits in the stomach too long, the body tries to produce more and more stomach acid to break it down.
This causes the acid reflux or heartburn, for which many people turn to common heartburn medications, like Nexium, Prilosec, and Prevacid, which are classified as PPIs (proton pump inhibitors). Recent research warns against their long-term use, as it is now associated with risk of kidney disease. That’s a good reason to try some natural solutions for heartburn relief…
Common causes of heartburn
The causes of heartburn, acid reflux and GERD are broad, leaving many to think they are only associated with a food cause (acid indigestion). But this is not the case. Here is a look at some of the more common causes that can trigger the problem.
Certain foods, including chocolate, dairy, coffee and other caffeinated beverages, peppermint, onions, tomatoes and high fat foods, can trigger heartburn.
Certain medications, including those indicated for anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, angina, osteoporosis, pain and infection, can trigger acid reflex.
Lifestyle factors, including smoking, stress, and being overweight and obese are known triggers of heartburn.
Downing a few heartburn tablets is an easy quick fix, but the result could be devastating for your kidneys. Here’s what researchers recently found…
The PPI / Kidney disease connection
A recent study published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, found an association between use of common heartburn medications within the PPI (proton pump inhibitor) category and interstitial nephritis, or kidney disease.
Researchers developed a cohort of over 173,000 new users of PPIs form the Department of Veterans Affairs national databases, who did not have kidney disease or used PPIs at start. They followed the subjects for more than five years to see if the use of PPIs had an effect on their kidneys.
They found that the new users of PPIs were 30% more likely to develop chronic kidney disease during the five year study period. What’s more, their risk of kidney failure doubled.
The good news is that there are natural solutions for heartburn relief and a few lifestyle changes that are easy to implement to combat the problem while avoiding kidney issues.
Natural solutions for heart burn
Apple cider vinegar is a great prevention remedy for acid reflux. You can take 2 tablespoon in a glass of water 30 minutes before a meal to help normalize stomach acid and prevent indigestion. While many advocate drinking it at time of heartburn, I have found this makes the symptom worse. However, when used before a meal it seems to prevent the issue.
Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, is perhaps the best remedy when you are experiencing GERD or acid reflux. This works by balancing the stomach pH when you drink ½ teaspoon in a cup of water. The taste is not terrific but it works great.
If you want a real solution to acid reflux indigestion, don’t follow the conventional wisdom of conventional physicians. While drug companies and mainstream doctors maintain that acid reflux, acid indigestion and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) result from too much stomach acid, they’ve got the situation backwards: Reflux results from too little stomach acid, not too much.
Still, Big Pharma and its accomplices continue to sell us counter-productive prescription and over-the-counter antacids and prescription proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). In the long run, these alleged remedies worsen the situation.
Too Little Too Late
Acid reflux results from having too little hydrochloric acid (HCl), the “good” stomach acid. When the stomach does not produce enough HCl, foods cannot be digested properly. This causes indigestion, as food sits in the stomach far too long. The longer that food lingers, the more stomach acid is necessary to break it down. This stagnant situation leads to prolonged acid reflux.
Taking antacids and proton pump inhibitors means that stomach acid is even further decreased. This helps the immediate pain but causes bigger problems. A decrease in good hydrochloric acid in the stomach slows digestion and leaves food sitting for a longer time. This causes food to ferment and putrefy, which generates bloating and gas and causes toxins to circulate in the body. These toxins can trigger headaches and musculoskeletal pain.
Hydrochloric acid and an enzyme called pepsin are needed in the stomach to properly digest what you eat. So slowing down digestion by halting production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach decreases how fast the body absorbs its life-enhancing nutrients.
Complicating the situation, foods that are high in fat — like burgers and fries, cake, loaded baked potatoes and the like — can also lead to acid reflux and acid indigestion. They often cause excess acid to form in the stomach simply because of the amount of time it takes for high-fat foods to break down. The longer digestion drags on, the more acid the stomach must produce. That excess stomach acid eventually leads to reflux.
Despite common beliefs, foods that are acidic — like coffee, citrus and alcohol — don’t cause acid reflux.
Interestingly, while lemon is acidic, it helps to alkalize the body. Squeezing a lemon wedge into a cup of black coffee can help reduce the coffee’s acidity and, thus, prevent it from aggravating an already acid environment.
Another interesting point is that although one doesn’t normally associate beverages with reflux, soda, wine and especially beer can cause it. In fact, drinking beer can double the amount of acid your stomach produces within the hour.
The solution to curing (preventing) acid reflux and indigestion is not found in avoiding certain foods or in taking antacids and PPIs. On the contrary, a few things that are easily adopted into one’s lifestyle can do the job:
Stop reducing your production of hydrochloric acid (HCl) by taking antacids and PPIs.
If you experience acid indigestion, naturally relieve it by taking a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar or drinking a glass of warm water mixed with a half-teaspoon of sea salt.
Add lemon juice to meals and acidic drinks, like coffee, to reduce acidity.
Eat smaller meals to speed digestion.
Eat more alkaline foods like green leafy vegetables and less acid foods, like beef, beer and high-fat items (including dairy).
Don’t lie down for at least 45 minutes after eating and be sure to elevate your head at least 8 inches when sleeping. According to the research of Dr. Kaltenbach, et al., these two postural changes can have the greatest influence on preventing the symptoms of GERD.
In the end, as with most health issues, making simple changes in lifestyle provides a solution. Once you know the answer is within your grasp and costs nothing, you have no excuse for suffering acute or chronic acid indigestion. Taking your health in your own hands is the only path to prevention and cure. So go ahead and make some simple changes. And stick to them. Your body, particularly your stomach, will thank you.