Over ate these last days? Suffering from heartburn now? Read this blog and get some practical tips on how to manage that with nutrition and natural nutraceuticals.
Heartburn is a burning feeling in the chest, caused by stomach acid traveling back up towards the throat (acid reflux).
When acid reflux is persistent, occurring more than twice a week, it’s called Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). GERD is different to heartburn, which is a symptom of persistent retrosternal discomfort, while GERD is a condition which causes acid reflux symptoms.
The most common form of heartburn is functional heartburn. This is defined as retrosternal burning (the feeling of heartburn) in the absence of an existing disorder, for example, GERD. Although it’s not completely understood why people suffer from it, it’s thought to be caused by the visceral nerves of the oesophagus becoming hypersensitive, which can be caused by stress, anxiety and oesophageal hypervigilance.
Interestingly, there is emerging research that shows the benefit of CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and hypnosis on heartburn, as they work to reduce anxiety and stress. By focussing on relaxation, the oesophagus becomes less hypervigilant, and symptoms improve.
Nutrition and lifestyle tips to improve heartburn
Dietary changes are a great place to start, as they can make a huge difference. Here are a few common exacerbators of heartburn that should be avoided:
Excessively fatty foods
Coffee – although there is mixed evidence on this one!
Aside from diet, there are a few other lifestyle recommendations that can help:
Maintain a healthy weight
Evidence shows that obesity is closely linked to symptoms of GERD, and a lower BMI is associated with decreased reflux symptoms.
Change your routine
Avoid eating too late in the evening and snacking at night and try not to overeat at mealtimes. This will put less pressure on your oesophagus, especially when you lie down in bed – elevating your head as you sleep can also alleviate symptoms.
Smoking is a common contributor to upper gastric inflammation. Stopping could provide a great deal of relief from your symptoms.
Mediterranean style diet
Rich in vegetables, fish, whole grains and olive oil, the Mediterranean diet is often cited as the ‘world’s healthiest diet’ – and with good reason. By following this way of eating, it will provide your body with plenty of nutrition to help improve your symptoms.
Extra supplements for heartburn
It’s important to note that supplements have different purposes – some help to alleviate symptoms, whereas some support the underlying physiological needs. The supplements below have been chosen specifically to complement this guide, but any supplements recommended to you by your plan will be based on broader health goals, and are the most important investment for you.
Common over-the-counter and prescription medications (such as Gaviscon and Omeprazole, respectively) may provide relief from symptoms, however they’re often not advisable for long term use. Omeprazole, for example, is a proton pump inhibitor (PPI), and over time can have a significant impact on the gut microbiome.
Natural supplements can provide symptom relief without the unwanted side effects. Zinc carnosine, marshmallow root and deglycyrrhizinated liquorice can all help to reduce heartburn, and are commonly found in natural acid relief, for example:
Gastromend (Designs for Health)
Take four capsules per day, between meals, in divided doses.
As always, please check with your practitioner or doctor before taking any supplements.
Please do not stop taking any medication without speaking to your doctor first.
Gabbard (2019) Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine December, 86 (12) 799-806
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Shi Y et al (2019), Effects of Proton Pump Inhibitors on the Gastrointestinal Microbiota in Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, Genomics Proteomics Bioinformatics. 2019 Feb; 17(1): 52–63.
Published online 2019 Apr 25. doi: 10.1016/j.gpb.2018.12.004