Approximately 10-20% of people living in the United States experience heartburn on a weekly basis. Many people have different heartburn triggers, but most have similar heartburn symptoms.
These may include:
A burning feeling in the chest just behind the breastbone that occurs after eating and lasts a few minutes to several hours.
Chest pain, especially after bending over, lying down, or eating.
Burning in the throat — or hot, sour, acidic or salty-tasting fluid at the back of the throat.
Feeling of food “sticking” in the middle of the chest or throat.
Heartburn may also cause a chronic cough, sore throat, or chronic hoarseness.
The frequency of heartburn within the western world can be directly related to several lifestyle choices that many of us have grown to love. For example, many who suffer from heartburn can find great relief by avoidance of the following foods:
Refined carbohydrates (anything white)
Acidic foods such as citrus and tomatoes
An Individual’s Specific Food intolerances
One or several of these food triggers are often a culprit. Additionally, several lifestyle changes can often contribute significantly to heartburn prevention including:
Avoid eating food late at night – eat more than 3 hours before bed
Avoid eating food in a rush – take your time and enjoy your food (ask your naturopathic doctor about good food hygiene)
Avoid tight clothing at the waist
Practice simple food combining
Drink plenty of cold water with your meals
Elevate the head of your bed
**Two additional often over looked triggers include progesterone supplementation and the use of cigarettes.
Relief from heartburn can be different for each individual. A common myth is that all heartburn is related to excess stomach acid and often results in the prescription of H2 receptor antagonists or proton pump inhibitors. In fact, heartburn can be caused by low stomach acid, normal stomach acid, and excess stomach acid. A thorough review of symptoms and additional tests as needed to determine an individual’s gastric pH can direct treatment that is specific to your set of circumstances and therefore improve success of treatment.
Whether measures are needed to lower pH or to resolve hypochlorhydria (low pH) with the use of vinegar, bitters, or betaine HCl really depends on each individual. As well, ruling out other factors that may be present such as H pylori, hiatal hernia, or decreased pancreas function are also important to improved health and elimination of heartburn symptoms. Naturopathic doctors are uniquely trained to identify all of the factors that can be contributing to your heartburn symptoms and provide a specific approach to your unique needs.