Many people suffer from reflux, heartburn and indigestion. Common symptoms may include burning, bringing up acid/food, belching or stomach pain/discomfort.
Whilst these symptoms can be caused by physical/structural issue (eg ulcers or hiatus hernia), more often than not, they relate to what you eat, how you eat it and whether or not your body is making enough stomach acid and digestive enzymes to break down/digest your food.
Too much acid or not enough?
Acid reflux is often a sign of not enough acid, yes that’s right, not too much acid! Inability to digest/break down food in the stomach due to low stomach acid is a common cause of reflux and indigestion. Medications for reflux are helpful in the short term but not usually a good idea long term, I have written about these medications before here. If you are not making enough acid you may need to see an integrative doctor or natural therapist who can prescribe appropriate digestive enzymes for you. (We can certainly help with this at Informed Health).
What else might be causing it?
Indigestion and reflux are often a sign you are eating the wrong foods for you, possibly a food that is hard to digest (eg grains such as bread/pasta), or junk food and high sugar foods, (eg crisps/chips, donuts, cakes, lollies). If a food consistently give you these symptoms, it is good idea to avoid it at least until you have explored other factors, any physical/structural issues or if you maybe need to take digestive enzymes. Constant reflux, is not only painful/uncomfortable but can also cause significant damage to the esophagus.
Other common causes are alcohol, stress, medications and Helicobacter Pylori (which can be tested for by your Doctor).
An often overlooked but simple cause/solution!
Sit calmly and relax while you are eating! No tv/phone/laptop/i-thingy etc. Just sit quietly or chat with friends/family while you eat. Put your knife and fork down regularly and chew, yes chew! Many people inhale their food without chewing properly, eating as if they are in competition for who can finish first; after which they are surprised to have indigestion!
The digestive process starts when you are thinking about the food and is continued when you smell it and when you chew it. When you focus on what you are about to eat/eating and chew well, your body is able to support the digestion and the food will arrive in your stomach having been somewhat pre-digested. This takes the pressure of your stomach!
Your nervous system as two main modes: fight and flight or rest and digest. If you unconsciously eat without paying any attention to what you are consuming (in the car, in front of tv, on the run etc) your body will not switch into rest and digest mode and your digestion will not work properly. Long term, besides the discomfort and possible damage caused to esophagus and stomach, you will begin to develop nutrient deficiencies which will effect your energy, mood and overall health, putting you at risk of poor health and disease.
4 Tips to Reducing your Reflux/Heartburn/Indigestion
- 1-2 tsp of apple cider vinegar in a small amount of water before meals can often be very helpful.
- Sit down quietly, relax and chew your food slowly.
- Learn how to manage your stress.
- Consider what you are eating and drinking, is it nourishing you or is it causing your health issues?
Fiona Kane, Nutritional Medicine Practitioner