Sonia Jones ND from the Haven Spa and Health Clinic
Some people find the medication they take causes them a lot of digestive problems.
Does eating give you heart burn? Do you reach for antacids that may or may not work, are expensive, have side-effects and only treat your symptoms? Taking antacids can compromise your health and speed up degeneration.
There are alternatives that cost less, have no side-effects and in some cases treat the cause not just the symptoms.
Heartburn can be the result of a weak lower esophageal sphincter (LES for short), the muscle that rings the base of the esophagus. The esophagus is the tube that carries food into the stomach. Swallowing opens the LES allowing food to enter the stomach, otherwise the LES is supposed to stay closed so stomach acid doesn’t seep back up into the esophagus, this is called “reflux”. If your lower esophageal sphincter allows reflux, you get heartburn. If you have ever suffered you will know how very painful it is, some people have suffered so much pain they thought they were having a heart attack.
What do antacids do?
Some antacids reduce stomach acid acidity so it burns less. Others reduce stomach acid secretion so there is less in the stomach to cause problems.
The problem is we need normal amounts of strong stomach acid to digest food properly.
So the situation of lowering secretion or reducing stomach acidity on a regular basis could impair digestion in the long run, setting up all sorts of problems in the future. I am not referring to the very occasional use at Christmas or after a big dinner party when you eat far too much.
Taking regular substantial amounts of aluminium containing antacids can negatively influence the calcium in our bones, encouraging osteoporosis. Also, you need to consider, if you take any other medication, check with your Doctor as regular daily use of antacids can interfere with absorption of some prescription drugs. This is only a consideration if you are taking antacids on a regular basis. In some people antacids can cause constipation.
If your problem is a weakened LES the following suggestions are definitely worth trying.
Some foods and drinks increase secretion of stomach acids: alcohol, oranges, carbonated beverages, vinegar, spicy foods and tomato-based foods, while other foods can trigger the release of hormone-like compounds that relax the LES. These include chocolate, tea, coffee, alcohol and greasy foods.
Experiment maybe only one or two of these foods are affecting you personally.
- a) Avoid all of the above foods and drinks for a few days
- b) then gradually introduce one food or drink one at a time and wait to see what happens before introducing another food from the above list.
Other things to consider –
1) Overfilling the stomach with big meals can force acid past the LES. Eat smaller meals more often.
2) Certainly don’t lie down after eating.
3) Extra weight increases physical pressure on the stomach, and can force acid up into the esophagus. That is why heartburn is so common among pregnant women. If you are over weight it is worth considering loosing weight for many health reasons.
4) Don’t smoke. Cigarettes, not only relaxes the LES but also increase secretions of stomach acids.
Chamomile is excellent for heartburn.1 dessertspoon per 1 mug of boiled water. Steep (covered) for 10 minutes and then strain. Chamomile is also good for enhancing digestion in general. Drink only when needed. If you want to drink chamomile teas throughout the day make it much weaker. I teaspoon per mug of boiling water.
Ginger works wonders for some. Use 1 teaspoon of fresh grated root per cup. Steep (covered) for 10 minutes and strain. The dried herb can be used, but less per cup. Ginger is not recommended if you often feel hot but would be good for those of you who always feel cold or have poor circulation.
Peppermint tea works really well. I would not recommend peppermint to people who always feel cold otherwise it is a very good remedy. This is a cooling herb so would be good for those of you who feel warm. See instructions for making chamomile tea.
You have nothing to lose by trying the above suggestions if they don’t help you can seek the help of a qualified health practitioner. One way or another you need to stop taking antacids on a regular basis for the sake of your overall health and long term aging plan.
Foods – Keep your diet very simple for two weeks and gradually introduce one food at a time, monitor your reaction to the individual food.
Most people do not have a problem with all these foods – generally only one to three foods set up a problem. If you do have a problem with just about any foods, look up a Naturopath or Nutritional Therapist for help.