Thursday, September 28, 2017

How to deal with heart burn

To deal with indigestion, increase stomach acid!

That doesn't sound right, does it?  Acid's the problem, isn't it?

I can speak from experience on this subject, because I've suffered with acid reflux and heartburn my whole life.  In the process, I've learned a lot about it.

For one thing, over-the-counter antacids stopped working for me.  I wanted my M.D. to prescribe more powerful versions to stop the stomach acid from giving me such a bad time.  She basically explained that I was asking for the wrong solution to the wrong problem.

You see, the pharmaceutical industry has repeated the “indigestion is caused by too much acid” myth so many times that it’s difficult for people to grasp that (many times) the problem is actually the opposite.  People feel as if their stomach is burning, so the cure is obviously to have less acid.  But, in fact, your needs stomach acid for a variety of reasons.

Stomach Acid Facts

Digestion requires stomach acid.  Without it, you can’t extract amino acids, vitamins or minerals from food.  You need stomach acid to get proper nutrition.

Stomach acid fights off bad bacteria which would otherwise infect your whole body.  A recent study looked at records from more than 800 hospitalized, critically ill patients on breathing machines. (These patients are sometimes given acid-reducing drugs to prevent stress ulcers from developing.) 300 percent more of patients on the drugs got pneumonia!  Why?  Because there wasn’t enough stomach acid to kill dangerous bacteria.

Further, chronically low levels of stomach acid have been linked to serious ailments, including heart disease, osteoporosis, asthma, allergies, infections, skin problems, depression, parasites, and immune disorders, such as type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.

My doc didn't prescribe a bunch of pills which, in addition to wrecking my natural digestion process, would have also killed off the good bacteria needed to be healthy (and given side effects like diarrhea, skin reactions, and headaches). Instead, we talked about five simple lifestyle changes that could bring my stomach back under control.

Here they are:

1)  Hold the Beverages

Drinking while eating dilutes digestive acids.  A sip or two of room-temperature water is fine, but guzzling ice cold drinks with your meal leads to pain. Make a habit of eating first and drinking later.  I think you’ll find that your digestion is much improved from this simple change.

2)  Eat Less More Often

Big meals overwhelm your digestive systems.  It also spikes your blood sugar out of control.  You’ll feel better if you divide your daily food intake into four or five smaller meals throughout the day.  You won’t get hungry and overeat, and your digestive system will work better.  Also, try eating more slowly by taking smaller bites and chewing them more slowly.  This lets the saliva in your mouth begin the process of breaking down your food.

3)  Don’t Sleep On It

This is a big one.  Lying down lets stomach secretions travel up into the esophagus, where they can damage tissue. Eating makes your stomach acid increase as you work to digest, so give yourself enough time for digestion and finish your last meal of the day three hours before bed time.  Consider propping your head and chest up with a wedge pillow while you sleep, so gravity keeps your stomach acid in your stomach where it belongs.

4)  Avoid Food Triggers

If you already know that eating a platter of rich, fatty beef stroganoff or a slice of devil’s food cake means a painful stomach later, don’t eat it.  Think about the foods that don’t bother you, especially the fruits and vegetables that make you feel better after you eat them.  Plan meals around those instead.  If you don’t know what triggers you, keep a food diary for a month to find out what sets you off.  Besides fatty food and chocolate, common food triggers are spicy dishes, citrus fruits, juices and caffeine.

Take Supportive Supplements

* Probiotics:  Good bacteria helps digest food for you.  Personally, I go for a probiotic supplement containing at least 10 billion live organisms (and follow the dosage instructions on the product that you choose).

* Melatonin:  Normally, I like melatonin when I need more and better sleep, but studies show that melatonin also helps beat stomach problems.  Melatonin protects against indigestion, gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD), ulcers, lesions in the esophagus (the tube that connects the mouth and stomach), and helps treat irritable bowel syndrome.  A good idea is a daily dose of 1 mg for women and 3 mg for men.  Take it just before bed and sleep like a baby.

* Digestive enzymes:  Lipases help fat digestion, amylases help with carbohydrates, and proteolytics work on protein.  These enzymes can be helpful for treating conditions ranging from lactose intolerance to pancreatic insufficiency.  You can find these enzymes sold individually, as well as in combination or with betaine hydrochloride (a diluted form of hydrochloric acid).  Choose one that targets your specific digestive issue and be sure to follow the dosage instructions.

After one month on this program, my stomach problems were a thing of the past.  If your stomach feels out of sorts, these solutions will get you all straightened out... and I speak from experience.

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