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Putting Out the Fire
by Dave Foreman
Have you noticed that a great majority of commercials on television are for heartburn medications? Its probably because an estimated 40% of our adult population suffers from heartburn, a burning discomfort that is generally felt in the chest, just behind the breastbone. Americans now spend more than $8 billion annually on prescribed and over-the-counter medications used to treat heartburn. Recent statistics show that 60 million Americans experience heartburn once a month or more, while 25 million individuals suffer painful symptoms every day. What's even more worrisome are the number of adults that are overusing heartburn medications, feeling better in the short-term but putting themselves at a greater risk for more serious, long-term health problems.
WHERE THE FLAME IGNITES
Another less commonly accepted source of heartburn is tied to having too little stomach acid. Some experts believe when the stomach is empty, there is a deficit of protective stomach acid. Immediately upon eating, the body reacts by dumping excessive amounts of acid into the stomach, sometimes irritating the relatively delicate esophageal tissues that are not always able to handle the harsh digestive components from the stomach. The result is the discomfort we call heartburn.
STOMACH ACID: FRIEND OR FOE?
Stomach acid provides frontline protection against bacteria, yeast, fungi, parasites and viruses that are found in our food and water. Look to nature and see a great example of this in the carrion-craving vulture. The acid in its digestive system is so potent that no bacteria or toxin can survive the trip through the vultures's stomach and intestines. It obviously serves the bird's health well considering its voracious diet of road kill and other putrefying foods.
Stomach acid also helps the body properly absorb certain vitamins and minerals such as iron, zinc and B-complex, including folic acid. People who regularly ÒneutralizeÓor diminish the action of their stomach acid with over-the-counter or prescription medications may be at risk for developing nutritional deficiencies and the health challenges that accompany them.
Last but not least, one of the major functions of stomach acid is to help in the digestion of large protein molecules. If this digestive function is not performed efficiently, partially digested protein fragments may be absorbed into the bloodstream.The absorption of these large molecules may contribute to the development of food allergies and immune conditions.
Malabsorption of Key Nutrients
Promotion of Chronic Disease
FOUR PILLAR FIRE
Moderate exercise is a great way to boost your health and aid in better digestion. And don't forget about positive mental health. Stress and depression can make us eat the wrong foods, overindulge, or avoid foods completely. Keeping your mind balanced will help keep your belly balanced, too.
Heartburn Free™ by Enzymatic Therapy has been deemed a "treatment" by many natural health experts. This product contains an orange peel extract standardized to contain d-limonene. By taking one capsule every other day for 20 days, you can virtually rid yourself of heartburn forever. Many people I have spoken to have relief that lasts months and even years. It isn't for everyone, though. Some patients experience uncomfortable burping and in some cases, burning sensations. I recommend consulting with your health care provider to see if this product is right for you.
Sometimes just using digestive bitters (stimulants) like artichoke, dandelion or juniper can help relieve the symptoms of heartburn when taken regularly. The theory here is to keep your digestive system moving in the right direction making it less likely that digestive fluids will back up into your esophagus.
Another category that has shown to be helpful for heartburn is the category known as carminatives. Also known as aromatic digestive tonics or aromatic bitters, this category works great for those who not only have heartburn, but excessive gas as well. The herbs in this category help relax the muscles of the digestive tract and can help reduce discomfort caused by spasms. Herbs like peppermint, caraway, ginger and fennel are the most popular and researched. Often times, using these herbs in combination may be the best method of relieving symptoms of indigestion, particularly when there is excessive gas.
Lastly, the quickest results can often be done by using herbs like ginger, slippery elm or licorice root (more specifically DGL). These herbs seem to work by decreasing inflammation and by helping to form a protective barrier against stomach acid. Ginger has potent anti-inflammatory and anti-nausea properties. Licorice on the other hand, helps protect the mucous membranes lining the digestive tract. DGL (deglycyrrhizinated licorice) in chewable tablets is the form of licorice that I recommend since research has shown DGL as effective as some over-thecounter heartburn medications. You can either use DGL 15 to 20 minutes prior to a potentially offending meal or an hour prior to bedtime to help with heartburn issues while you sleep. I recommend DGL as a quick fix and not the long-term solution to your problem.