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Beat the Heat: 9 Ways to Halt Heartburn

August 10, 2012
By Frank Lipman, MD
|8Comments|


Heartburn – lots of us get it, but how do we stop getting it? For some it’s little purple pill or a swig of a vile pink potion, while others just grit their teeth and bear it – none of which solve the problem or prevent future episodes. Fortunately though, heartburn is very treatable and all of us have the power to stop the fire before it starts – without drugs, potions or unpleasant side effects.  Where to begin? Start with a few key dietary and lifestyle changes to start soothing your intestinal system so you can steer it back on to a healthy, heartburn-free track. Here are 9 ways to start banishing the burn:

1. Kick the purple pills.
I kid you not – the first step is to quit the heartburn meds. Contrary to what you might think, heartburn drugs tend to do more harm than good. While there’s no denying they help reduce stomach acid, the problem is that the meds also stop the acid from doing the digestive work it’s supposed to do. Though heartburn gives stomach acid a bad name, acid is absolutely essential to digestion: it helps break down food and stimulates the digestive enzymes in your small intestine; it helps keep the balance of good and bad bacteria in check; it’s your primary defense against food-borne infections and it helps your gut absorb essential nutrients. When you suppress acid production with heartburn drugs, you’re inhibiting digestion, preventing absorption of vitamins and nutrients and all but wiping out the good gut bacteria your gut needs to keep your immune system strong. You’re also setting the stage for damage to the intestinal lining – yikes! Not a great trade off, eh? And please be aware when you stop these heartburn medications cold turkey, you get a rebound effect with the heartburn becoming more severe initially very often. So taper off them slowly preferably under the supervision of a knowledgeable practitioner.

2. Sink the smokes.
There are hundreds of reasons to stop smoking and heartburn is one of them. Smoking irritates the membranes of the throat and esophagus — just about the last thing you should be doing if you have reflux or heartburn. What’s more – nicotine weakens the esophageal valve, allowing acid to flow back up causing irritation and burn. So if you want to stop the burn, kick the butts.

3. Hold the jalapeños.
Instead of popping pills to put out the fire, give your digestive tract a vacation from high acid foods that irritate tender tissues. A few common acidic culprits include coffee, alcohol, garlic, peppers, onions, tomatoes, orange juice and spicy foods. To help my patients identify their heartburn triggers, I ask them to keep a food diary and monitor how their body reacts to high acid foods, so they get a better sense as to which ones are causing their heat and which ones aren’t. For those with more stubborn cases, I also recommend trying my Cleanse diet which eliminates the common foods that fuel the burn.

4. Do drink Swedish bitters.
All that heartburn pill-popping will over time deplete your body of the natural acids that are essential for proper digestion. To stimulate your body’s own production of digestive acids, I recommend 1- 3 tablespoons of Swedish bitters stirred into an 8 oz. glass of water. Drink 15 minutes before eating to get digestive juices flowing and aid in healthy digestion.

5. Linger over breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Every millimeter of your digestive tract – starting with chewing in your mouth – aids in digestion. Acid-neutralizing saliva paves the way for a painless journey of food into the stomach. When you eat quickly, don’t chew enough, or gulp your food, you miss out on critical steps, setting the stage for heartburn and indigestion. So take your time, savor each bite and enjoy!

6. Lighten your mealtime load.
The more food that’s in your belly, the longer it takes to digest and the more likely it will reflux. Eating several smaller meals throughout the day will be easier on your digestive tract than bombarding it with three big ones. And at the end of the day, try to put 2-3 hours between your evening meal and bedtime so that digestion is well underway before you lie down for the night.

7. Skip the Spanx.
Resist the urge to squish yourself into super skinny jeans if heartburn is an issue. In other words, give your belly room to digest. Tight clothes can put pressure on your stomach, pressing food back up into your esophagus.

8. Sleep on a slope.
When you lie down flat, stomach acid remains in the esophagus longer than it should, giving rise to that burning feeling. Lying down can also lead to inflammation of the esophagus, a potentially dangerous condition. A simple way to avoid the problem: let gravity do the work of keeping the acid in your stomach at night – simply sleep on a slight slope. All you need to do is slightly elevate your head and chest with an extra pillow or rolled up towel. The slight downward angle will help keep acid where it belongs – in your stomach!

9. Give your gut a helping hand.
If you’re going to combat heartburn, keep in mind that an unbalanced, irritated, poorly functioning gut can’t quite do it on it’s own – it needs a helping hand – and restoring the microflora and repopulating the gut with good bacteria is the starting point. Using herbal anti-microbials (to kill the bad guys) and probiotics (to replenish the good guys) will help return gut microflora to a balanced state. Add to that botanicals and extra nutrients to help protect your GI tract, ease digestion, repair the lining of the gut and prevent heartburn. How to make bringing the gut into balance and preventing heartburn a no-brainer?  Try my Beat the Burn Plan, which combines three essential Be Well staples of gastrointestinal health: the Probiotics Formula provides additional “good” bacteria to counteract the over population of bad bacteria – which helps boost immunity; the GI Herbal Formula provides botanical backup for restoring the microflora. These two formulas work in tandem with GI Calm to help repair the lining of the gut, which has probably been compromised by poor diet and digestion. When all three are used together, they help my patients Beat the Burn by relieving the common symptoms of heartburn before they take hold and by supporting vibrant GI health.

For more by Dr. Lipman, visit drfranklipman.com.

Photo credit: bored-now



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8 responses to Beat the Heat: 9 Ways to Halt Heartburn
  1. Thank you Dr Lipman for the great tips.

    I was wondering what the difference is between heartburn and reflux? Are they the same or are they slightly different?

  2. Agreed!

    A great rescue is to use Marshmallow Root (Althea officinalis) brewed by the cold infusion method. It’s my favorite remedy for acute heartburn and it gets raves from my clients.

    Prevention is best, but when you need a remedy it’s ideal to reach of a non-toxic & nourishing herb like this.

    ~ Melanie St. Ours
    Clinical Herbalist

  3. Strange enough, when I stopped eating wheat, my acid reflux went away. I took the pill for 10 years and without it was miserable. I started better eating about 2.5 years ago and one of the last things to go was wheat – about 6 months ago. I was able to eliminate taking the pills entirely. If I have pasta or a wheat beer, I have heartburn and am popping the Tums. One of the foods that have helped restore acidity to my gut has been those little clementines. More than any other food, this one will stop heartburn for me just like a Tums will. Alot of water kefir and fermented veggies have helped too.

  4. All excellent advice as usual, Kris. As a cancer survivor and an RN I know how challenging heartburn can be to manage – many of the stem cell transplant drugs that I still take have heartburn as a side effect. I’d like to add that DGL, a natural supplement derived from licorice and taken before meals has been very effective for me. In addition, if heartburn is not a constant issue but rather an occasional one, baking soda mixed with water is a natural effective remedy. The exact ratio is listed on the box.

  5. Hi! I was wondering if one could take the Sweedish bitters to avoid indigestion, without suffering from heartburn (the same way as one would take digestive enzymes).
    Thanks!

  6. Heartburn is usually associated with regurgitation of gastric acid (gastric reflux) which is the major symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).`:`-

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  7. Great information. Love natural remedies instead of relying on meds. Clicked on the Beat the Burn Plan link. All items are sold out. Strange – no backorder information – they are just sold out. Are these supplements no longer being produced?

  8. What I understand is that heartburn is caused from too low stomach acid – sounds contra-intuitive, but apparently it’s true. And pure aloe vera juice/gel works wonders for heartburn, as well as pure cabbage juice.