The word heartburn typically conjures an image of an old, barrel-chested man with cholesterol through the roof and on the brink of gout. However, it’s not just reserved for the wildly unhealthy, and just because your dad pops a daily Pepcid doesn’t mean it’s just for men. It’s actually a super common form of indigestion, and it can happen to anybody.
Heartburn is caused by acid reflux, which is when stomach acids (and sometimes its contents, yummy) are forced back up into the esophagus. It causes a burning pain in the lower chest and sometimes the back of the throat if it makes it that far up, which can happen if you’re lying down. If you experience heartburn or acid reflux more than twice a week, it can be referred to as gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD). The word “disease” sounds serious, but you can totally have it under control with some mindful habits and natural approaches.
Avoid distractions at mealtime. It’s easy to not savor your food when scrolling the gram or watching TV, but here’s a gentle reminder that digestion starts in the mouth. Chewing your food carefully instead of scarfing down large chunks in anticipation of the next bite will help your stomach digest more gently as well. Also, you may discover that you’ll experience less gas and feel fuller sooner when you enjoy your food more thoughtfully and mindfully.
Avoid tight, high-waisted clothing.
If the GERD is hittin’ ya hard as of late, ease off the super unforgiving high-waisted denim, waist-trainers, pencil skirts, etc. Since you typically sit while eating, the compression of tight materials can actually disrupt your ability to completely swallow food and begin proper digestion in the stomach, and allow acids to rise or be trapped, literally, above the belt. Yikes! Going on a walk after eating can help alleviate some of this discomfort as well.
Strangely, one of the reasons you might be feeling the symptoms of heartburn is that your stomach is producing too little acid. Because ACV contains both acetic and malic acid, it can help stimulate your own stomach acid production prior to meals to aid in healthy digestion. Take anywhere from a teaspoon to a tablespoon in an 8-ounce glass of warm or room-temp water about 30 minutes before a meal to reap the bennies.
If you’re already deep in the burn a few hours after a meal, try eating a banana. It’s part of a bland diet referred to as a “low residue diet,” which centers on foods that are easier to break down and digest, and soothe the stomach. White rice is another option, but bananas are soothing and sweet and easy to grab on the go.
Supplement with slippery elm.
You can find this in lozenge form, but it also comes in a powder that you can mix with water into a thick substance, or bake into healthy muffins or add to oatmeal. It creates a gel-like material that coats the esophagus and may help to prevent irritation and inflammation when stomach acids rise.
Caffeine, nightshades like tomatoes and peppers, and spicy foods typically trigger heartburn and acid reflux-like symptoms, so avoid them for a while and see what happens. It doesn’t have to mean forever, but if these foods are staples in your diet, staying away from them for several weeks might make all the difference. You can slowly start to incorporate them into your diet if this is successful for you, but be mindful of how often you eat them again.
Don’t eat dinner too late.
Your stomach acids work overtime to digest after a big meal, so becoming horizontal at the peak of this time can literally just churn your acids up your throat. Ick. It’s good to give yourself a buffer zone so that when you go to sleep and begin the rest and digest part of your cycle, your lower half is taking the brunt of the work.
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