Most all of us, at one time or another has experienced heartburn. Heartburn is a common symptom of acid indigestion.
Have you ever wondered what was going on inside your body to cause this annoying sensation? Heartburn occurs when the acidic contents of the stomach are refluxed into the lower esophagus. Since the cells lining the esophagus are not able to withstand exposure to acidic conditions, irritation and inflammation result; hence the burning sensation. Individuals that are at greater risk for experiencing acid indigestion are those with hiatal hernia, weakened valve between esophagus and stomach (lower esophageal sphincter) and those with an impaired ability to clear liquids or food from the esophagus into the stomach.
Heartburn is the most common symptom. Heartburn is usually described as a burning, tight sensation that may come and go. Heartburn is typically located beneath the center of the ribcage and may spread upward through the throat or jaw and may occur following ingestion of food or drugs. It may be helpful for you to know that acid indigestion can be treated without the use of medications. Natural Treatments include lifestyle modifications, dietary changes and the use of natural herbs.
Lifestyle or behavioral modifications include:
- Elevate head of bed on 4 to 6 inch blocks (gravity will work to keep acid in stomach).
- Eat small frequent meals
- Do not lie down for 2 to 3 hours after eating.
- Do not wear tight clothing around the waist or bend over especially after eating.
- Lose weight if you are above your recommended range.
- Exercise is essential.
- Stop smoking if applicable.
- Dietary changes:
- Daily food consumption should follow below recommendations for optimum nutrition and minimization of acid reflux symptoms:
- Primary food:
- Whole Grains 20-30% - Whole grains are high in fiber which aids in digestion.
- Protein (animal protein, tofu, tempeh, beans) 20-30% - Protein functions to repair damaged cells and stimulates and maintains the body’s metabolism.
Fresh seasonal vegetables (lightly cooked) 30-40% - Fresh, local, seasonal vegetables provide vitamin and mineral nutrients and stimulate the process of elimination which removes wastes and toxins.
Dairy, eggs, and fruit 5-10% - Fruit – best consumed according to its natural cycle each season.
Fats/oils 2% - Use preferably unsaturated fats such as clarified butter (Ghee), sesame oil and olive oil. These fats are essential for the absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K.
Things best to AVOID or ELIMINATE from your diet:
- White sugar
- Denatured flour
- Artificial stimulants
- Certain medications (anticholinergics)
- Dietary schedule guidelines for insuring a balanced diet and health maintenance:
- Morning: Eat a warm cooked meal to prepare the body for its most active time. This meal should contain substantial amounts of proteins, carbohydrates.
- Afternoon: Eat a cooling meal with raw foods (such as a salad) and include a protein.
- Evening: Eat a light cooked meal. Since night is a time of less activity, digestive organs should be allowed to rest during sleep. All eating should be completed at least 3 hours before bedtime.
- Potential diet problems that may worsen acid indigestion (if below persist for a long period of time, it will cause the digestive organs to weaken and imbalances throughout the body will result):
- Eating too fast and not chewing adequately.
- Poor food combining.
- Excess water taken with meals.
- Excessive use of raw foods.
Herbs can also help minimize symptoms of acid reflux by improving the metabolism of vital nutrients by the body’s organs and by providing mineral and vitamins in an easy to metabolize form.
The herbs most important for providing necessary vitamins and nutrients are the seaweeds (kelp etc.), the docks (yellow dock) and dandelion. The most important herbs for providing vitamins are parsley leaves, dandelion leaves and alfalfa.
Common culinary herbs and spices have medicinal use and therefore are a safe and natural alternative to synthetic drugs.
Herbal Tea Recipes:
Kitchen spices and herbs that are useful in treating acid indigestion include:
- Basil: Good to use as a tea for indigestion. Modes of action: Relieves gas, increases body’s energy, neutralizes acid, eliminates toxins, calm nervous tension. Make tea using one ounce basil leaves to a pint of water simmered for 20 minutes with 3 powdered black peppercorns per cup.
- Bay leaves: 1 or 2 bay leaves added to soup and beans help prevent gas and indigestion.
- Caraway: Excellent digestive aid. To make tea use 1 ounce of crushed seeds, cover with boiling water and steep for 20 minutes. Take tea in frequent doses of 2 tablespoons until relief is obtained.
- Cardamom: Relieves gas and increases the energy of the body which helps to treat acid indigestion. To make Chai Tea grate one ounce of fresh ginger, add 7 peppercorns, a cinnamon stick, 5 cloves and 15 cardamom seeds. Heat in 1 pint of water, simmer for 10 minutes. Add ½ cup of milk and simmer for another 10 minutes. Add a sprinkle of nutmeg and a few drops of vanilla extract. Drink one cup of tea sweetened with honey 2 times per day or as needed.
- Cloves: Improves digestion (allspice may be substituted).
- Ginger: May be taken alone or with other herbs. Make ginger tea by grating 1 ounce of fresh ginger, and then simmer for 10 minutes in a pint of water.
- Rosemary: Tea is made by adding ½ ounce of rosemary to 1 pint of boiled water – steep for 10 minutes in covered vessel.
- Recipe for an Herbal extract which supports the digestive system:
- Dandelion Root – 1 part
- Calamus Root – 1 part
- Gentian – 1 part
- Angelica – 1 part
- Valerian – 1 part
- Ginger root – ½ part
- Any white wine
Use 2 ounces of herbs to one pint of wine and let extract for 2 weeks. Take one teaspoon before and after meals.
Important Note: Persistence of mild symptoms for a period of 5 years or more, or heartburn that occurs more frequently than once a week, becomes more severe, or occurs at night and wakes a person from sleep may be a sign of a more serious condition and consultation with a healthcare provider is advised.