You may be surprised to learn that many cases of heartburn can be prevented and that a few simple steps at home can provide emergency solutions.
The average stomach is the size of a fist. Our meals are not. We gulp food in a hurry, so because each bite is too dry to swallow, we season it with a gulp of icy water. Our dinner is the largest and most complex meal of the day (while digestion is most sluggish at that time), e.g. pasta, meat balls, tomato sauce, garlic and fried onions, and then an ice cream for dessert. And soon after, we recline and lie horizontally in bed. You are heartburn waiting to happen.
The lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is a muscle at the bottom of the esophagus that opens to allow food into the stomach and then closes when the stomach is filled. When the LES relaxes, stomach fluids are allowed to move up into the esophagus, which causes heartburn.
Some foods may cause it to relax, like onion or garlic, or herbs like peppermint, so avoiding these, especially in the evening, can prevent heartburn.
If a meal is excessive in size, the stomach stretches to capacity. And, there is a 20-minute delay from its stretch receptors to inform the brain that “you are full.” This is why it’s good advice to stop eating when you feel 75% satisfied and before you feel completely full. Otherwise, the food has nowhere to go, and eventually the pressure put against LES will force it to open and will force the acid-food mixture back into the esophagus. Fatty and fried foods as well as citrus, acidic foods like tomatoes, and dairy can also contribute to heartburn, and it can even be an indication of a food sensitivity.
If you develop heartburn, first, sip hot water. You can also chew on a few almonds, or take a powder calcium supplement, digestive enzymes, or even better, a few ounces of aloe vera juice. If in bed, immediately turn on your left side – gravity will help move the stomach contents away from the esophagus.
How do you prevent heartburn? Masticate!
Chew each bite until you liquify it. Avoid copious icy water during your meal. At worst, sip a little hot liquid with it.
Do not eat while standing. Increase awareness of the flavor and texture of the meal in front of you to take pleasure in it.
Make lunch your largest meal and dinner the smallest: a salad, a sandwich, or a soup. Eat dinner by 7pm. Go to bed three hours after the last meal. Your body will thank you.
In part one, titled How To Have Great Digestion, you learned that good digestion is one of the keys to great health. Choosing your foods wisely, chewing your food completely and using digestive enzymes are just some of the ways to ensure the best digestion possible. Here are some more ideas to help enhance your digestion and therefore your health.
4. Use Probiotics
The word probiotic literally means “for life.” Essentially what you are doing when you take probiotics is giving new life to your digestive system by helping to repopulate it with “good” bacteria. Some of the most common strains of bacteria found in probiotics are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria. Common foods that have these type of bacteria are yogurt, kefir, fermented soy products such as miso soup or tofu (make sure it is fermented), and sauerkraut. These particular types of bacteria have been shown to help improve conditions such as yeast infections, diarrhea and some say they can prolong life as well. The Japanese and Russian people of the Caucus mountains have some of the longest life spans in the world, and culturally their diets are composed of many fermented foods containing healthy probiotics.
5. Address “Leaky Gut Syndrome”
Leaky gut syndrome is a condition in which the cells of the intestinal lining develop gaps between them. This may be cause for concern because these gaps could allow toxins and bacteria to “leak” into the bloodstream. Some of the symptoms of leaky gut include: excessive gas and bloating, IBS, food allergies, or even adverse changes in mood. Over-consumption of the following foods or drugs may cause leaky gut: alcohol, caffeine, NSAIDS (such as Aspirin), pollutants on fruits (such as insecticides), and extremely spicy foods.
A few ways to help prevent this condition are: eat complex carbohydrates such as fruits and vegetables (which increase fiber content in the diet); reduce inflammation by taking fish oils, especially cod liver oil (which contains vitamins A and D, excellent antioxidants). Supplementing with L Glutamine, an amino acid found in both meat and plants has been shown to protect the integrity of the gastrointestinal lining.
6. Do a Cleanse/Detox
Some of the components that make up doing a cleanse are getting rid of foods that you already know are bad for you: fast food, fried foods, basically most things found in the drive through of your favorite restaurant. You want to replace those things with living foods rich with enzymes and probiotics: fruits, vegetables, yogurts (minus the high fructose corn syrup or artificial colors), nuts, seeds, berries and even some herbs such as milk thistle, alfalfa, slippery elm, and dandelion. Several companies offer cleanses that contain herbs that help the liver remove chemicals like phthalates, organophosphates, solvents, heavy metals from the body that we get from the air as well as our food.
So let’s recap the steps to obtaining a happier life through better digestion:
1. Choose your foods wisely.
2. Chew your food completely.
3. Use digestive enzymes.
4. Use probiotics.
5. Address leaky gut syndrome.
6. Do a cleanse/detox.
Holistic family medical practices are sprouting up across the U.S. in response to patient demand to offer comprehensive medical care using both Eastern and Western methods.
Board-certified physicians trained in traditional family medicine are seeking additional training and licensures in effective complementary medicine tools. Acupuncture, supplements, herbs, homeopathy, and osteopathy treatments are having significant success for patient wellness.
Chronic diseases or conditions like diabetes, hypertension, asthma, menopause, or special health issues such as thyroid disorders, infertility, or recurring common ailments like digestive problems, high stress lifestyles, and fatigue respond well using a combination of approaches, all of which are backed by proven research and studies.
A few reasons why patients choose holistic family medicine practitioners:
A board certified holistic family doctor is trained to focus on treating the whole person.
Addressing the underlying cause of a health problems can help eliminate recurring ailments for good, such is the case with fungal nail and digestive conditions.
Detailed analysis of your current and past health is explored during in-depth interviews including an initial hour-long interview. Thorough lab testing is the gold standard to create a complete picture, reduce misdiagnosis, and tailor highly individualized treatment plans.
A responsible holistic family practitioner embraces all modalities – pharmaceuticals, supplements, herbs – in the right amount.
With holistic care, wellness is an ongoing process and doesn’t stop after you leave the doctor’s office. By regularly monitoring labs and layering an ongoing treatment plan with acupuncture, osteopathic manipulation, and diet and exercise patient may reach the pinnacle of wellness and maintain long-term health with the added benefit of combating the aging process by gradually implementing changes.
What about insurance?
Many holistic doctors do not participate with insurance plans, but are usually helpful at working with insurance to optimize eligible benefits. It is even possible for patients to realize a cost-savings when optimizing out-of-pocket expenses from self-treatment. Some patients plan annual holistic care investments with their doctor and leverage flexible benefit programs to cover the costs of acupuncture, supplements, and herbs tax-free.
So, there are doctors who focus on both Eastern and Western medical practices, which may be just what you are looking for. And, what’s most important is for you to get the healthcare you need. Don’t put off your health – be proactive and take action today.