1/6/2013 4:26:00 PM by JoJo's Massage Therapy
In this three part series of blog posts I address one of the more frequent discomforts of our modern age, heartburn, and what can be done about it.
Despite its name, heartburn has nothing to do with the heart. Some of the symptoms, however, are similar to those of a heart attack or heart disease. Heartburn is an irritation of the esophagus that is caused by stomach acid. It is triggered when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus. This can create a burning discomfort in the upper abdomen or below the breast bone. Occasional heartburn isn't dangerous, but chronic heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), can sometimes lead to serious problems.
You are probably well aware that medications can help calm the burn, but natural heartburn remedies and lifestyle changes may be another way to get some relief.
What Causes Heartburn?
With gravity's help, a muscular valve called the lower esophageal sphincter, or LES, keeps stomach acid in the stomach. The LES is located where the esophagus meets the stomach below the rib cage and slightly left of center. Normally it opens to allow food into the stomach; then it closes again. However, if the LES opens too often or if it does not close tightly enough, stomach acid can reflux, or seep, into the esophagus and cause a burning sensation.
Which Natural Heartburn Remedies Really Work?
One commonly used "natural" heartburn remedy is calcium. It's also the active ingredient in most over-the-counter antacids. If you find yourself popping antacids like candy and you are having heartburn more than a couple of times a week, it is time to see the doctor. You may have a condition called GERD, gastroesophageal reflux disease. Frequent heartburn can lead to long-term problems, even cancer. However, stopping the acid reflux can help to prevent such complications.
Do Herbal Heartburn Remedies Work?
Most of the research on herbal heartburn remedies has centered on a product called Iberogast. Iberogast is a liquid formulation of nine herbs. It was develped in Germany in 1961, and it is available without a prescription. The herbs in Iberogast include:
Clown's mustard plant
Studies have shown that Iberogast reduces acid reflux, stomach pain, cramping, and nausea. It's not clear, however, which herb in the mix relieves symptoms. Plus, peppermint oil can actually worsen heartburn, so it's not a good idea to take it if you have GERD.
Iberogast is readily available on the internet.
Can Other Types of Supplements Help?
One study showed that a dietary supplement containing a combination of melatonin, l-tryptophan, vitamins B6 and B12, and folic acid relieved GERD symptoms even better than the heartburn drug Prilosec. A number of other studies have shown that melatonin alone helps protect the digestive tract.
Is There More That I Should Know?
Yes, in fact, there is. Check back tomorrow for part two of this series on heartburn where I discuss some other home remedies that can help.