That fiery sensation in your chest and throat, a too-common discomfort of heartburn that many of us have experienced, is not something to ignore. Whether it’s triggered by a spicy meal, stress, or certain lifestyle choices, heartburn can put a damper on your day. There are simple steps you can take to find relief, but first let’s take a look at why heartburn happens in the first place.
Why do we experience heartburn?
Heartburn occurs when stomach acid flows back into the esophagus, causing irritation and that familiar burning sensation. While occasional heartburn is normal, frequent occurrences may be a sign of an underlying issue that needs attention.
Contrary to what one might expect, a lack of stomach acid can contribute to the occurrence of heartburn in some individuals. While it might seem counterintuitive, understanding the relationship between stomach acid levels and heartburn becomes very important.
Stomach acid helps maintain the tone of the LES (lower esophageal sphincter), which acts as a valve between the stomach and the esophagus. When acid levels are low, the LES may become lax, allowing stomach contents to flow back into the esophagus, causing heartburn.
What are some trigger foods?
Certain foods and beverages can trigger or exacerbate heartburn. It is crucial to be mindful of your dietary choices to manage symptoms effectively. Common culprits include:
- Foods high in spice or acidity, such as tomatoes, citrus fruits, and peppers, can contribute to heartburn.
- High-fat meals can slow down digestion. This leads to increased pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) and a higher likelihood of acid reflux.
- Coffee, tea, chocolate, and some sodas contain substances that can relax the LES, making it easier for stomach acid to flow back into the esophagus.
The bubbles in carbonated drinks can expand in the stomach, putting pressure on the LES and promoting acid reflux.
Practical Tips for Finding Relief?
As a nutritionist, my goal is to empower individuals to make informed choices that support digestive health. Here are some strategies to alleviate and prevent heartburn:
- Chew food thoroughly, eat slowly, and savor each bite. This can prevent overeating and promotes proper digestion.
- Stay hydrated and remember, water is crucial for digestion. Aim to stay hydrated throughout the day, but avoid excessive drinking during meals to prevent stomach distension.
- Avoid trigger foods and allow the body to heal. Keep a food diary to pinpoint specific foods that may trigger your heartburn. This can guide you in making personalized dietary adjustments.
- Strive for a well-balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. Avoid excessive consumption of triggering foods.
- Opt for small meals rather than large, heavy ones to reduce pressure on the stomach.
- Include healing herbs such as marshmallow root, slippery elm and DGL to support the healing of the stomach lining.
Heartburn is a common digestive issue, but with the right dietary and lifestyle modifications, it can be effectively managed. As a nutritionist, my approach involves not only addressing the symptoms but also fostering a holistic understanding of one’s unique digestive needs. By making mindful choices and adopting a balanced approach to eating, you can take control of your health and pave the way for better digestive health. Remember, it’s not just about what you eat but how you eat that matters too.