The production of hydrochloric acid for the digestion of food is about a quart of the acid every day on average in a normal human being. The protective mucus lining or the intestinal mucosa effectively shields the stomach from the corrosive effects of the acid and it has no effect whatsoever on the stomach.
However the esophagus or the food tube is not lined with intestinal mucosa and is very likely to be damaged by any acid that runs up its length, for example when vomiting, the highly acidic semi digestive food can corrode the esophagus, this is why vomiting time and again is not good.
Whenever for any reason, the acid reaches the tissues or the lining of the esophagus, burning sensation is produced because of the corrosive effects of the acid on the tissues, this sensation is what is commonly known as heartburn, medically it is defined as gastroesophageal reflux.
Because of the actions of the lower esophageal sphincter or LES, the acid produced in the stomach rarely enters the esophagus, and it is effectively restricted to the stomach itself. During normal digestive processes, this sphincter relaxes to let in the masticated food and liquids and immediately constricts again, leaving the stomach to carry out the processes of digesting the food with the help of the acid and other enzymes.
The problem begins when some of the content of the stomach somehow escapes into the esophagus, because of improper constriction of the LES; this can lead to heartburn.
Heartburn can be brought about by several underlying internal and external factors. Smoking as a habit can contribute to the weakening of the LES and bring about heartburn, obesity or being overweight are also causes for heartburn, and pregnant are susceptible to it compared to other women.
The reason that smoking is a contributory factor is that it leads to the drying out of saliva, one of the functions of saliva is that when swallowed it leads to the neutralization of any acid that may have entered the esophagus, that is saliva washes acid away or back into the stomach, a dry mouth such as induced by smoking reduces salivary output and affects the esophageal acid content.
The relaxation of the LES can also be induced by the actions of certain types of food items, these include fatty foods such as chocolate, drinks containing alcohol, and herbs like garlic and onions, several drugs and prescription medications can also bring about this state of affairs.
Excessive acid levels can come about in the stomach because of the ingestion of certain acidic food items including citrus fruits, vegetables like tomatoes and even coffee. The contents of the stomach including acid can be forced upwards because of wearing certain tight clothing, especially those that pinch around the abdomen or waist.
Prolonged output of acid can result because of overeating which also increases the pressure in the stomach and can lead to the oozing out of excess acid into the esophagus. The position of the body can also play a role, and one should not lie down too soon after a meal as this can increase the chances of acid entering the esophagus, because of the tilt.
Supplements and herbs
The supplements provided here will give relief from heartburn, and can be used for the effective treatment of the disorder, those underlined provide immediate relief and are for use during sudden attacks. Each supplement or combination of supplements may work differently in different people; you will have to try out different combinations of supplements to see what can be effective to your particular body type.
These supplements have no side effects whatsoever and can be combined and used along with prescription drugs and medications suggested by a doctor to treat the symptoms of heartburn.
For occasional refluxes and heartburn, the commonly used mineral in antacids, calcium carbonate is effective, and is utilized in tablets like Tums. Relief form heartburn can also be obtained through the use of deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL); this substance helps in the restoration of the mucus lining of the inner stomach and will prove useful in combating heartburn and related symptoms. The irritation in the esophagus can be soothed and relieved through the use of the juice of the aloe vera, this juice is very soothing and its mucilage can provide healing.
All the supplements and herbs suggested above are for use against an attack of heartburn, and are effective in combating it as a therapeutic measure. However it is beneficial to strengthen the digestive process in the body, for long term prevention of heartburn from occurring, this preventive approach is an excellent way to go about dealing with heartburn, and can help many people avoid getting chronic heartburn.
With regard to this, a long-term use can be made of gamma-oryzanol, which is an extract of the rice bran. This compound may affect the digestive process in the body by an indirect action through the central nervous system and will prove useful in the long term against heartburn.
Additionally other treatment options in the long term include the use of a combination of the B vitamins and related compounds like choline, thiamin and pantothenic acid, these should bring preventive relief in about a months time and the symptoms of heartburn should recede. Approach your physician if this has not happened and heartburn still surfaces from time to time even after long term supplementation.
Additional things you may do
To bring down the excessive production of acid in the stomach, change your dietary habits to include frequent but small meals and avoid overeating. It is advisable to limit or reduce your consumption of alcohol and to stop drinking coffee altogether, this include decaf, also reduce or avoid your intake of oily and fatty foods.
Eating just before sleeping is not a good idea, and make sure that an interval of at least three hours exist between your last snack or meal and the time of sleep. For better protection against accidental reflux, let gravity help you by using a large and comfortable pillow or by adjusting the head of the bed about six inches higher than the rest of the bed.
Aloe vera juice, two cups of aloe vera juice, containing 98% aloe vera and no aloin or aloe-emodin, three times daily between meals.
Licorice (DGL), two wafers (380mg) of deglycyrrhizinated licorice, three or four times daily between meals.
Vitamin B1(thiamin), 500 mg daily, should be taken in the morning on empty stomach. Combine with vitamin B5 and choline for chronic heartburn.
Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), 1,000 mg two times daily. Use in combination with choline and vitamin B1 for chronic heartburn.
Calcium carbonate, 250-500 mg thrice daily.
Choline, 500 mg thrice daily. Use in combination with vitamin B5 and vitamin B1 for chronic heartburn.
Gamma-oryzanol (rice bran oil), 150 mg thrice daily (on an empty stomach).
Soothing tea for heartburn
Ginger, licorice, and chamomile are all wonderful digestive tract soothers. Accompanied by the fact that they are inexpensive, and effective, they make a great remedy. They are great for occasional heartburn flare-ups.
- 1 teaspoon of grated licorice root
- 1 teaspoon of dried chamomile flowers
- 1 teaspoon of chopped fresh ginger
- 1 cup of water
Pour water into a small pan and boil it along with licorice and ginger. Let the brew simmer. After around 15 minutes, remove the pan from heat, and add chamomile. Cover the pan and allow the brew to steep for around 10 minutes.
Strain the herbal brew into a cup and enjoy.
Other beneficial herbs
- Cape Aloe
- Devil’s Claw
- Manuka Honey
- Palmyra Palm
- Red Banana
- Slippery Elm
- White Willow
- From Kate – May-18-2011
- I second David’s recommendation for Apple cider vinegar – a teaspoonful in a glass of water taken with food worked a miracle for me.
- From David – 2010
- The best thing that I have found for heartburn is organic apple cider vinegar as strange as that might sound. It works as good for me as Nexium has.