Health Tips: Effective Heartburn Remedies

Causes, natural cures and over-the-counter treatments for heartburn, indigestion, gas or dyspepsia, and how to prevent it.

Uh oh. Here it comes, that feeling like your stomach is a kettle of acid, and the fumes are burning the tender skin of your chest and heart. That must be why it is called heartburn!

Heartburn is known by other names too, including indigestion, gas and dyspepsia, but no matter what you call it the symptoms are the same. It creates a sense of burning in the chest and sometimes tummy areas, and gaseous fumes that can come out of either end or just get stuck inside, leaving you bloated like a hot air balloon. Heartburn is an unpleasant way to end any meal, and most of its victims want to learn how to ward it off in the future. The best way to do that is to stop it before it even starts, which is easier to do if you know where it comes from.

What causes heartburn? Any stress that impedes the business of digestion can stir up heartburn. Your mouth is a doorway into a highly sophisticated processing plant. Food comes in, travels down the esophagus corridor and into your stomach, where the foods are sorted and processed for delivery to body cells and the lower disposal chambers, or intestines. Now, like any business, your digestion has certain requirements, such as proper timing and space. When you mess this up, the trouble begins.

What behaviors cause trouble? There are three big ones, including eating too quickly or when you are anxious or emotionally distraught, creating an overload of materials and sensations in your system. This is a lot like trying to downsize your digestion business, by telling it to process more food in less time, in the presence of strong emotions that can zap energy available for body processes. Your stomach feels upset about this, just like any downsized employee would, and lets you know its feelings with hot clarity.

Another common culprit is eating combinations of food that create excessive gas or acid in your system. The combinations that cause problems will differ among individuals, but often include eating meals that contain cooked tomato products, caffeine, chocolate or alcohol. Usually, your body will let you know what these combinations are, and then it is up to you to use common sense in the future, or face the consequences of your stomach complaining more loudly as time goes on.

Finally, you can upset your digestion by preventing normal breathing patterns. Uneven breathing can cause air to get lodged in pockets in the digestive tract, hampering the food processing business. You may cause this by smoking or chewing gum just before eating, or by wearing tight clothes, leaning sideways or lying down while eating. Strenuous exercise following a meal can also interfere with digestion by taking up air that is needed for the digestion process.

The most obvious way to "fix" heartburn is to prevent it with behavioral therapies, by choosing foods that you know will agree with you, and sitting upright in a calm environment while eating slowly, savoring each bite. You can also keep a food diary so that over time, you will realize which food combinations work best for you. Nice as that may sound, a majority of Americans are unable to do this at every meal due to the daily mechanics of their hectic lives. If this describes you, consider the remedies below, which are a collection of common folk and over-the-counter cures that have been passed down from other sufferers of common heartburn.

First of all it is important to realize that no one remedy works for everyone, and you may need to experiment with several before you find one that is effective for you. With that in mind, do not take huge amounts of anything, even natural foods or herbs, until you can assess how it affects you. If in doubt, you should always seek professional medical advice.Both natural and over-the-counter remedies fall into two basic camps: those that eliminate excessive acid, and those that help to heal your stomach and/or actually help your body to create the right type of acid for digestion.

Most remedies fall into the first group. Beginning with the simplest solution, plain old water can be taken between meals, to aid in diluting excessive digestive juices. If that is not enough to soothe the acid, you can try adding a spoonful of baking soda. Other folk remedies in this camp include ingesting a banana, aloe vera juice, potato juice, yogurt, or cottage cheese. All supposedly serve the same purpose of reducing acid. Over-the-counter antacids are safe ways to accomplish the same thing. Recently, new over-the-counter drugs have appeared in this group called acid blockers. These must be taken prior to eating and are best used by those with chronic problems.

The second group of remedies includes natural herbs that can stimulate stomach acid production that is healthier, and usually over time will create a better environment for digestion. These include digestive teas and herbs that include peppermint, ginger, or papaya enzymes. Taking acidophilus can also help keep your digestive enzymes in good shape. The downside to this approach is that it tends to work best for those who are lacking certain stomach enzymes. These supplements may actually increase your discomfort if your heartburn is caused by plain, old, excessive gas in the system. Thus, if taking one of these remedies makes it worse, then you know your heartburn is the type that needs something from the first group of treatments above!

Finally, there are two natural "cures" listed in folk literature that may fit into either of the categories above, depending upon who you listen to. The only thing for sure is that some heartburn sufferers have found relief by adding a teaspoon of either lemon juice or apple cider vinegar to their water. It is the "why" that differs by authority.According to some sources, these natural acids turn alkaline inside the body, and this helps to neutralize stomach acids. According to others, however, lemon and apple cider stimulate hydrochloric acid production, which means that they would be classified in the second group of remedies.

Common heartburn is not fun, but it is also not life threatening by itself. Unfortunately, it can sometimes feel like it is going to kill you, and certain types of heartburn can be caused by physical problems that we have not described above. The most serious cause of similar symptoms is a heart attack, though this usually involves more than a burning sensation. If you feel crushing chest pain, or pain that spreads from the chest area to your arms, you may be having a heart attack. If your heartburn is accompanied by shortness of breath, sweating and rapid heartbeat, you should seek medical help.

If you have heartburn more than twice weekly no matter how carefully you eat, then you may have a physical problem that creates digestive stress. GERD, or gastro esophageal reflux disease, causes stomach acids to back up into the esophagus, thus causing acid indigestion. Ulcers may also cause repeated heartburn. These and other physical causes for chronic heartburn are treatable, but you need to seek medical evaluation and advice for proper healing.

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