Heartburn is pure misery, as anyone who has ever experienced it knows. The sensation occurs behind the breastbone, though it has nothing to do with the heart. It’s a rare person who hasn’t had heartburn at least once, and the first time I got it, I vowed I would never eat again!
That didn’t last. What stayed with me was determination to avoid anything that would lead to another bout of heartburn.
The “burn” is caused by stomach acid rising up into the throat when the sphincter that closes to hold food in the stomach relaxes after a meal. Heartburn can result from simply eating too much at a sitting, which most of us have done at one time or another.
There can be other causes of heartburn, but even if you don’t know why you have it, finding relief through natural cures for heartburn can make all the difference in your quality of life.
Beware of Cures with Drawbacks
Our bodies are incredibly fine-tuned, with everything designed to work together. When one part gets out of whack, it can affect other parts, leading to malfunctions that may be miserable and/or damaging.
The term ”Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease” (GERD) is what doctors use to describe a recurring problem with heartburn; medications that inhibit the production of stomach acid are conventional treatment. But the body needs this for good digestion, particularly proteins.
Decreasing production of HCI can make it harder to absorb vital nutrients from food, including iron, zinc, and vitamins B12 and D; in fact, GERD can indicate low HCI production in the first place, which causes slow digestion. Food stays in the stomach too long and begins to ferment.
I wasn’t willing to take an over-the-counter or prescription medication, and when I began seeking natural cures for heartburn, the first one I found was sodium bicarbonate.
Commonly known as baking soda, a single dose (a half-teaspoon or a teaspoon taken in eight ounces of water) can bring quick relief. It works by neutralizing the stomach pH level, so if the sphincter relaxes and stomach contents rise into the throat, it doesn’t burn.
This remedy can be used up to six times over a 12-hour period. The one time I tried it, my symptoms backed off after ten minutes. But I knew I was blocking the body’s ability to properly digest food, which I didn’t want to do on a regular basis.
Aloe vera is another popular home remedy for heartburn, and some people swear a half-cup of gel will cool the fire. Unfortunately, it didn’t make any difference for me.
You may have heard about some of these other remedies for heartburn:
- Peppermint tea: said to soothe acid reflux and heartburn through stimulating digestion. I got no relief from it.
- Calcium: the main ingredient of over-the-counter antacids. Some people pop these like candy, but it didn’t help me at all.
- Don’t eat too late in the evening: lying flat when your stomach is still working on digesting your dinner can be a recipe for disaster. I’ve always avoided this, yet I still got heartburn on occasion.
It was my naturopathic doctor who suggested an eating style I’ve found fool-proof in avoiding heartburn.
There are several versions of proper food combining; the rules are simple, though not always easy to follow.
Here’s an outline of the basic version I’ve used for more than a decade:
- Fruit only in the morning; never eat fruit with other foods. Stick with one type of fruit at a time, and eat it throughout the morning if you like. Wait an hour before eating anything else. Fruit digests quickly, but will linger in the stomach when eaten with other foods, causing fermentation.
- Starchy foods like grains, rice, and potatoes should be eaten mid-day. These foods take four to five hours to pass from the stomach, require low levels of HCI to digest, and combine well with non-starchy vegetables, such as leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower.
- Heavy protein foods like eggs, meat, seafood, poultry and pork are best eaten at the end of the day. HCI is vital for efficient protein digestion, but when you eat proteins with starches, the diverse enzymes necessary for breaking down different foods can neutralize each other, making food stay in the stomach longer. Proteins can take up to eight hours to pass from the stomach, and when eaten with starch, it takes longer, bumping up the likelihood of heartburn. These foods also combine well with non-starchy vegetables.
- Don’t drink with meals. Avoid drinking at least twenty minutes before a meal, and wait an hour afterward before drinking again. Fluids dilute digestive enzymes, slowing down the works.
- If you eat sweets, eat them alone. Most desserts contain sugar, which encourages fermentation in the stomach. The combination of ingredients found in many desserts can be challenging for digestion, especially on top of other foods.
This may sound too simple to be effective, but for me and many other dedicated food combiners, the results are sweet. Working with the body’s natural processes has also made weight control effortless for me, so that’s a bonus blessing.
Sometimes we may just be asking too much of our hard-working bodies. A line from one of the proper food combining hand-outs my doctor gave me will always stay with me: “Try not to put everything on the planet in your mouth at once.” It’s not bad advice.
If you have questions or comments about heartburn or any of the remedies covered here, drop us a line.