Positive Ways You Might Be Able to Help Your Heartburn

You have heartburn. It’s not fun, and you’re tired of the burping, throat burn, and that annoying chest pain. (Remember: always get chest pain checked out by your doctor!)

There may be some cold comfort in knowing you’re not alone. Heartburn affects up to 30% of adults in the US. 

But what you really want to know is what you can do about it.

Read on to learn more about heartburn, why what you’ve been doing to treat it may not be working, and some simple alternatives that tackle the root cause.

What is heartburn, exactly?

Heartburn happens when acid from your stomach finds its way into your esophagus, where it doesn’t belong. Your esophagus — the tube that carries food from your mouth to your stomach — sits close to your heart, behind your sternum. Heartburn often causes pain in the middle of your chest, which explains how this digestive misnomer got its name — and why the pain it causes can feel so scary. 

While burning sensations and chest pain are the most common signs of heartburn, some people have less noticeable symptoms. A chronic cough at mealtimes, for example, might be a sign you have what is called “silent acid reflux.” Post-nasal drip or the need to frequently clear your throat are other indicators.

What causes heartburn?

You might associate heartburn with too much stomach acid and look to antacids for relief. Lots of people do. 

But believe it or not, heartburn is most commonly due to too little stomach acid. And treating heartburn with acid blockers can actually make the problem worse!

When your body doesn’t produce enough stomach acid, your esophageal sphincter (the flap that separates your stomach from your esophagus) can’t close completely. Low stomach acid also means your body can’t break down food efficiently. So, food sits longer in the stomach, which increases the chances of gastric juices creeping up the esophagus. And that’s when you get that burning sensation.

Why does my heartburn keep coming back?

Over time, repeated exposure to the hydrochloric acid in your stomach can damage the lining of your esophagus and increase sensitivity. After a while even small amounts of hydrochloric acid can cause discomfort.

Highly acidic foods like tomatoes, strawberries, citrus fruits, coffee, and chocolate can trigger irritation, making heartburn worse. Until the underlying root cause – namely, low stomach acid – is addressed and the damage to your esophageal lining begins to heal, heartburn can keep coming back.

So, what can I do about heartburn?

Heartburn is traditionally addressed with quick fixes – acid-blocking medications that reduce the hydrochloric acid in your stomach. This may provide temporary relief, but it can set you up for a long-term struggle with heartburn and put you at risk for developing more serious health issues later on. 

Acid-blocking medications can cause nutritional deficiencies since stomach acid plays an important role in helping your body absorb strong nutrients like iron, calcium, zinc, and strong vitamins. Long-term nutrient deficiency can lead to more serious conditions.

The best way to treat heartburn is by addressing the root cause, which is most often a lack of stomach acid. 

How can I improve my stomach acid levels?

Here are some surprisingly simple ways to support healthy stomach acid levels:

  • Eat a healthy diet. No surprise there, right? That means plenty of fruits and vegetables, adequate protein, and limited processed foods and sugar. 
  • Slow down at mealtime. Adopt the French attitude toward dining – take your time and enjoy! (And always chew your food thoroughly.)
  • Drink less water with meals. But don’t skimp on hydration between meals!
  • Use digestive enzymes. There are many options available over the counter.
  • Drink diluted apple cider vinegar. Mix a little with water and drink it before you eat.

What else can I do to improve my digestion?

Getting your stomach acid levels back to a healthy range is your first line of defense against heartburn. But you’ll also want to work on healing any damage to your esophagus and gut lining to keep your symptoms from coming back. Nutrients and botanicals that can help include:

  • Quercetin, aloe, and marshmallow to soothe irritated mucous layers
  • Nutrients like Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice (DGL) and zinc carnosine to heal tight junctions in your GI tract
  • Herbal bitters like gentian, yellow dock, dandelion, and burdock to support healthy digestion
  • Probiotics to help balance the gut microbiome
Check out these Biocidin Botanicals formulas that contain some of these ingredients and can help with restoring gut health and microbial balance.