6 Tips to Avoiding Heartburn
If you have ever suffered the aching and burning in your chest that we all know as heartburn, you will want to pay close attention. Heartburn is a very common condition that literally affects millions of people. One in ten American adults actually suffers a DAILY episode of heartburn.
Although most sufferers control the condition with the use of antacids, their long-term use can actually have very negative consequences. This is because antacids work to suppress the levels of an acid called Hydrochloric Acid (HCL) in the stomach.
This is a problem because HCL has many important jobs including sterilizing the stomach, preventing infections and digesting proteins. Long term use of antacids can prevent HCL from doing these important jobs which may lead to indigestion, bloating after meals, reduced absorption of nutrients, bacterial overgrowth and possible infection. What’s worse is that a wide range of health conditions can also be caused or exacerbated by low levels of stomach acid including:
- Food Allergies
- Pernicious Anemia
- Vitamin B12 deficiency
- Small Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
So, the take home lesson here is that trading one evil (heartburn) for another (reduce mineral absorption, bloating, reduced protein digestion, infection and/or bacterial overgrowth) which may result from the overuse of antacids, is not the best approach for long term health and wellness. Our health will be best served by addressing the causes of heartburn at a fundamental level and PREVENTING it in the first place. A preventative approach allows you to ditch the heartburn and keep your body’s delicate systems functioning optimally. Win. Win.
Here are 6 tips that will give heartburn a run for its money.
1. Avoid refined foods and rancid fats.
If you are already following the guidelines outlined in our Paleo 31 Day challenge, the Quick Start Guide or the Ultimate Success Program, then you are already doing this and we are PROUD. For those of you who are just beginning, this means pies, cakes, cookies, margarine, hydrogenated fats and poor quality vegetable oils (canola oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, corn oil, and soy oil). All of these foods have a weakening effect on the pyloric sphincter that separates your stomach from your esophagus. When this valve is weak, it is more likely that the contents of your stomach (which have high levels of acid) are being spilled into your esophagus. We want to keep this valve as strong as possible to prevent this, so be sure to ditch the refined foods and low quality fats.
2. Avoid caffeine and alcohol.
Caffeine and alcohol, just like the refined foods above, also has a weakening effect on the pyloric sphincter. Coffee, tea, soda, any alcoholic beverage and even chocolate can be culprits. Steer clear for best results.
3. Have small, frequent meals instead of large meals.
When you eat until you are stuffed, you can actually push the stomach out of position which can actually distend the stomach upward. This can potentially put pressure on your poor pyloric valve. When the stomach is in this upward position, its contents are pressed upwards which means they can be more easily regurgitated into the esophagus. Small, frequent meals keeps your stomach from stretching and changing position which can ease your symptoms.
4. Eat the (high quality) protein component of your meals first.
Eat carbohydrates towards the end of the meal. This will aid the process of protein breakdown and the carbohydrates will facilitate release from the stomach at a faster rate.
5. Avoid drinking too much with meals.
Sip small amounts of filtered water if necessary, but for best results, drink water before or after meals instead.
6. Avoid eating late at night.
Eat approximately 3-4 hours before bed which will allow your body the time it needs to digest properly. If this doesn’t happen because life interferes, try propping yourself up for a period of time after the meal to give the contents of your stomach a chance to be emptied.
There you have it! Six little gems that will help you stay heartburn-free while also improving your digestive, absorptive and life-enjoying abilities.
Happy Paleo-ing 😊