Most of us have experienced the uncomfortable sensation of heartburn, indigestion or bloating at some point. Whether it was after a spicy meal, or while we were pregnant, heartburn can vary from uncomfortable to downright painful.
The first thing most people use to address their symptoms is over-the-counter antacids. But unfortunately, this is just a bandaid and can make the situation worse if used long-term. Did you know that a common cause of heartburn is actually due to the production of too little stomach acid, rather than too much[i]?
When the stomach produces insufficient acid to properly break down food, the food sits in the stomach longer than it should and starts to ferment. This can create that over-full, bloated feeling after eating. As the stomach contents sit, they can also start to travel back up into the esophagus, causing heartburn or reflux.
Other signs and symptoms of low stomach acid include:
- Multiple food sensitivities
- Weak, peeling or cracked fingernails
- Dilated blood vessels in cheeks
- Iron deficiency
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Undigested food in stool
Adequate stomach acid is important not only to reduce the symptoms above but is also essential for:
- Proper absorption of nutrients from food
- As a defense against pathogenic or “bad” bacteria that can be attached to our
It is important to address heartburn symptoms, but instead of reaching for that over-the-counter antacid, use the following tips to get those digestive juices flowing again…
Take Bitters Before Meals
A great way to encourage stomach acid production is to take lemon or apple cider vinegar in a little water 15-30 minutes before meals. You can also purchase bitter formulas for this purpose as well. The one I use is by St. Francis Herb Farm and can be purchased here. Supplements of hydrochloric acid (HCl) are also available and should be used with the guidance of a trained practitioner.
You can also eat bitter foods to aid digestion. Download a 5-day meal plan here for some delicious and easy recipes that include ingredients like lemon, ginger and more!
Slow Down and Chew Your Food
Eating on the run, when you are stressed, or with inadequate chewing increases your risk of heartburn. Slow down, sit down, and properly chew your food to allow for proper digestion … and also more enjoyment of your meal!
Eat Smaller Portions
Overfilling your stomach can result in heartburn simply from the mechanism of upward pressure from the excess food. Later-stage pregnancy and obesity can result in heartburn symptoms from the extra pressure on the stomach. Think Hara Hachi Bu (eat until only 80% full).
Avoid Trigger Foods
Food allergens such as gluten and dairy are linked to an increased risk of heartburn. Other foods such as chocolate, fried foods, soft drinks, alcohol, and caffeine are commonly associated with heartburn as well. Try eliminating these foods from your diet to see an improvement in symptoms.
Limit Water with Meals
Although drinking clean water is a key to optimal health, drinking more than 1 glass with your meal can dilute your stomach acid impairing digestion. So, make sure to drink sufficient water between meals and limit water with meals to 1 cup.
Have any of the above changes helped to reduce your heartburn symptoms? Click to receive a supportive meal plan and sugar-free guide with recipes and shopping list to get you started.