Indigestion and Heartburn: Natural Treatments
By Dr. Mao Shing Ni
“OH, I ATE TOO MUCH!” Most of us have regretfully uttered these words more often than we’d like. The resulting indigestion or heartburn is often experienced as pain, a burning sensation in the stomach or chest, abdominal bloating, gurgling, distention, and belching. Indigestion is caused and made worse by overeating, especially fatty, rich, or spicy foods, alcohol, coffee, and acidic foods such as tomatoes and citrus fruits. Eating while stressed, on the run, or late at night also can cause indigestion. Heartburn can accompany indigestion, as the excessive food and liquid in the stomach churns up stomach acid, which spills up into the esophagus and irritates the lining. Over time chronic heartburn can develop into gastritis or esophagitis, much more serious conditions in which the lining of the stomach or esophagus erodes and ulcerates. The regurgitation of acids is also called gastroesophageal reflux disease, commonly referred to as GERD. Chronic acid reflux can lead to cancer of the esophagus.
Chinese medicine sees three main causes of indigestion. First, poor diet damages the spleen-pancreas-stomach network. Second, emotional turmoil stresses the liver-gallbladder network, slows down the digestive process, and potentially causes hiatal hernia by pulling the stomach upward into the diaphragm. Third, pathogens in a postnasal mucus drip or food-borne microbes can invade the stomach, causing upheaval. My approach to patients with GERD is diet change- from rich and spicy foods to simple, bland, alkaline, easy-to-digest foods- and stress release with meditation, exercise, and massage. If I suspect pathogens as the cause of the GERD, I’ll address the sinuses and mucus drip, and I’ll work to clear out the pathogens. Acupuncture can provide quick symptom relief and restore the natural flow of the intestinal tract, while Herbal Therapy support a healthy esophageal and stomach lining and normal gastric juice production.
Related conditions: Ulcers, Nausea
- Diet for Indigestion and Heartburn
- Home Remedies for Indigestion and Heartburn
- Daily Vitamin Supplements for Indigestion and Heartburn
- Herbal Therapy for Indigestion and Heartburn
- Exercise for Indigestion and Heartburn
- Acupressure for Indigestion and Heartburn
- Indigestion and Heartburn: Advice on what to avoid
DIET FOR INDIGESTION AND HEARTBURN
- Eat slowly and in small amounts more frequently- you should leave the table only three-quarters full. Chew each bite thoroughly- remember that digestion begins in the mouth and that your stomach doesn’t have teeth. Eat plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Favor enzyme rich foods, including papayas, mangoes, sweet potatoes, yams, figs, brown rice, oats, pearl barley, daikon radish, apples, parsley, coriander, mint, dill, rosemary, ginger, bay leaf, fennel, dill, oregano, cilantro, sage, and anise.
- Avoid acidic foods, such as tomatoes, coffee, tea, wine, citrus fruits, vinegar, pineapple, rich sauces, cream, greasy and fried foods, processed foods, refined sugars and flour, and alcohol. Intake of dairy products and wheat should be reduced.
- Eat with mindfulness - savor and be grateful with each bite and do not eat while stressed, angry, or preoccupied. Don’t watch television or read the newspaper while you eat, as the distraction takes energy away from the digestive system and makes its job that much harder.
HOME REMEDIES FOR INDIGESTION AND HEARTBURN
- Juice 1 large or 2 small white russet potatoes. Discard the pulp, mix the juice with an equal amount of hot water, and drink on an empty stomach first thing in the morning.
- Juice 1 medium daikon radish. Discard the pulp, mix the juice with an equal amount of hot water, and drink once a day after eating.
- For heartburn, dissolve 1 teaspoon baking soda in an 8- ounce cup of warm water and sip for immediate relief.
- Make a tea by boiling 1 tablespoon licorice root in 3 1/2 cups of water for 15 minutes. Strain, and drink 1 cup after each meal 3 times a day for 2 weeks. Licorice is neutralizing and helps with digestion.
DAILY SUPPLEMENTS FOR INDIGESTION AND HEARTBURN
- When your body is deficient in digestive enzymes, it compensates by increasing acid production. Supplemention with the enzymes bromelain (450 milligrams), amylase (1,500 units), and lipase (1,000 units) can help with the digestion of protein, starch, and fat and can also relieve symptoms of stomach upset or heartburn.
- Vitamin A (200 IU) is important for maintaining the health of the mucous membranes, which line the esophagus and the stomach.
- Taking lecithin supplements (500 milligrams) three times a day can help ease heartburn and indigestion, especially for people who have a low tolerance for oily and fatty foods.
HERBAL THERAPY FOR INDIGESTION AND HEARTBURN
Herbs can be found in health food or vitamin stores, online, and at the offices of Chinese medicine practitioners. Herbs should be used according to individual needs; consult with a licensed practitioner for a customized formulation. To learn more about the herbs listed here, go to www.askdrmao.com.
- Dandelion root and gentian root can help aid digestion by supporting the liver and gallbladder.
- Acid Stomach, a Traditional Chinese herbal formula used for gastrointestinal problems, including, acid reflux, heartburn, and GERD, contains Polygala root, Poria sclerotium, Dong Quai root, Asian Ginseng root.
- Chamomile and slippery elm help to settle the stomach and protect the mucous membrane from assaults.
- Traditional Chinese herbal therapy for indigestion includes rhubarb root, bitter orange, coptidis, skullcap, poria, alisma, licorice, and atractylodis.
EXERCISE FOR INDIGESTION AND HEARTBURN
Walking is the best exercise for helping food move along the digestive tract, and for improving digestion and absorption. The energetic meridians of the digestive organs run along the large muscles of the legs, so walking stimulates energy flow within the channels and promotes digestion. Take an easy 10-minute walk after each meal and massage your abdomen with your palms in a circle around your navel as you walk. This helps move food through your digestive tract, avoiding prolonged accumulation.
ACUPRESSURE FOR INDIGESTION AND HEARTBURN
- Find the acupoint Middle Core (REN-12), about midway between your navel and the lower tip of your sternum. It is used in acupuncture for balancing digestive function. With your index and middle fingers, apply mild pressure for s minutes. Then with the palm of your hand make small concentric circles rubbing the point in clockwise direction for 5 minutes.
- Find the acupoint Inner Gate (P-6), three finger-widths above the wrist crease, between the two tendons on the inside of the left forearm. It is used to settle the stomach and reduce acid. Apply moderate pressure with your right thumb. Hold for 5 minutes. Repeat on the right arm.
INDIGESTION AND HEARTBURN: WHAT TO AVOID
- Avoid lying down immediately after eating. Lying down enables the acid to reflux from the stomach into the esophagus. During a flare-up, avoid lying flat on your back when you sleep- instead prop up your head and upper body with pillows at a 45-degree angle.
- Certain drugs, including antidepressants and sedatives, as they can worsen heartburn. Talk to your doctor about alternatives. Avoid smoking, as nicotine is a muscle relaxant and can relax the esophageal opening in the stomach, making it easier for acid to spill into it.
©2015 Dr. Mao Shing Ni
Read Secrets of Self-Healing: Harness Nature's Power to Heal Common Ailments ... By Maoshing Ni