Numerous people complain about heartburn, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). It may be a result of too much or too little acid or simple acid being present in the wrong place. It can be caused by sphincters being perpetually open due to being overly relaxed, leading to acid sloshing up into the esophagus. Sometimes it only occurs when consuming certain types of food, such as hot peppers and spicy dishes. Regardless of how it occurs heartburn or acid reflux is not pleasant.
Instead of reaching for calcium carbonate to relieve heartburn try a herbal alternative. Calcium carbonate can be very effective, however, calcium carbonate can lead to lower levels of hydrochloric acid. This can be effective for those with too much acid, but for those who’s sphincter is overly relaxed or who simply have little acid it will do a disservice.
Marshmallow Root (Althaea officinalis)
Marshmallow’s roots and leaves are wonderful either as a tea or tincture to sooth that acid burn naturally. However, the root is much more potent than the leaves. Marshmallow is very mucilaginous, making it great for coating both the esophagus, stomach and the intestines. The mucilaginous aspect of the herb is very soothing for mucous membrane irritation if one has ulcers of the stomach or the intestines it can be incredibly beneficial and healing.
Papaya (Carica papaya)
The whole papaya fruit, the flesh, seeds and leaves have a benefit for the digestive system. Papaya seeds are beneficial against intestinal parasites especially those contracted in the tropics. Papaya leaves and papaya flesh and juice are beneficial for reducing and preventing heartburn. Not only will papaya aid in reducing acid reflux it will also help with digestive foods due to its enzyme content, known as protease.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
Ginger and digestion seem to go hand in hand. Its digestive action is as a carminative it promotes gastric secretions, making it beneficial for stomach acid as well as issues of the intestines.
Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
Licorice root has an amazingly positive effect on the endocrine system It is also very soothing to the esophagus. Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL), often found as a chewable supplement, is a form of licorice that has had the phenolic compound glycyrrhizin removed from it making it safe for individuals with high blood pressure. It can be taken as soon as heartburn is felt. The chewable deglycyrrhizinated licorice is also beneficial because it aids in activating digestion by stimulating enzyme production and reducing inflammation. DGL has also been shown to be as effective as conventional acid-reducing medication that can commonly be taken to suppress acid reflux.
Chamomile (Anthemus nobile)
Chamomile is a calming, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and anti-spasmodic herb. Indigestion can be greatly soothed by chamomile as can ulcers. Although chamomile may not be the number one herb for acid reflux or heartburn it would be a great herb to include in a herbal tea blend combined with marshmallow root and licorice.
Chamomile in excess is not the best for pregnant women some studies have shown, therefore it is best to speak with your doctor or midwife.
Relaxed Esophageal Sphincter
Supplementing with choline (which through different pathways in the body converts to phosphatidylcholine) or phosphatidylcholine can be very beneficial for maintaining proper muscular function on the sphincters and esophageal circular smooth muscle cells. When the sphincter of the esophagus cannot properly close it can lead to acid splashing up, closing it can bring much-needed relief. Supplementing with phosphatidylcholine can also aid in improving brain function, gastrointestinal health and liver health.
Heartburn Accompanied by Bloating, Distension and Excess Gas
Digestion begins in the stomach, experiencing heartburn can also result in poor digestion particularly of carbohydrates. This can mean that food enters the small intestine undigested. It can be feasted upon by bad bacteria (leading to gas and potentially the development of SIBO) result in excess gas, fermentation of the food can also lead to gas development. In the end, you might be bloated, experience abdominal pain or pass gas.
Though they won’t eliminate acid reflux or heartburn, it can help with digesting food which can reduce strain on the digestive system. Individuals who have acid reflux or GERD often experience issues with properly digesting food which can lead to indigestion, gas, pain and distention. Adding in enzymes can aid in reducing symptoms of pain, gas and abdominal distension associated with poorly digested food.
Some digestive enzymes may also include bile acid which can be very benefical in breaking down food especially if you are lacking a gall bladder.
Amanda Filipowicz is a certified nutritional practitioner (CNP) with a bachelor in environmental studies (BES) from York University. She also has certification in clinical detoxification, prenatal and postnatal care as well as nutrition for mental health. She has been working as a nutritionist since 2013 and is a lifelong proponent of eating healthy.