Heartburn can be terrible. My patients often come in complaining of a string of miserable nights when nothing can calm the burning in their chests. The ache can extend to the throat and jaw.* Acid reflux is more than just annoying. If left untreated for years, you can develop Barret’s Esophagus and eventually cancer. Soothing the pain has become a mega-industry, but your reflux is not a symptom of a Prilosec deficiency, and in fact long term use may cause Vitamin B12 deficiencies** or heart attacks.
Basic reflux defense:
Avoid alcohol, spicy or greasy foods, tomatoes, citrus, chocolate, and mint.
Sleep with an extra pillow or bed wedge to keep your esophagus above your stomach.
Don’t eat large meals or late in the evening.
Most people report a big reduction in symptoms when they cut down on carbs & sugar.
Stimulate PC-6. You can do acupressure on yourself.
There are TWO types of acid dysfunction reflux:
Sometimes the stomach is making too much acid, or the lining is damaged with ulcers, cancer, etc. In these cases, reducing stomach acid via pharmaceuticals can help, particularly in the short term.
More commonly, the stomach isn’t making *enough* acid. This is because the body only bothers to promote acid when it’s in the parasympathetic / “rest and digest” mode. If you are stuck in the sympathetic / “fight or flight” mode due to stress & anxiety, your digestion will slow down.
Have you heard the old tip about using apple cider vinegar? It seems counter-intuitive to drink vinegar (acetic acid) when your throat is on fire, but it works. Here’s why: The sphincter between the esophagus and the stomach is signalled to close tight by the presence of acid. If it doesn’t cinch up, the weak acid you do have will escape upwards.
I can’t vouch for all the claimed “miracles” of apple cider vinegar (ACV), but it’s a powerful tool for fighting heartburn. In addition to providing the acidic signal, high quality ACV also contains probiotics that make your gut healthier. This is why you want the cloudy stuff in a glass bottle (Bragg’s) not the cheap clear supermarket brand in the plastic bottle.
Shake the bottle until the gross-looking glop becomes a uniform cloudiness. Pour a finger or two of the ACV into a glass, then dilute it to about 3-4 inches with water. Chug it down and follow with tooth brushing or at least a serious rinsing to protect your tooth enamel. Within seconds your heartburn should dissipate. Some just use it as needed – when symptoms appear. More diligent people drink it every day.
Protip: Pickle juice also works! Try a swig out of the jar of kosher spears in your fridge!
* Heart attack symptoms are sometimes confused for heartburn, which is why it’s important to get checked out by a doctor, especially if you are at risk or have heart disease in your family history.
**Vitamin B12 deficiency causes serious health consequences including anemia, osteoporosis, depression, memory loss, dementia, neuropathy and cardiovascular disease.