What Is Heart Burn
To help digest food, the stomach produces about a quart of hydrochloric acid a day. Usually, the acid isn’t a problem, because the gastrointestinal tract is coated with a protective mucous lining. But when acid moves up the esophagus (the tube running from the throat to the stomach), look out. Lacking a protective coating, the delicate tissue of the esophagus is vulnerable to the acid’s corrosive action, which produces a burning sensation doctors label gastroesophageal reflux-and the rest of us call heartburn.
Heart Burn Causes
Stomach acid generally stays where it belongs, thanks to the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). This muscle relaxes only to admit food into the stomach and then shuts tightly. But sometimes the LES doesn’t close properly, allowing the stomach’s contents to wash up into the esophagus.
Several factors can cause heartburn. Being overweight, pregnant, or a smoker weakens the LES. Smoking also dries up saliva, which neutralizes acid in the esophagus and washes it down into the stomach. Some foods-chocolate, alcohol, fatty foods, garlic, and onions-and certain medications make the LES relax. Acidic foods-tomatoes, citrus fruits, and coffee-may produce extra stomach acid. Waist-pinching clothing puts additional pressure on the abdomen, forcing the stomach contents upward. Overeating also increases pressure and stimulates prolonged acid production to digest the extra food. Avoid lying down too soon after a meal, it tilts digestive juices toward the esophagus.
How Supplements Can Help
All the suggested supplements are effective for relieving heartburn-the ones in blue immediately, those in black within a month or so. Try each methodically to see which one or combination works best for you. All can be used in addition to prescription or over-the counter heartburn drugs.
|Calcium carbonate||Dosage: 250-500 mg 3 times a day
Comments: Chewable tablets provide the quickest relief.
|Licorice (DGL)||Dosage: 2 deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL)wafers (380 mg).
Comments: Take 3 or 4 times a day between meals as needed.
|Aloe vera juice||Dosage: 1.2 cup juice 3 times a day between meals.
Comments: Containing 98% aloe vera and no aloin or aloe-emodin.
|Gamma-oryzanol||Dosage: 150 mg 3 times a day on an empty stomach.
Comments: Also known as rice bran oil.
|Choline||Dosage: 500 mg 3 times a day.
Comments: For chronic heartburn, use in combination with pantothenic acid and thiamin for 1 month to see if symptoms abate.
|Pantothenic acid||Dosage: 1,000 mg twice a day.
Comments: For chronic heartburn, use in combination with choline and thiamin for 1 month to see if symptoms abate.
|Thiamin||Dosage: 500 mg a day, taken first thing in the morning.
Comments: Also called vitamin B1. For chronic heartburn, combine with pantothenic acid and choline for 1 month.
Probably the most familiar heartburn-related supplement, calcium carbonate is used in antacid tablets such as Tums and is a good choice for occasional reflux. Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) helps repair the mucous lining of the stomach and can bring relief. You can also try aloe vera juice to soothe an irritated esophagus.
The remedies above can halt an attack of heartburn. To enhance the whole digestive process-which will most benefit people with chronic heartburn-take gamma-oryzanol, a rice bran oil extract. The supplement appears to work on the central nervous system’s control of digestion. Alternatively, use the B vitamins choline, pantothenic acid, and thiamin in combination for a month and see if your symptoms diminish. If they do not, consult your doctor.
Other Heartburn Remedies
- Eat smaller, more frequent meals to minimize stomach acid production.
- Avoid fatty foods, limit alcohol, and shun coffee (even decaf).
- Eat your last meal or snack at least three hours before going to bed.
- Sleep with the head of your bed elevated six inches or so to allow gravity to help prevent reflux.