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BellaOnline's Holistic Health Editor

Dealing with Heartburn

A distressing but very common ailment, heartburn can be cooled by a variety of natural means. Here I look at the causes of heartburn, and offer seven ways to deal with this unpleasant condition.

What is Heartburn?
Heartburn most often occurs for one of two reasons Ė the stomach is under too much pressure, or the muscle between stomach and oesophagus is weak. The former, sadly, can with time lead to the latter.

The obvious reason for a stomach under pressure is, of course, that it is too full. Most of us have experienced it after an over-indulgent meal. We get a burning feeling in the chest and, if weíre very unlucky Ė or very overstuffed Ė we get a reflux of foul tasting stomach acid into the oesophagus because the muscle between the two canít close properly to hold back the flow.

The muscle in question is the lower oesophageal sphincter, which takes the form of a ring around the lower end of the oesophagus. When food is swallowed, the sphincter relaxes to allow food to enter the stomach, and then tightens again to prevent stomach contents from flowing back into the oesophagus.

If we eat to excess over time, the sphincter muscle is weakened to the extent that heartburn becomes a daily occurrence.

Other causes of heartburn include lying down too soon after eating, and eating too fast so that the stomach has to produce extra acid to digest food that has not been chewed sufficiently.

Seven Ways to Deal with Heartburn

1. If you suffer frequent heartburn, switch to a pattern of five or six small meals a day. The less food consumed at one time, the less stomach acid required for digestion.

2. Donít wolf down your meals. Eat slowly and chew your food thoroughly. Digestion begins in the mouth, so less chewing means more work for the stomach.

3. Take your meals in a relaxed setting. Stress can be a factor in causing heartburn, so get into a calm frame of mind before you eat. Avoid a noisy or chaotic environment, and donít eat when you are feeling angry or distressed.

4. Discover, and avoid, foods which act as heartburn triggers for you. Many people have sensitivities to certain foods, and eating them causes excess stomach acid production. Common culprits include alcohol, spices, citrus fruits and fizzy drinks.

5. Use a natural remedy that suits you. Milk can calm heartburn if you are not sensitive to it. Or you could try a combination of carrot and celery juice. An infusion of fennel or parsley is also effective, as is chamomile tea or peppermint tea.

6. If you frequently suffer heartburn at night, it may help to elevate the head of your bed by just a few inches, using bricks or wood blocks. This will create enough of an angle to keep stomach acid from flowing upwards. Donít simply use extra pillows to elevate your upper body, though, as this makes you bend at the waist which puts more pressure on your stomach.

7. Practice a generally healthy lifestyle. Give up smoking Ė nicotine both increases stomach acid production and causes the oesophageal sphincter to relax. And maintain a healthy weight, as excess pounds increase pressure on the stomach.

Finally, if you practice these measures but find that you still experience heartburn, please see your medical practitioner. Frequent oesophageal reflux needs to be investigated.

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