Heartburn is a type of silent acid reflux where stomach acid moves up from the stomach to the oesophagus causing discomfort or pain. Acid reflux or Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) is a more severe form of reflux where small amounts of the stomach content are regurgitated giving you bitter bile or acidic taste in the mouth.
The name heartburn can be misleading as it does not involve the heart, and the burning sensation mostly occurs in patients with chronic acid reflux.
Heartburn is challenging to diagnose as its symptoms can vary significantly from one individual to another. The symptoms can range from mild to moderate discomfort, with constricting or heavy pressure in the chest area, loss of appetite and inability to swallow food, nausea, vomiting or tachycardia where you consciously can feel a rapid heartbeat.
In more severe heartburn the patient can experience stabbing pain around the chest or shoulder region. The constrictive feeling in the chest is more severe and affects breathing, which worsens with exertion. A simple task of walking or climbing stairs can exacerbate the symptoms. This symptoms are similar to angina and quite often patient think they have a heart attack. It is therefore vital that you seek medical help with these types of symptoms.
The general practitioner will treat your heartburn or reflux with antacids (Gaviscon, Mylanta, Gelusil) or proton pump inhibitors (Zantac, Prevacid, Omeprazole) to neutralise or reduce the production of stomach acid. Although these drugs manage the symptoms,they do not address the underlying cause. Regular use of such stomach acid lowering medication will interfere with assimilation and absorption of foods, adversely affect gut bacteria (dysbiosis) and nutrient availability.
Causes of heartburn and acid reflux
Simply put, it is the lack of stomach acid (hypochlorhydria). With our busy, stressful lifestyles we tend to rush around all day, eat on the go and scoff the food, factors that inhibit optimal production of stomach acid. When the stomach is not prepared to receive food, it will protest by pushing the food and acid back up the oesophagus causing heartburn or reflux.
Other factors that affect optimal stomach acid include excess alcohol, overeating or eating late. Ageing also affects stomach acid. As we get older so does our digestive capacity and we need to be more mindful with our eating habits. Interestingly, I frequently have vegan or vegetarian patients presenting with heartburn. The absence of animal protein can naturally reduce acid volume in the stomach and therefore increase the susceptibility of heartburn, especially if other stressors are involved.
A qualified Naturopathic / Nutrition Practitioner can successfully treat heartburn and acid reflux. These ailments are unique to every individual, and the treatment protocol is personalised by identifying all the determinants causing the symptoms. BOOK NOW