Heartburn and Hiatal Hernia Self Help

Heartburn is caused by stomach acid backing up into your esophagus. The esophageal sphincter is supposed to keep the stomach contents in place, but if the sphincter relaxes, acid can push up into the esophagus. The most common symptoms are a burning sensation above the stomach, excessive salivation, belching, regurgitation, and a sour taste in the mouth.

One-third of Americans experience frequent heartburn, also known as GERD. Another 3 to 7 percent suffer from Barrett’s esophagus, an esophageal illness caused from acid reflux that results in scarring, constriction of the esophagus, and swallowing disorders.

Some drugs can cause heartburn, including birth control pills, diazepam, nicotine, nitroglycerine, progesterone, provera, and theophylline. Four to five million Americans seek medical advice each year for heartburn and hiatal hernia. Heartburn is common among pregnant women whose organs are squashed in a most peculiar way.

For most people, heartburn is a mild, self-limiting problem, yet for 20 percent of those affected, it becomes a serious health problem. Stress plays some part in it. Other triggers include wearing tight-fitting clothes, lying down, bending over, and eating large meals or specific foods.

If you experience heartburn in the middle of the night, be sure to eat at least four hours before going to bed. Hiatal hernia occurs when a portion of the stomach gets pushed through the diaphragm and into the thoracic cavity where it doesn’t belong. Hiatal hernias may or may not cause symptoms, the most common of which is heartburn.

It’s found in about 20 percent of all middle-aged Americans. Dr. Dennis Burkitt, father of fiber, hypothesized that hiatal hernia was a contemporary problem and the result of a modernized diet. Gastric reflux and hiatal hernia have been on the rise over the past twenty years and occur most often in people of Caucasian descent.

These problems are rarely seen in people eating highfiber diets. Straining with bowel movements can push the stomach out of place, what’s called a hiatal hernia. Chiropractic adjustment can gently put the stomach back in place, and in many cases only a single adjustment is necessary.

Heartburn sufferers commonly take antacids for temporary relief. Initially, use of antacids causes the body to produce more HCl, which helps digest food. Parietal cells respond by making more acid. Eventually the parietal cells get exhausted, so over the long term, antacids cause the parietal cells to make less HCl.

There are other repercussions of taking antacids. A recent study looked at 155 healthy people who had been using antacids for heartburn over long periods of time. The study found that 47 percent had erosion of the esophagus and 6 percent had Barrett’s esophagus, a more serious condition.

Most bacteria can’t live in a high-acid environment and are killed in the stomach. Low stomach acid predisposes people to dysbiosis. Antacids also decrease your stomach’s ability to digest protein by reducing the effectiveness of protease enzymes.

H2 blockers, such a Tagamet and Zantac, and protein-pump inhibitors, such as Prilosec, are the most common prescription medications used for acid reflux. These medications are effective while you take them, but once you discontinue their use, your problem often recurs.

Healing Options

  • Try osteopathic care and chiropractic adjustment. Seek chiropractic care for hiatal hernia. Cranial-sacral adjustments can often correct gastric reflux, especially in children. Chiropractic or osteopathic adjustment is often all the therapy you need for these problems.
  • Make dietary changes. Eat healthy foods. Increase fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, and high-fiber foods. Foods that are more acidic, like tomatoes and citrus, are more likely to cause heartburn. Dairy products have been shown to trigger symptoms, but more symptoms were provoked with milk with higher fat contents, suggesting that fat was the culprit, rather than the milk.

Alcoholic beverages, coffee, and to a lesser extent, tea provoke heartburn, as well as high-fat, fried, and spicy foods; onions; and chocolate. Trigger foods are individual—you need to discover what yours are. If you are overweight, lose weight.

  • Drink plenty of water. Some people find that increasing water consumption up to a gallon of water a day resolves acid reflux.
  • Place a six-inch beam under the head of your bed. If you suffer from nighttime heartburn, raising the head of your bed can alleviate symptoms. Although you might think that raising your bed would feel strange, the difference is barely noticeable, and the heartburn improves.
  • Consider possible Helicobacter pylori infection. Helicobacter pylori is a bacteria that has been implicated in gastric and duodenal ulcers. In some cases, it is also involved in gastric reflux. Treatment with antibiotics and bismuth-containing supplements or drugs can eradicate H. pylori.
  • Try hydrochloric acid supplements. Heartburn has traditionally been treated with antacid therapy, but often it responds well to supplementation with hydrochloric acid pills. Often, the symptoms of excess stomach acid and decreased stomach acid are the same.

To test yourself, dilute a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with water and drink with meals. If the vinegar is not strong enough to show results, take one to two HCl tablets with meals. If you do not need the HCl, you will feel a burning sensation, which can be neutralized with milk or baking soda. If you need it, you’ll feel relief of symptoms.

  • Drink cabbage juice. Cabbage juice has been a long-standing folk remedy for heartburn. Its high glutamine content is probably the key to its success. Cabbage juice has a strong flavor, so dilute with other vegetable juices.
  • Try slippery elm bark. Slippery elm bark has demulcent properties, and it’s gentle and soothing to mucous membranes. It has been a folk remedy for both heartburn and ulcers in European and Native American cultures and was used as a food by Native Americans.

It can be used in large amounts without harm. Drink as a tea or chew on the bark. To make a tea, take 1 teaspoon of slippery elm bark in 2 cups of water. Simmer for twenty minutes and strain. Sweeten if you want, and drink freely. You can also purchase slippery elm lozenges at health-food stores and some drugstores.

  • Use lobelia. Massage tincture of lobelia externally onto the painful area and take 2 to 3 drops internally. This is a remedy recommended by Dr. Christopher, one of the greatest American herbalists of our times.
  • Use ginger. This root can provide temporary relief in a tea. Steep 1½ teaspoons of powdered ginger or a few slices of fresh ginger per cup of boiled water for ten minutes and drink. If you like, sweeten it with honey. Use freely.
  • Try meadowsweet herb. Also a demulcent, meadowsweet soothes inflamed mucous membranes. To make a tea, steep 1 to 2 teaspoons of the dried herb in 1 cup of boiled water for ten minutes. Sweeten with honey if you like. Drink 3 cups daily.