Friday, May 4, 2012

Do you have reflux or heartburn?

Do you have an uncomfortable burning pressure in your chest or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) that just won't quit? Are you taking a prescription medication or popping Tums like there's no tomorrow? You're not alone. In fact, 1 in 10 Americans experience this at least once a week.


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Many people complain that GERD is due to aging and is normal with pregnancy. Guess what... that's COMPLETELY incorrect! 

As we age our stomach acid production decreases just like our lean muscle mass, our appetite, and the resiliency of our tissues. Our stomach acid pH should be around 1 to 2 if we have enough and the right balance of stomach acid that is needed to break down food efficiently enough to absorb the nutrients from it. However when this acid production slows with age we may have stomach acid pH that resembles more of a 3 or 4. 

So what does this mean for those with heartburn? Well ladies and gentlemen, it means that your stomach is not digesting your food and you aren't absorbing the nutrients your body desperately needs. It also means that your food is rotting in your stomach rather than being digested. This is why belching, bloating, and gas is the most common symptom after eating a meal!

Now what about if you're pregnant? Well you ARE not only eating for two, but in actuality your body needs to absorb enough nutrients for both of you. Which means it needs to digest your food faster and with more acid.Your body naturally speeds up the food breakdown in your stomach and slows down the digestion process through your intestines so you can absorb enough nutrients. So if you're pregnant you could in fact be producing excess acid in your stomach which can be causing heartburn, however its also likely that the pH of that acid may not be low enough to help digest food fast enough. Plus baby is probably pushing your stomach upward and causing some of that excess acid to move upward in the esophagus and add to that the hormone changes going on in your body that cause smooth muscle (like the sphincter at the top of your stomach) to relax and you're almost guaranteed to experience heartburn at one point or another during your pregnancy. 

So what healthy habits can you adopt to help with your heartburn or GERD?

  1. Eat smaller meals throughout the day as this can lessen the amount of food you need to digest at once.
  2. Chew your food thoroughly so its easier for you to digest.
  3. Avoid foods and drinks that trigger heartburn.
  4. Boost your stomach acid pH with herbs and supplements. Cinnamon and ginger are great for helping to stimulate your digestion, however if you've had this problem for awhile talk to a health professional about supplements such as Gastro-Aid
  5. Take a probiotic to help boost the "good" bacteria in your gut so that your food can be digested easier. Here's a great product that has a number of different bacteria strains normally found in your gut called Ultrabiotic and here's a specific product geared for kids that has different strains specifically found in your children's gut Pedia-biotic.