Digestive Health - Heartburn

Heartburn is an uncomfortable burning sensation in the chest or throat caused by acid irritation of the mucous membranes.  This occurs as a result of stomach acid, which normally is produced and kept inside the stomach, travels into the esophagus.  People who experience chronic heartburn may be diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Heartburn-relieving medications such as antacids or proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs) generate millions of sales revenue yearly, illustrating the fact that they are one of the most popular over-the-counter and prescription medications used.

However, the use of these medications isn’t without risks.  Ranitidine products have recently been recalled for containing NDMA, a compound known to damage the liver and a known carcinogen. Several studies have also shown PPIs to be associated with cognitive decline, osteoporosis and even early death.  PPIs also increases the risks of developing pneumonia and C. difficile infections. In light of this, many are seeking natural health solutions to their heartburn.


The exact cause of heartburn is not clearly known, but an improperly functioning lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which connects the esophagus to the stomach, is involved.  There can be many reasons as to why the LES becomes loose and increases one’s risk of developing GERD.   These include:
• Smoking
• Poor diet
• Food sensitivities
• Overweight
• Hiatal hernia
• Environmental toxins
• Stress
• Pregnancy
Naturopathic Doctors have many recommendations on how to decrease heartburn symptoms, rebalance the body and support on-going improvements.  These may include:
Lifestyle support – timing of eating and exercising, improving the body’s ability to digest food, achieving a healthy weight, decreasing toxic load.
Dietary support – avoiding foods that aggravate the mucous membrane, identifying food sensitivities, anti-inflammatory diet, digestive aids.
Nutritional supplements – melatonin, probiotics, digestive enzymes, nutrients to heal the mucous lining, prokinetic supports, botanical medicines.