Acid Reflux and Heartburn. Natural Cures, Remedies and Tips.
Cause And Cure For Acid Reflux and Heartburn
A few years ago I was in great shape, running every day and competing in 10K races. I figured I was in great health. I started getting strange chest pains and burping a lot. I didn't associate the pains with my stomach, because the pain wasn't centered there, it was higher in the chest.
One day the pain became so intense, with all of the classic signs of a heart attack, pain shooting down my left arm, tightness in my left breast. My wife called an ambulance and I was rushed to the emergency room. They shaved my chest, gave me a shot of something and hooked me up to an EKG.
Within minutes the doctor relaxed. "Well, it isn't your heart. Maybe you have a cracked rib."
I doubted that, no recent falls or accidents. My GP figured it might be Acid Reflux, a more severe version of heartburn. It's an illness caused when your stomach contents and digestive acids well up into your esophagus. The pain is caused by Hydrochloric Acid burning the sensitive lining of the esophagus. Oddly, the pain can occur just about anywhere in your upper body. I had pains all over my upper left side, neck, shoulder and running down to my fingers. Most of the pain was centered right under the sternum, the lowest point where the ribs meet.
The Doctor put me on a proton blocker drug for a month, to reduce my stomach acidity. It helped, some. I also took lots of antacids. When the drug ran out I felt somewhat better, so I didn't get a refill, because the side effects of the drug can be pretty serious. But I still had symptoms almost every day, pressure, gas and pain, though less than before.
I studied everything I could find on the internet about Acid Reflux, and I carefully regulated my diet, cutting out chocolate, orange juice, coffee and tea, tomatoes, spicy foods and anything else that seemed to cause problems, among them ice cream. It helped, some. I hated it.
I began trying to figure out why I had suddenly gotten this disease. I had always been very healthy before, able to eat anything, anytime, and the Acid Reflux came on suddenly, as if it had some specific cause.
I got an idea. I was running, training hard, and usually in the full summer sun of afternoon. I had started making crushed ice drinks and carrying them with me as I ran. I was also eating piles and piles of frozen berries slathered with milk, a kind of instant ice cream. I started doing this about a month before I got the Acid Reflux, and I noticed I seemed to get pain shortly after an iced drink.
As an experiment I cut out all iced drinks and frozen food. No more ice cream! No more frozen blueberries! Almost immediately I began feeling a little better.
I now believe that I literally got frostbite on my esophagus. I damaged the sphincter between the stomach and esophagus so badly that it couldn't hold the food in my stomach.
My symptoms gradually reduced. I still had to carry antacids with me everywhere for a year afterwards, and had occasional relapses since then. It has now been almost five years since I have had much trouble. My Rolaids and Tums sit in the cupboard getting farther and farther past their expiration date. It is very rare that I have to take anything for heartburn.
The first step to recovering from Acid Reflux is to figure out what caused it in the first place. In my case it was several things. First, too much frozen foods and drinks. That is the main factor. Second, I was under terrible stress, at work and at home. Both together made me sick.
To fully recover took several years, and I learned a few tricks that might help you.
First, avoid foods and situations that trigger attacks. I listed the foods above. Situations are anything that causes you sharp stress and unhappiness. Not always easy to avoid, but learning to deal with stress helps. Don't become angry! Anger is the worst. If you are religious, pray. If non-religious, learn to meditate, or take long walks.
Second, learn what relieves Acid Reflux. Light meals help. Don't overeat and avoid your trigger foods.
The best thing I found to reduce symptoms was Apple Cider Vinegar. I would put a teaspoon-full in a cup of warm water with some honey and drink it whenever I felt bad, before meals, before bedtime, at breakfast. Any time, really. It isn't quite magic, but it really does help. The only warning though, is to rinse out your mouth immediately after you drink it, as it will eat out your teeth if you don't. Better to brush your teeth. It is odd that an acidic drink would help with acid reflux, but it does.
A lot of the pain is caused by excess gas building up in your stomach and causing bloating. You can get rid of that gas pressure by burping. To encourage a burp you have to get all of the gas to rise to the top of your stomach.
Two tricks really help. First, move your body, rock back and forth. This causes the bubbles of gas to separate from the mass of food and collect in the upper part of your stomach. Then, after doing this for a short time, maybe 20 seconds, use your hand to thump your stomach. Just pat firmly with the heel of your hand or a fist on the right side of the stomach. If you have excess stomach gas this will almost always cause you to burp, and you will feel better immediately. Keep doing it if you still feel pressure.
Tight clothing around the waist can really bring on an attack. Any clothing with a snug elastic band can hurt you. Wear underwear that fits a bit loosely, and don't tighten your belt too much. Loosen your belt when you sit, and wear loose-fitting pants. This sounds like a very minor thing, but avoiding tight clothing and especially tight elastic can make a huge difference. Try using suspenders instead of a belt. It helps a lot.
Often you hear the advice to reduce fatty foods. I never found this at all useful, it made no difference. In fact, I began an Atkins diet, very high fat, and it actually seemed to help. See which works best for you. The main thing is not to eat too high a volume of food in one meal.
I hope this helps someone. I suffered a lot for several years, but now I am back to eating anything, any time. Even ice cream, if I am careful not to eat too much at one time, or too fast.
I Am Not A Doctor
Of course I was relieved to find out I wasn't dying of a heart attack, that first time, when I took the ambulance to the emergency room! Heart burn and heart attacks have many of the same symptoms. With either you may feel pain and pressure in the chest area, pain in the shoulder or neck, even pain running down your arm to your fingertips. It is quite scary!
How can your tell the difference? It isn't easy. If you feel that you may be having a heart attack, get to a doctor or emergency room. Generally speaking though, if the problem is acid reflux/heart burn, your heart will maintain it's normal slow, strong beat rate. Also, if you burp and it immediately makes you feel relieved, it is more likely to be heart burn. I am most certainly not a doctor, so please don't take a chance with this. A trip to the emergency room may be annoying, but the other option could be death, if it turns out you were wrong.