Health Q and A: Help for Heartburn


I’ve been having heartburn a lot lately.  I’ve been taking a lot of antacids, but don’t think that’s really great for an everyday thing.  Do you have any suggestions of natural things that could help?



Heartburn is basically caused by the lower esophogal sphincter (a muscular valve at the bottom of the esophagus which keeps which keeps stomach acid in the stomach) is loosened or weakened and stomach acid splashes up into the esophagus.  Usually heartburn is caused or worsened by lifestyle factors like overeating, eating too close to bedtime, smoking, and being overweight.  Certain foods can also exacerbate the condition, spicy or fried foods for example.  There are even foods which naturally loosen the lower esophogal sphincter (tomatoes, chocolate, onions, garlic, caffeine, and alcohol to name a few), so if you commonly experience heartburn, avoiding those foods can make a real difference.

Digestive enzymes have helped many people with heartburn.  Enzyme supplements are taken with a meal to help to break down food in the stomach, making it easier to digest.  When the stomach is able to digest food easier, a reduction in heartburn symptoms is often seen.  Digestive enzymes are completely safe to take, and simply give a natural boost to the digestive enzymes produced in the body.  The amounts of digestive enzymes our stomach’s produce decreases with age, and not coincidentally, the number of digestive complaints many people experience increases with age as well.

Another supplement which I’m a big fan of is DGL licorice.  Licorice extracts can raise blood pressure, but the “DGL” stands for deglycyrrhizinated, which means that the compounds which could raise blood pressure have been removed.  DGL licorice comes in chewable tablets (the company Enzymatic Therapy has some in a German chocolate flavor which taste seriously fantastic) which are to be taken 20 minutes before a meal.  DGL licorice works by coating the esophagus so it is protected against stomach acid.  Since the esophagus is protected against stomach acid, it not only prevents the pain and burning of heartburn, when taken consistently it prevents the damage from stomach acid and helps the esophagus to heal, particularly in people with GERD (a more serious form of heartburn).

Finally, the last supplement I would mention is d-limonene, a specialized citrus extract which has shown amazing results for people suffering from both heartburn and GERD.  One clinical study found that d-limonene was able to reduce or eliminate heartburn for up to six months in most people after taking one 1,000 mg pill every other day for 20 days.  It also helps to detoxify the liver and gallbladder, and is an easy and inexpensive thing to try for lasting heartburn relief.