You know that feeling, the burning sensation right in the center of your chest. You can’t escape it.
It is beyond frustrating. You know if you go to the doctor you’ll get prescribed some antacids, but will that solve the problem? Contrary to popular belief, heartburn is not usually a sign of too much stomach acid, but rather too little. When digestion is working optimally, it is a beautiful system of dominoes where one follows the other with ease. However, add-in stress and the whole system goes off.
Here are 5 things you can do to set up better digestion and help you eliminate the effects of heartburn:
Start your meal with five deep breaths. If we take a look at the anatomy of the diaphragm, we’ll see that the esophagus passes right through it. If we are holding tension and are not able to take full breaths, we will put diaphragmatic pressure on the esophagus. This restricts the passageway to the stomach ultimately slowing digestion and leading to heartburn. By taking a few deep breaths before the meal, you help to stretch and relax the diaphragm and open up the esophagus. Place your hands on both sides of your ribs and gently breathe into your lungs, feeling your ribs expand. As you exhale, feel the ribs funnel back down to your waist and allow the diaphragm to soften.
Rest and Digest.
Digestion is a parasympathetic process. If we are in a rush to eat our food, then our body is in a sympathetic state (aka stressed) and we don’t digest when we are under stress. In addition to taking a moment to breathe, slow down and chew your food. Taste the food and enjoy what you are eating. Enjoy a moment of gratitude before you start the meal, giving appreciation for what is before you. Allow your body the time and space to switch from go-go-go to rest and relax.
Take Bitters before your meal.
The taste of bitter herbs help naturally wakes up the digestive system and triggers your gastric juices to start flowing. Bitters help your body switch into that rest and digest stage and allow for a calmer, happier belly. They are taken as a tincture either in water or straight about 15 minutes before a meal (or even after a meal if you forgot).
Practice some simple food-combining principles.
When our digestion is compromised due to stress, food sensitivities, dysbiosis, etc., we sometimes just need to make digestion easier for ourselves by practicing a few food-combining rules. One of my favorites and most impactful is to remove starchy carbs from meals with proteins. So, if you are eating chicken at dinner, combine it with veggies and a salad, but skip the bread and potatoes. If you’d like more food combining rules, check out my simple cheat sheet.
Eat probiotic-rich foods with your meal.
Probiotic-rich food provides two benefits to support heartburn. They supply enzymes to break down the food we are eating, and probiotics to help move food out of the body in a timely fashion. It greatly helps to eat foods with enzymes still intact to offload some of the digestive burdens on our organs. Secondly, digestion is a top-down activity, and if digestion is slow and the food isn’t moving out of the body at a healthy rate, then heartburn is more likely.
I hope these five tips help you and I’d love to hear from you! What have you tried to help with heartburn that has worked? I’d love for you write about it in the comments section below.