Tips for Heartburn or GERD

GERD, or heartburn, is not CAUSED by stomach acid. That’s a ridiculous idea that has had the American public buying billions of dollars worth of TUMS, or worse, drugs that block the formation of stomach acid (proton pump inhibitors such as Nexium, Zanax, Protonix, etc) for decades. Stomach acid is critically important not only for proper digestion, but it also sterilizes your food before going deeper into your body, thus acting as a major protectant against infection. Heartburn is caused by an incompetent valve at the base of your esophagus (the tube from the back of your throat to the top of the stomach; this tube passes through the diaphragm muscle which separates the chest from the abdomen) — called the lower esophageal sphincter, or LES.

If you have ‘heartburn’, or feel heavy for hours after eating, or can’t hold your breath for 40 seconds, you may have a hiatal hernia. A hiatal hernia is a retrograde pouching up of the top of the stomach through the hole in the diaphragm. The purpose of this hole is only to allow the esophagus to pass through to the stomach. The diaphragm is a large, dome-shaped muscle that separates the heart and lungs from the digestive organs. Corrective surgery attempts to tighten this hole, but should be a last resort. Many people are told to take anti-acids, or sleep with the head of their bed elevated, or only eat small meals. These suggestions may help, but they don’t cure the problem.

Studies have found the incidence of hiatal hernia is 32 percent in folks over age 50 and 89 percent in those over age 90. They can appear at all ages, including in children.

Taking anti-acids long term has serious consequences because stomach acid is absolutely vital for many reasons. One, the stomach is designed to secrete acid, which is the first protective barrier against pathogens moving down into the absorptive surface of the small intestine. In other words, stomach acid sterilizes the food before it passes more deeply into the body and, ultimately, into the bloodstream. Two, strong acid is required to properly begin the digestion process, particularly of protein. Protein must be ‘digested’ down into the micro-molecules, amino acids, essential fatty acids and glucose, before absorption. Three, unless the bolus of food mixed with stomach secretions moving into the duodenum (upper small intestine) is nice and acidic, the release of the pancreatic enzymes (from the pancreas) and the release of bile (from the liver) is not stimulated, thus further compromising digestion.

A better strategy to reduce hiatal hernias is HEEL THUNKS.

Drink a glass of room temperature or slightly warm water first thing in the morning when you get out of bed (no coffee, tea, juice or cold water – just warm water). Then, while standing, bring your arms straight out to our sides and bend your elbows so your hands are touching your chest. Next, stand up on your tip toes as high as possible, and drop down so that you get a pretty good jolt. Do this about 10 times in a row. Then, while standing with your arms up, pant short quick breaths for 10 to 15 seconds. Tha’s all! Repeat every morning and as needed during the day whenever you feel heartburn.

Why this works is because the water acts as a weight in your stomach (makes your stomach a water balloon temporarily). Being warm, the water won’t cause your stomach to cramp; instead you stomach relaxes. Spreading your arms stretches the diaphragm and opens up that hole in the middle. Dropping down on your heels will jerk the stomach out of the hole. Panting tightens up the diaphragm muscle to close the hole. Stick with this morning routine until you never suffer from heartburn any longer.

Lastly, don’t over stuff with too much food, especially not if you plan on slumping in an easy chair after dinner. The food your stomach is churning and digesting will have nowhere to go but into that hole. Ideally take a gentle walk for ½ hour after your main meal of the day.