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Finding relief from holiday heartburn

When you’re dealing with acid reflux, heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease, it can make your favorite meals ... unenjoyable.

The pain associated with these conditions is so severe that it can be mistaken for a heart attack. Over-the-counter medications can provide short-term relief, but they are not a long-term solution to fix the underlying cause. In fact, if overused, they can even lead to other digestive problems.

As we enter the holiday season, we’re surrounded with unhealthy food that can worsen your heartburn symptoms.

If you’ve experienced burning in your chest, difficulty swallowing, regurgitation of food or a lump in your throat, you may be experiencing heart burn or GERD. GERD is a more serious form of acid reflux and the most common digestive disorder in the Unites States.

You may have heard that GERD and heart burn are caused by too much stomach acid, but for many people, they are caused by the opposite.

The problem lies in the small sphincter that connects your lower esophagus and the stomach. When this sphincter malfunctions, stomach acid can flow into the esophagus and cause unpleasant symptoms.

Acid reflux occurs when pressure causes bloating and pushes the acidic contents up through the sphincter. This can be caused by spicy or fatty foods, carbonated beverages, caffeine, refined sugar, overeating and bending over or lying down after eating.

A deeper underlying issue that causes stomach bloating is carbohydrate malabsorption, which can be attributed to low levels of stomach acid and bacteria overgrowth. The stomach was designed to disinfect our food with lots of stomach acid. When you don’t have that, you have a greater chance of developing bacteria overgrowth.

Here are a few ways to improve GERD and heart burn:

Follow a low carbohydrate diet, especially while on stomach acid medication. Don’t be confused by supermarket low-carbohydrate foods, which usually make you feel worse. Legumes and starchy vegetables feed bacteria and should be eliminated or at least held to a minimum in your diet.Eat smaller meals rather than large ones. Boost your intake of probiotic foods like raw, unpasteurized sauerkraut, unpasteurized pickles, kefir and yogurt (small doses), as they help populate the good bacteria in your gut. Use “bitters” to stimulate stomach acid production. Bitters get digestive juices flowing in your stomach for better digestion. Find a tincture of several and start with the lowest dose at meal time initially. Try deglycyrrhizinated licorice supplementation short-term. This helps protect your stomach lining and brings added relief. The pain and discomfort associated with GERD and heartburn are no joke. Using a food-based approach to minimize symptoms and boost digestion is key to addressing the underlying cause of the digestive malfunction so you can live a healthier, heartburn-free life.

Fran Sutherlin is a local registered dietitian, health coach, speaker and owner of Sustainable Nutrition, which has offices in Durango and Bayfield and offers virtual-coaching options. She can be reached at 444-2122 or fran@fransutherlin.com.

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