Heartburn and The Heart

Monday, February 28, 2011 by: Dr. Carolyn Dean
Tags: heartburn, heart health, health news

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A friend (I'll call her Sandy) just emailed that she spent 10 hours in the Emergency Department yesterday with chest pain. Her chest felt totally constricted and she couldn't breathe. It began, she said, after a siege of heartburn in the morning and she said she hadn't lifted anything that morning.

Before she went to the hospital Sandy tried taking 2 charcoal tablets then aloe vera gel a few hours later. But it got so bad she has to get the pain checked out. Fortunately her EKG, blood work, CT scan and chest X-ray ruled everything else out. She said her experience really baffled her and she wanted to understand why it happened.

Sandy asked me if it was possible for heartburn to cause severe chest pain. The short answer to Sandy's question is yes. Now let me explain why.

Heartburn is also called gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD). I rebel against calling heartburn GERD. I think drug companies invented GERD so they could unleash a whole line of expensive stomach acid-killing drugs instead of people using inexpensive heartburn remedies like Milk of Magnesium or Tums.

The esophagus and stomach are separated by a protective muscular sphincter. If for some reason that sphincter is weakened, acidic stomach contents can be pushed up into the esophagus, causing burning pain. I guess it's called "heartburn" because the area of pain lies close to the heart. Heartburn can be severe enough to be misdiagnosed as angina or a heart attack. When stomach acid reaches the esophagus it can trigger nerve endings that encircle the chest.

Our stomach lining is designed to handle very strong digestive acid, but the esophagus is not. Even something as simple as a large meal can stretch the esophageal sphincter and allow a reflux of food mixed with acid. These symptoms are worse if you lie down after a large meal. Small frequent meals move out of the stomach quickly and don't cause reflux.

The substances most likely to relax the esophageal sphincter and cause reflux are alcohol, coffee, tomatoes and tobacco. Physical factors such as bending forward while lifting (instead of bending at the knees), overdoing sit‐ups, or going to bed shortly after eating can also initiate symptoms of reflux.

When you are under stress, the stomach and abdomen tend to get tense, which can lock the diaphragm in place so that the breathing is shallow and the stomach can become elevated. This can lead to stomach spasm, which can mimic a hiatus hernia and create problems with digestion.

The medical treatment for heartburn is over-the-counter antacids or prescription acid blockers. Antacids like Milk of Magnesium and Tums coat the lower esophagus and stomach and neutralize stomach acid. However, they only offer symptomatic relief; they do not get to the root of the problem. They also greatly interfere with digestion by neutralizing the necessary gastric acids.

If your food does not break down properly, it cannot be absorbed and your health will suffer. Also, intestinal bacteria and yeast feed off this undigested food causing fermentation, gas, and bloating.

The proton pump inhibitors like Nexium and Prilosec not only impede digestion, they also increase the risk of hip fracture, pneumonia, and clostridia infection in users. They should be used with extreme caution or not at all.

The natural treatment of heartburn begins with the diet. But unfortunately most doctors won't give you that advice. The majority of people in Western society are eating processed food. This food is dead, it has no living enzymes. And it's also laced with chemical preservatives. There are videos on YouTube of immortal McDonald's burgers that never decompose, even after several years! Think what that means to your body. Eating food that can never be broken down.

The simple recommendations to eat small meals of non processed food; chew your food well (about 30 times per bite); and avoid drinking cold water with meals may be all you need to do. If that doesn't give you enough relief, be sure and avoid alcohol, coffee, tomatoes, and tobacco. When I explained this to Sandy, she suddenly remembered that she had two cups of coffee before her heartburn began. That helped her understand why she had developed heartburn in the first place because coffee had given her problems in the past.

You can also use an old time digestive tonic -- apple cider vinegar. The directions are to mix 1 teaspoon of vinegar in 4 ounces of water and sip throughout a meal.

If after following the above recommendations you still require a supplement DGL licorice is the one you want. DGL stands for deglycyrrhizinated licorice. It's the most potent treatment for heartburn that I know. It's as effective as powerful prescription medications. Chew one or two wafers twenty minutes before a meal. DGL works by strengthening the stomach mucosal lining and enhancing production of mucin, which protects the stomach against gastric acid.

For more details about how to stay out of the doctor's office or the emergency department you can consult my Future Health Now Encyclopedia eBook listed on my website.

About the author:
About the author:
Dr. Carolyn Dean is The Doctor of the Future. She is a medical doctor and naturopathic doctor in the forefront of the natural medicine revolution since 1979.
She is working on two patents on novel health products such as RnA Drops, ReMag, ReLyte, ReNew and ReAline at www.RnAReSet.com
Dr. Dean is the author/coauthor of over 30 health books (print and eBooks) and 106 Kindle books including The Magnesium Miracle, Death by Modern Medicine, IBS for Dummies, IBS Cookbook for Dummies, The Yeast Connection and Women's Health, Future Health Now Encyclopedia, Death by Modern Medicine, Everything Alzheimers, and Hormone Balance.
She is on the Medical Advisory Board of the non-profit educational site - Nutritional Magnesium Association (www.nutritionalmagnesium.org). Her magnesium recommendations can be found under Resources on her website www.drcarolyndean.com.
Dr. Dean has a free online newsletter and a valuable online 2-year wellness program called Completement Now! at www.drcarolyndean.com/fhn. She also runs a busy telephone consulting practice and has a weekly radio show Mondays at 4pm PST on www.achieveradio.com. Find out more at www.drcarolyndean.com, www.RnAReSet.com, www.howionic.com and www.drcarolyndeanlive.com.

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