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  • Writer's pictureJenny Nguyen

10 ways to stop the burn in your stomach.

Consumers already spent over 1 billion dollars on heartburn pills, but still feel the burn in their stomach and wallet. What heartburn is, why the stomach acid pill doesn't work, and 10 ways to help you burn less and live healthier.

If you are taking a stomach acid pill thinking it’s going to help improve your heart burn, you will be surprised to learn that it actually can make you feel worse and cause more gut issues. Over the 17 years of nursing I had, I’ve never seen someone being cured from their heartburn with long term usage. I have seen many patients on chronic heartburn pills because they were prescribed so. But no lifestyle adjustments were made. I've seen it so much. People were prescribed a pill, taking it, thinking it is the be all, cure all solution. Here is a truth you don’t want to hear: taking the medication by itself WON’T cure you.


Let me share with you what I learn. You will understand why taking these stomach acid pills can interfere with digestion. I’ll give you 10 actions to take to burn less in your stomach and your wallet.


Aside from Cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke, and cancer, stomach acid pills are one of the top 10 prescribed medications for long-term use. In 2022, Nexium sold over 1 billion dollars in sale. You may have heard of some of these brand names heartburn medications: Nexium, Losec, Prevacid, Pantoloc, Pepcid, and Zantac. Their generic names Esomeprazole, Omeprazole, Lansoprazole, pantoprazole, famotidine, and ranitidine. Ranitidine was taken off the market in Canada for link to cancer a few years ago.


Many people don't realize this. When you take a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) like Advil or ibuprofen, Naprosyn for pain, or even an aspirin, which is commonly prescribed for patients with heart diseases. You are at risk of increasing heartburn and ulcer to the digestive tract. This is usually the start of the stomach acid pill being prescribed. A stomach acid pill is prescribed to counter the effects of those NSAIDs. Have you thought about what is needed to counteract the effects of the stomach acid pills? Another truth you don’t want to hear: there are side effects to the quick fix medication.


I think medications can be useful for short-term and during life-threatening situations. For short-term use, a stomach acid pill is good to treat the following conditions: heartburn, gastritis, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), bleeding in the digestive tract. For the long-term use? Not so good for gut health.


There is an increase rise in younger patient with heartburn and also GERD. A big part is from rising in obesity and unhealthy dietary habits. Some of the lifestyle factors that leads to heartburn includes:


Eating too much sugar, refined foods, and fried fast food. Chronic overeating. Constant snacking between meals.


Excess carbohydrate and alcohol intake. Nutrient deficiency such as zinc and thiamin.

Coffee. Obesity. Taking frequent NSAIDs.


The reasons why you feel worse off after taking the medications in the long run: These stomach acid pills interfere with protein, iron, vitamin B12, and calcium absorption. They also interfere with other nutrients as well. They are important essential macro and micronutrients that your body actually need. Without them, your gut, brain, immune, and overall health suffers.


Why are these nutrients important and why you feel so crappy? The stomach acid pill reduces your hydrochloric acid (HCL). HCL is needed for your body to function properly, for the digestion and absorption of those nutrients. Without proper acidity level in your stomach, you can’t break down protein properly. When food is not broken down properly, nutrients can’t be released to be absorbed as well. Which means, it reduces the available nutrients for the small intestine to take in and use by your body.


Another issue with low HCL in your stomach, a reduced ability of your body to fend off pathogen. This puts you at risk of being an easy target for food borne infections. You can take all the stomach acid pills all you want, but without changing your eating habit, you are creating a vicious cycle without even knowing it.


I had duodenal ulcer and heartburn in when I was 20, I know how painful it was like. I wasn't taking care of myself and it was because of those lifestyle factors mentioned above and stress. I don’t want you to have to experience the pain I went through. I had to take the stomach acid pills for 2 weeks and able to recovered from it. I also made lifestyle changes which helped speed up my recovery. I stopped drinking coffee, slept a little more, ate better and home-made food instead of fast food. I learned how to reduce some of the stressors I was causing to my body. I cut back on alcohol as well. But here’s the question… what if all I did was take the pill and not change my lifestyle habits? I would be in pain and need to take those medications for a long time, right?


Initially, heart burn can be caused by an overproduction of hydrochloric acid. Most of the time from an acute stressful incident. When under stress, the lower esophageal sphincter aka cardiac sphincter, doesn’t relax as well. When it doesn’t relax, it’s not closing properly, and it leads to acid backflowing into the esophagus. That’s why you may feel the burning sensation. But here is something most people don’t know, I myself didn’t know this before, is that MANY of the heartburn/reflux are worsen by a low production of hydrochloric acid and NOT primarily from high acid. 


When your body is overused and abused by unhealthy lifestyle habits, the lining of the stomach gets irritated and inflamed. The stomach doesn’t produce enough of hydrochloric acid. When there isn’t enough of hydrochloric acid, food is not being digested properly. it stays the stomach longer. It leads to backlog, indigestion, and heartburn. Also, you are not getting the essential micro and macro nutrients properly because the stomach function is underperforming. It’s a vicious cycle.


Now that you have a better understanding of this, what can you do about it?

1.Throw your stomach acid medications away: You heard me. Ok, ok, don’t throw them away, consult with your doctor first because I don’t know your medical history. The point is to improve your gut health that you don’t have to take them.


2. Eat more whole food: Just by this mere act of switching to more own foods give your digestive tract a chance to get more nutrient dense food to heal. If you are wondering what it means for whole food, it’s food that is in its natural single ingredient form. For example, an apple, asparagus, & avocado. 


3. Eat more foods that are nutrient dense: Fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Nutrient dense foods are higher in macro and micronutrients and are lower in calories. If you want to learn about nutrient dense food, click the link here for the video. It talks about different examples of nutrient dense foods and how to understand food labels. Health is more than just calorie counting.


4. Limit or avoid food that irritates your gut lining: Such as fried foods, fast food, chocolate, refined sugar, refined carbohydrates such as bread, cereals, waffles, pancakes. Pretty much junk food and ultra processed food.  


5. Limit or avoid irritating drinks: Such as soda pop, coffee, and alcohol. A lot of people don’t even realize they drink a lot of calories in a day. 1 can of 355ml of Coca cola has between 33-39g of sugar in it. That’s almost 150 empty calories you are drinking. People who drink pop drink, don’t just drink 1 can a day, you drink 1 with lunch, to quench their thirst, 1 with dinner, and so on. The American Heart Association recommends women no more than 25g (which is about 6 teaspoons) of added sugar a day. Remember that 1 can of Coca cola is already 33-39g. These excess calories can very easily lead to weight gain. If you need to stay hydrated, make it so that water is available. You may add in slices of cucumber, strawberries, lemon, lime, mint leaves, blueberries to give it a little flavour if you find water hard to drink.


The same idea goes with the coffee lovers, instead of 1 coffee a day, you’ll drink 2, 3. I know a patient who admitted she drinks up to 8 cups a day. Eight!


6. Get more active to maintain healthier weight: That way, the girth of your abdomen doesn’t push against your stomach.


7. Eat smaller meals and stop eating when you are 80-90% full: That way, it put less pressure onto your esophageal sphincter because your stomach is not bloated like it normally is if you have those overeating days. Be mindful and enjoy your meal. Take the time to savour every bite whenever possible.


8. Learn how to manage stress better: This is a big factor. When you are stress, you are more likely to go for what is pleasurable, convenient. And a lot of times, when you don’t have your meal planned, you’ll end up buying the pizza, hamburgers, or whatever that is available. And as we all know, a lot of take-out foods are high in additives, fats, sugar, and salt. What I found helpful is to take notice when you are stress. Learn how you respond. And become aware of it. Recognize your eating patterns when you are stressed out.


Some things I do when I’m stressed out, take 5-10 deep breath. Try not to take anything personally. Go for a walk/jog when I get a chance to. Learn how to deal with the stress by doing what it is needed. Procrastination often makes it worse. Dealing with the problem doesn’t make it seem so scary and it takes the burden of your tomorrow. And also, I plan my meals ahead of time, that way I know I have healthy food to eat on those stressful days.


9. Getting more sleep: 7-8 hours is a good amount for typical adults. The hormone leptin and ghrelin are in control when you get a good night of sleep. It will help you deal with stress better and keeps your cravings at bay.


10.  Get educated and learn how lifestyle choices can help reduce your medication intake.


3 foods that will help improve digestion:

Pineapple, beet, papaya. Food high in vitamin C, vitamin E, and other antioxidants. You can check out my YouTube channel shorts video of the food with antioxidants.


There are many other suggestions I can make, and it varies with each individual’s lifestyle. I hope this helps you live healthier, love more, and do what matters most. You have the ability to create your fate, one bit at a time.


Your friend,

Jenny

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