Heartburn and Acid Reflux – What’s really happening in your body?

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When it comes to heartburn and acid reflux, we have commonly been told that our stomach has too much acid that is creating uncomfortable and painful symptoms. The truth is that it is often not an issue of too much stomach acid.  So what’s really going on and how do we get to the root of the problem?

At the first sight of food, we typically start to salivate. If we prepare the food ourselves, we salivate even more as we smell the food we are preparing. Once we sit down to eat, our digestion has been primed and those gastric juices that are such a crucial part of digestion have increased and are ready for the work of breaking down our food. Hopefully, we also chew our food thoroughly which again makes the job of the stomach easier too. Unfortunately though, many of us today don’t prepare our own food, we don’t actually sit down to eat, and we definitely don’t take our time and chew our food. We also don’t always make food choices that support our body’s natural healthy processes.

Given these factors, when we eat on the go or we are stressed or we make poor food choices, our digestion is not primed to do the work. Gastric juices are not really flowing in excess because they haven’t been signaled to start flowing. Our stomach in this case is producing very little stomach acid. So then how does heartburn and acid reflux become as issue?

When you eat, food passes down the esophagus and into your stomach. At the lower end of the esophagus is the lower esophageal sphincter or LES. After food passes through this sphincter, it is supposed to close and prevent food or acid from moving back up into the esophagus. When the stomach acid production is low, the LES is not signaled to close. So it remains open, allowing stomach acid and/or food to move up into the esophagus.

Typical go-to treatments of these symptoms are over the counter antacids like TUMS or prescription proton pump inhibitors like nexium, prilosec, or prevacid. TUMS are basically calcium carbonate with sugar, food additives and coloring. The calcium carbonate is not necessarily so terrible but you do need to know when and how much to take for it to actually help improve your digestive symptoms and not just cause more harm.  TUMS are definitely NOT a long term solution.

Proton pump inhibitors are a class of medication whose main action is to reduce the production of stomach acid. This often does relieve symptoms because you are no longer producing stomach acid AT ALL so there really isn’t anything to flow up into the esophagus and cause burning.  However, the complications that arise as a result of this are many and varied. One common symptom that I see in my practice when a person is or has been on PPIs is fatigue because they are now also lacking in a variety of essential nutrients. The body can’t absorb what is being eaten because the food isn’t being properly broken down.

Now that you have a better understanding of the problem, what can you do about it? You can start by adding a few key foods to your diet such as pure, raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar, cabbage juice or sauerkraut, or high quality unprocessed salt. Taking 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar in a large glass of water daily is going to help increase production of stomach acid.

Cabbage juice or sauerkraut is another strong stimulant for your body to produce stomach acid so taking a few teaspoons of either of these prior to meals will boost digestion. The salt (Himalayan is a good one) will provide your body with the necessary ingredients for making stomach acid while adding necessary trace minerals to your diet.

One last thing that I often advise people to help improve their digestion is to breathe! Just before you eat, STOP, close your eyes and give yourself a couple seconds to take 2-3 deep belly breaths. Just doing this simple action can have a tremendous benefit on your ability to digest your food, among so many other amazing benefits.

If you are suffering with heartburn or acid reflux, I strongly recommend trying some of these suggestions. Remember we are always here to help you if you are unsure where to start or maybe you have already tried some of these suggestions and it was not enough. There are many options in our toolkits to help address heartburn and acid reflux naturally and get your digestion working properly again, even when it seems nothing can be done! Give us a call 403-237-6866 or schedule a free 15 minute meet and greet and learn more about how we can help.

Top 10 tips for Optimal Heart Health

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Since February is heart month, I thought it would be very fitting to talk about optimizing heart health. Here are my top 10 natural ways to improve your heart health:

  • Reduce your sugar intake.
    Believe it or not, sugar is a more significant contributor to increased risk of heart disease than dietary fat. Sugar causes a rapid rise in your blood glucose which then increases insulin output to balance this out. This insulin release promotes fat accumulation in your body and makes it more difficult to get rid of that harmful belly fat that has been shown to significantly increase risk of major heart disease.
  • Ensure you are getting enough high quality omega-3 fats in your diet.
    Research shows that Omega-3 fats (whether from fish or supplements) have a protective effect on cardiovascular health. They also contribute to the reduction of triglyceride levels and inflammation in your
  • Replace harmful trans fats with healthy fats such olive oil, butter, avocado, pastured eggs and coconut oil.
    Ensure that you are using your fats correctly. For example, make sure that you are consuming your olive oil raw. Cooking with olive oil causes the cholesterol in the olive oil to oxidize which can contribute to unhealthy cholesterol balance in the body. Coconut or avocado oils are a much better choice for cooking.
  • Improve your gut microbiome with fermented foods.
    Poor oral health is an indicator of increased heart disease risk. By improving your gut health, you increase the healthy bacteria that can flourish in your mouth. Great examples of fermented foods are: sauerkraut, kefir, tempeh, kombucha, etc.
  • Ensure you have adequate vitamin D levels.
    Vitamin D can play a role in preventing formation of arterial plaque. Ideally you are doing this naturally through appropriate sun exposure. You really only need to be out long enough to have your skin turn the lightest shade of pink which is not damaging to the skin. For some this can happen in minutes, beyond that point your body does not make any additional vitamin D and the continued exposure only causes potential harm and damage. The best time of day to get out is between 10 am and 2 pm when the sun is at its peak. Even on overcast days, get outside to take in natural light as much as possible.
  • Make regular exercise a priority. Even if it is as simple as a 15-20 minute walk every day, it can make a huge difference in your health, energy levels and sleep quality.
  • Avoid smoking or drinking alcohol excessively. 
  • Ensure you are getting deeply restorative high quality sleep and plenty of it. A naturopath can provide you with a variety of natural choices and habits to dramatically improve your sleep quality.
  • Incorporate a regular breath practice into your life to help manage your stress.
    This simple method can have an immediate lowering effect on blood pressure when practiced for as little as 5 minutes.
  • Lastly, it is also very important that we are able to freely give and receive love. Without love in our loves we are left feeling empty and lonely. We are at our best when we feel supported by those most important in our lives and when we feel well enough to be able to give back that same support so make it a priority to give and get regular hugs as this is one very effective way to share love.

If you are struggling to find the time, motivation, or information to make any of these suggestions a regular part of your life,  reach out to your naturopathic doctor to help you determine what is stopping you from living your best life.

If you are ready to take the next steps and move forward with natural heart health choices, call us today or book an appointment now.

The Importance of Vitamin D

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What is vitamin D? Originally credited with helping the body with calcium and bone metabolism, more recent studies show that vitamin D has many other influences on keeping the body healthy. It is thought of as a prohormone more than just a vitamin because it is only after D3 is metabolized in the liver and then into other forms in the kidneys that the active forms are produced. To date, some thirty-seven forms of Vitamin D3 have been isolated and chemically characterized. Continue reading

Thyroid 101: The Ins & Outs of Thyroid Function

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Recent studies suggest that 1 in 10 Canadians suffer from some kind of thyroid disease, of which 50% are undiagnosed! One in eight women will develop a thyroid disorder in her lifetime, with the number of affected people continuing to rise each year. Until this gland goes awry, very little attention is given to its small, butterfly shaped presence at the base of the neck – yet the hormones it secretes are essential to all growth and metabolism. Continue reading

The Many Benefits of Far Infrared Sauna Therapy

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What is sauna therapy?
Sauna therapy has been a part of healing practices for centuries as part of many different traditions – the Greeks and Romans historically used bathhouses to both cleanse and detoxify, and many indigenous peoples use sweat lodges as a means of both spiritual and physical purification. Continue reading

Kick Start the School Year with Probiotics

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I remember being excited as a kid, every September meant new clothes, school supplies, teachers and classes…a fresh start to a new year. The more I learn about health and wellness, the more I realize that one of the most important factors to success in school starts with the our humble microbe populations that live in our digestive tracts.

It is said we are 10% human, and 90% microbe…a healthy gut houses over 100 trillion friendly bacteria, which is a ratio of 10:1 to the number of cells in your body. Why are these critters so important? The reality is that without these friendly bugs, your digestion, brain health and immune function would simply not function. At any given time, you have around 160 bacterial species (types) in your gut out of over 1000 species of bacteria. The digestive tract is one of the most complex eco systems to understand and study. The individualized bacteria composition found in each body play a vital role in keeping us healthy. Having the right strains, in the right amount and in the right part of the digestive tract are critical to our overall sense of well-being, and should therefore, be a part of our daily health practice. Continue reading

5 Important Reasons You Need Magnesium

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As many of you already know, when it comes to supplementation, I adhere to the philosophy that less is more. However, one mineral that is often overlooked and usually deficient in most people is magnesium…used in over 300 reactions in the body, you can see why it is so important. Here is how it is used by the body, in a nutshell… Continue reading

The Benefits of Salivary Hormone Testing

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Healthy Weight Loss, Hormone Health, Stress, Thyroid Health

Good health has a lot to do with maintaining balance: the right balance of work and play, the right balance of nutrients in the diet, and the right balance of hormones. What people don’t often realize is how complex the effects of hormones are in the body. Hormone imbalance may be a result of illness, or may produce symptoms and biochemical changes that eventally lead to illness. Getting your hormone levels checked regularly can be instrumental in determining these issues before it leads to the development of disease. Continue reading