General Health

Heartburn Prevention vs. Heartburn Treatment

Acid reflux if one of the most common and most uncomfortable complaints that our members suffer. This ailment can be painful, chronic and debilitating, and while most often treated with traditional acid-blocking medications, recently there has been increased concern about the side-effects of these medications. So we asked Naturopathic specialist, Dr. Maura Henninger to weigh in.

When should an acid reflux patient consider alternatives to acid-blocking medications?

“There is mounting evidence about the detrimental physical effects of acid-blocking drugs,” Dr. Henninger noted and because of this many of her ”patients are increasingly preferring to address heartburn at its root cause.” This requires a more holistic approach to the problem.

One of the key elements in fighting acid reflux is prevention, which Dr. Henninger says starts by “avoiding refluxing or high acid foods like fried foods, alcohol, caffeine, spicy foods, and citrus.” This course of action would seem self-explanatory, as anybody with heartburn can attest, but Dr. Henninger takes this line of thinking a step further. It’s not just about avoiding espresso or extra spicy Thai food, but also “also identifying triggering food sensitivities, which can be unique to each person.”  Dr. Henninger notest there are many tests available that can help you make more conscious eating choices, and therefore create a long term plan to alleviate heartburn discomfort.

Beyond just watching what you eat, we also need to curtail how much we eat. When we eat large meals; as Dr. Henninger’s says “the sphincters on the top and bottom of the stomach will open if there is too much food, and therefore added pressure, causing them to open and allow refluxing.”  In turn, this can cause a terrible bout of heartburn.

Another interesting factor, which is often overlooked, is the effect of stress on both our body but also our behavior. Dr. Henninger states, that, “stress can cause dysfunction in these valves — and stress can make us eat too fast, so it’s best to eat slowly and mindfully.”

But it’s not just our behavior which effects acid reflux; it may also be, pathogens such as “h.pylori, a bug,” and or “small intestine bacterial overgrowth,” which can be an underlying cause of acid reflux. Dr. Henninger highlights that, for example, “overactive bacteria in the small intestine is a known cause of heartburn.”  And that most importantly, all of these disorders can be tested for and treated.

Finally, Dr. Henninger tells us that “continually experiencing heartburn after eating” might be aided by “taking digestive enzymes or other supplements like probiotics, glutamine powder (which helps heal the gut lining) and chewable DGL (a form of licorice).”

Before relying on ant-acids, patients should consult a physician and together come up with a plan to minimize the causes of reflux. Licorice, matched with a holistic approach to treatment and prevention, sounds a lot more appealing than endless packets of over the counter ant-acid tablets.

Dr. Maura Henninger is a licensed and board-certified Naturopathic Doctor based both in New York City and Connecticut who offers natural health options for everyday health concerns.


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Board Certified in Oncology and Internal Medicine, Dr. Kruger has been serving the needs of his patients for over thirty years from his office on the Upper East Side. As one of the pioneers of concierge medicine, Dr. Kruger is tireless in his attention to the needs of his individual patients.

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