Imagine that you have a hot date on Friday night and your new love interest suggests getting spicy Mexican food and margaritas.
Even though you love these foods and you want to win over your date’s heart, this causes a surge of anxiety because you know spicy foods and alcohol don't agree with you. You still go through with it though, hoping you won’t get too burned.
Heartburn vs. Acid Reflux vs. GERD
Counter to its name, heartburn has nothing to do with the heart (unless you’re on a hot date). Heartburn is a burning sensation just behind the breastbone due to stomach acid traveling up into the esophagus.
Some people mistake this pain in the chest after eating a spicy meal for something more serious, but more often than not it is occasional heartburn—a common complaint that can quickly subside.
Occasional heartburn, acid reflux and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) are often used interchangeably, but they are different. Occasional heartburn is irritation that can be triggered by a certain food. Acid reflux is a medical condition that can range from mild to serious in severity. GERD is a severe and chronic form of acid reflux.
There are two types of heartburn: frequent and occasional.
Frequent heartburn is caused by the malfunction of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), the round muscle between the esophagus and the stomach. When the LES doesn’t close completely, stomach acid can move up into the esophagus. As we age, we may experience more heartburn because the LES becomes weaker, similar to how a sock loses elasticity over time.
Occasional heartburn is caused by problem foods or lifestyle choices, even though the LES is functioning correctly.
What Causes Occasional Heartburn?
There is a cluster of acid that sits at the top of the stomach called the “acid pocket.” Some foods and lifestyle choices cause the LES to relax and not close properly, allowing acid to travel up into the esophagus and to the back of the throat.
The following foods can cause the LES to relax and lead to occasional heartburn:
- high fat foods
- fried foods
- carbonated beverages
Due to their acidity, the following foods should be avoided because they boost levels of stomach acid and can cause irritation to the esophagus and symptoms of occasional heartburn:
- citrus fruits
- various spices
The following lifestyle choices may also cause occasional heartburn:
- being overweight
- eating large meals, particularly spicy or acidic foods
- lying down immediately after eating
- taking certain medications, such as aspirin or ibuprofen
Heartburn and Pregnancy
Occasional heartburn is also common during pregnancy. More than half of pregnant women report heartburn, particularly during their third trimester, due to pressure from the growing fetus.
Also, increased levels of the hormone progesterone can sometimes cause the LES to relax. Eating smaller meals and avoiding heartburn-causing foods can provide some relief.
When to See a Doctor for Heartburn
Occasional heartburn is very common and generally not serious. However, you should contact your doctor if you experience heartburn more than twice per week.
How Can Enzymes Help Reduce Occasional Heartburn?
Digestive enzymes help break down problem-causing foods. When you take an enzyme supplement with your meal, you can speed up your digestion to make it more efficient.* This takes some of the stress off your digestive system and gives it some relief.*
Is Heartburn Always From Too Much Acid?
Although most people have heartburn because they have an excess of stomach acid, for some, they experience these symptoms because they have too little stomach acid.
Hydrochloric acid (HCl) in the stomach helps to break down food into nutrients small enough to move into the intestines and be absorbed into the bloodstream.
For those with too little stomach acid, they may experience occasional heartburn, because their body is not able to break down food properly, particularly acidic food. While enzymes can play a role in boosting digestion for some individuals, a Betaine HCl supplement may be indicated—especially if you find yourself belching after a meal.*
The Problem With Antacids and PPIs for Frequent Heartburn
Most people are familiar with the colorful, chewable antacids found at any drug store, such as Tums. Antacids relieve heartburn by neutralizing stomach acid. However, since we need acid to digest food properly, we may be causing more digestive problems for ourselves when we pop these chalky treats like candy.
Other common heartburn drugs are PPIs (proton pump inhibitors), such as Prilosec and Nexium. These drugs halt acid production by shutting down the proton pumps that create acid.
The problem here is that these pumps serve other vital functions and exist throughout the body, including the brain. PPIs are intended to be taken for only fourteen days, but many people take them on a regular basis for years. Recently, long-term PPI use has been linked to such side effects as Alzheimer’s, dementia, heart disease and bone fractures.
“Acid is essential for proper digestion, but also for unlocking specific vitamins, improving overall immunity, as well as many other functions in the body,” says Dr. Murray. “So if you have occasional heartburn, you don’t want to wipe out all of your acid with antacids or PPIs. You can take a natural dietary supplement to provide the relief you’re looking for without going so far as to disrupt the systems of the body.”*
While occasional heartburn sufferers may benefit from dietary supplements, those with frequent heartburn may have to adjust their diet, lifestyle or turn to these drugs for a solution.
Why Natural Heartburn Remedies Are Better for Occasional Heartburn Sufferers
Dr. Murray is a leader in natural health, author of more than 20 books and a frequent guest on The Dr. Oz Show. Murray and his research team worked to find a natural, plant-based alternative for occasional heartburn relief that doesn’t have these side effects. The answer was clear—alginic acid, an ingredient derived from brown seaweed, demonstrated tremendous potential for this indication.
Alginate works by creating a raft-like barrier between the esophagus and the stomach. Rather than neutralizing stomach acid, alginate alleviates occasional heartburn by creating a physical barrier that sits on top of the stomach preventing acid from traveling up into the esophagus.* A small amount of calcium carbonate was added to the formula to make this raft bigger and stronger.
“The key lesson is, you don’t want to shut down all of the acid in your GI tract. That is going from one extreme to the other,” says Dr. Murray. “You need stomach acid, you just need the right amount. Enzymedica offers a more balanced approach.”*
Heartburn Relief Offers More than Just Relief From Occasional Heartburn*
Enzymedica created Heartburn Relief—an advanced formula for quick and effective relief from occasional heartburn, featuring alginate as its active ingredient.* Heartburn Relief provides both immediate and lasting relief, in that the alginate raft forms within seconds of taking the tablet, and stays intact for hours.*
In an attempt to make Heartburn Relief the most comprehensive product on the market for occasional heartburn, they added other natural ingredients to protect the esophagus from acid and repair GI tract lining that had been damaged in the past.*
Specifically, prickly pear extract and betaine (an amino acid found in beets) were added to the formula since they increase mucus production in the GI tract.* This mucus serves as a buffer between the acid and the lining of the esophagus, as well as repairing damaged lining of the GI tract.*
Combining prickly pear extract and betaine with alginate was the winning formula to create an effective occasional heartburn remedy that offers all three of these benefits in one product.*
Along with Heartburn Relief, Enzymedica offers three additional products that address occasional heartburn.* If you find yourself frequently belching after meals, you may have too little stomach acid. Enzymedica’s Betaine HCl provides that added acid you need for optimal digestion.* If you’re looking to repair and rebuild your GI tract, Acid Soothe is your ideal remedy.* Acid Soothe is offered in capsules or chewable tablets.
So, go ahead, enjoy your Mexican food and margaritas! Heartburn Relief can be your wingman on your date, providing immediate and long-lasting relief in case occasional heartburn strikes.*