When I moved my Acupuncture practice from Nelson to Kelowna one of the biggest differences I noticed was the number of patients that I would see in Kelowna who suffered from regular heartburn or who were on heartburn medication such as antacids or proton pump inhibitors. I did some research into it and although I didn’t find any statistics on Kelowna specifically I did discover that on average it is estimated that 1/4 of the Canadian population suffers from heartburn on a daily basis.
Heartburn can be described as a feeling or sensation of a burning behind the sternum (breastbone), that is caused by the reflux of stomach acid as it travels up the esophagus.
After one swallows food they have eaten, it travels down the esophagus to reach the stomach. Before the ingested food can pass into the stomach it must pass through a sphincter that separates the esophagus from the stomach. This sphincter is known as the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) and when it is healthy it naturally relaxes during ingestion and allows food to pass into the stomach. Once the food contents have made their way to the stomach a healthy LES will constrict, preventing the contents of the stomach from traveling up the esophagus. However, if the LES becomes weakened or is unable to constrict it will be unable to prevent acid from the stomach refluxing up the esophagus causing a burning sensation near the heart.
Acupuncture & Chinese medicine theory hold that heartburn is primarily caused by two factors: stress and improper eating and diet habits.
For many people, whether they realize it or not, stress and their heartburn often go hand in hand. When one eats “on the run” or gets stressed or over excited regularly (especially around and during meal times) it causes what is known in Chinese medicine as Liver Qi stagnation attacking the stomach. What this simply means is that the negative stress slows or stagnates the stomach's digestive function. This in turn can lead to a pressure buildup in the stomach causing stomach acid to reflux up the esophagus causing heartburn. This is one of the reasons why it is so important to take the time to sit down, relax, eat slowly and enjoy your meals.
I think most people are aware that what they eat can be a direct cause of their heartburn. Unfortunately instead of making diet changes and avoiding foods that trigger heartburn, many people opt for the band-aid solution and reach for the antacids to soothe the burn.
Foods that have been linked to heartburn include: caffeine, alcohol, spicy foods, fatty and greasy foods, citrus fruits, peppermint, tomatoes and tomato based products.
In my next article I will discuss treatments and strategies to help make heartburn a thing of the past.
For more information or to book an appointment please contact my office at (250) 860-2212 or visit my website www.kelownaacupunctureclinic.com
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.