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Heartburn

How to combat Heartburn?

Question

I have suffered from heartburn for some time but have been unable to find relief from conventional remedies. Can you help?

Answer

Heartburn is a common condition which causes great discomfort. What happens is that excessive acid plus some undigested food particles from the stomach regurgitate into the food pipe, or oesophagus, and some of that acid trickles into the lungs near the throat. This highly acidic mass causes tremendous burning the lungs can feel as if they are on fire. That is real heartburn. However, in some cases, the acid only gets as far as the food pipe and sufferers get a burning sensation there. This is a sort of incomplete heartburn.

The best treatment for heartburn is to make sure that you eat your food slowly and chew it carefully. If you do not chew your meals properly, the stomach has to do the job of the teeth, grinding and churning the food so that the nutrients can be absorbed. Also, your stomach has to produce more and more acid to break up the food particles so they are small enough to digest. When you eat fast, you also tend to burp. This happens because eating fast means that you often swallow air bubbles; when these meet the acid, they take it out as a burp. So don't rush meals or eat on ' the run. Sit down and eat slowly, chewing your food until it is in small pieces, and help your digestion by resting for a short while afterwards. You could also take a gentle, short walk after your evening meal.

You can prevent heartburn by avoiding chemical irritations such as spicy food and citrus fruit, white wine and champagne, coffee and tea, cigarettes, aspirin, painkillers and steroid drugs if possible. You should also avoid mechanical irritations such as dry toast, crusty fried food and seeds because they cause abrasions to the stomach lining. Cut out very hot drinks, too, which are another form of physical abrasion.

Because we tend to produce excessive stomach acid when we are stressed, try not to get anxious or worried, and learn some form of relaxation such as yoga or meditation (see below).

If you can track the cause of your heartburn, you can correct it. In the meantime, I suggest that you use cold milk as an immediate remedy - it soothes the stomach by providing an excellent medium for the acid to combine with protein molecules. You could also take sodium bicarbonate or, if you are in a restaurant, tonic water because the quinine has the same effect.

There is a good Ayurvedic remedy called Calciprite (tablets), which is an ash of seashells dissolved in a weak solution of vinegar. You could also try Gasex (tablets), or take Lamberts peppermint oil capsules as needed (capsules).
Rubbing your stomach is helpful, too, to strengthen and tone the stomach muscles. With a little olive or sesame oil, massage your abdomen for a couple of minutes clockwise, using your navel as the centre.

Cold Comfort for Autumn

Autumn is a time of extra stress for your body. The frequent temperature changes cause the body's air-conditioning system to go berserk it has to cool the body one day and heat it the next. Additionally, for most of us, our workload increases after the long summer holiday. This all-round stress tends to weaken the general energy of the body and, with that the immune system. Meanwhile, viruses and germs are looking for a nice warm comfortable host to escape the autumn chills. So you get flu.
But you can boost your immune system to help prevent getting ill. Avoid yeast products, ice cream, sweets and cakes, coffee. chilled drinks and excess alcohol. Get plenty of rest and don’t have too any late nights. Take a good multivitamin and mineral supplement such as One-A-Day Vitamins and Minerals(capsules) for two months. Massage your neck and shoulders for ten minutes twice a week; if you have a partner or friend, trade massages. Walk in the fresh air at the weekends and do some pranayama meditation.

Pranayama Meditation Exercise

This is a simple way to relax mentally and physically. Lie comfortably on your back, with your legs and arms uncrossed. Breathe in to a count of three, gently and softly hold your breath for three counts, then breathe out to a count of six.
When you inhale, let your abdomen swell up like a balloon. When you exhale, pull your abdomen right in, imagining you're pulling it to your backbone. Do this for ten minutes daily, concentrating your inner eye on your forehead, as if you are gazing at the rising or setting sun.
For further details refer my book Therapeutic yoga co-written with Jiwan Brar.

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