The Ultimate Guide to Understanding Heartburn and Indigestion

What you need to know

If you struggle with chronic digestive issues like heartburn or acid-reflux, give our office a call today at (425) 686-4498 to learn how we can help you get relief, naturally.

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The Ultimate Guide to Understanding Heartburn and Indigestion

Heartburn and Indigestion aka Functional Dyspepsia are very common symptoms and often thought as one in the same. Heartburn is where stomach acid creeps up into the esophagus (where it’s not supposed to be). Indigestion is often described as a fullness, bloating, discomfort, even heartburn-like pain, and nausea. Some people experience both symptoms.

The odds are that you or someone you know experiences heartburn or indigestion is high. Around half of US adults report experiencing it at least once per month. Somewhere between 10-20% have it at least once per week!

What you need to know about stomach acid

Stomach acid helps us break down our food, and digest nutrients. But we need that acid to stay in the stomach, and not get up to our esophagus! Stomach acid and digestive juices are normal and help us digest and break down our foods. We also need the acid in our stomach to protect us against harmful microbes (i.e. bacteria) that lurk in our food and drinks.

Stomach acid doesn’t usually burn the stomach itself; this is because the stomach is protected by a layer of mucus.

But your esophagus doesn’t have that same protection. It has a valve that is supposed to prevent things from going the wrong way (i.e. keep food, drink, and acid down; not allow it back up). And when your esophagus is exposed to stomach acid too often, it can cause the infamous burning, inflammation, and other potential issues.

If you suffer from symptoms of heartburn and indigestion, there are many things you can do.

How Acupuncture can help heartburn

Here are my top 3 Tips on how to reduce heartburn and indigestion:

Tip #1 – Eat the right foods (and avoid foods that aggravate)

You may notice that when you eat or drink certain things, you get heartburn soon afterward. These triggers may be different for everyone; but often include onions, garlic, chocolate, citrus, tomato, mint, spicy foods, greasy foods, coffee, carbonated drinks, or alcohol. If any of these affect you, reduce them or even try cutting them out to see if it makes a difference.

Heartburn might also result from food allergies or intolerances. Often with my patients I find that with most digestive concerns, there is an underlying food trigger component. Finding out what your triggers are is one of the pieces of the puzzle.

The first thing you can do is to reduce the known triggers of heartburn that I listed above. I also recommend getting tested for food allergies to makes sure you are not eating foods, even if they are healthy, they might not be the right food for you.

Tip #2 – Meal Timing

The timing of when you eat your meals can dramatically help reduce heartburn and indigestion. Eating small frequent meals and eating mindfully is key. Eating mindfully means to not eat when you are rushed, stressed, or distracted. Also, sticking to these basics can help by eating slowly, and chewing your food very well.

One last tip is to not eat a big meal right before bed. You want to avoid lying down with a full stomach. We’re talking finishing eating 2-3 hours before lying down, so schedule your dinner or snack with this in mind.

Tip #3: Get Acupuncture

Acupuncture has been shown in many studies to help functional dyspepsia, GERD, and heartburn. One of the underlying etiologies in heartburn, according to Chinese Medicine, is excess heat. Using a specific acupuncture protocol, points are selected to help not only reduce symptoms but address the root cause of the heartburn. Studies have shown that acupuncture can improve gut motility, reduce visceral pain, and regulate acid secretion.

In a recent study looking at how acupuncture may work to help those with functional dyspepsia. They found that acupuncture may affect a neuroendocrine hormone, ghrelin, to be activated. Ghrelin, which is secreted in the endocrine cells in the mucosa of the stomach, plays a part in gastric motility, and may work to protect the gastric lining from injury.

Read Dr. Ellie’s previous post on how acupuncture can help heartburn, here.

If you struggle with chronic digestive issues like heartburn or acid-reflux, give our office a call today at (425) 686-4498 to learn how we can help you get relief, naturally.


Acupuncture and functional dyspepsia:

Acupuncture and gut motility:

Acupuncture and Acid Secretion:

Call or Schedule Now! (425) 686-4498

Call or Schedule Now!

(425) 686-4498

Dr. Ellie Heintze, ND, LAc

  • Master’s Degree in Acupuncture
    Bastyr University
  • Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine
    Bastyr University
  • Master’s Degree in Chemistry
    Northern Arizona University
Dr. Heintze Acupuncturist and Naturopathic Doctor

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