Show 1292: Natural Ways to Treat Heartburn – The People's Pharmacy

Whether we call it indigestion, reflux, sour stomach or heartburn, this condition is painful. When acid from the stomach splashes up into the lower esophagus, it burns. Even though heartburn doesn’t actually have anything to do with the heart, the name makes sense. The pain is generally behind the sternum, in the center of the chest, and it is often if not always a burning type of pain. Doctors used to prescribe medications like esomeprazole, lansoprazole and omeprazole to treat this problem. Now these proton pump inhibitors are available over the counter with brand names like Nexium, Prevacid and Prilosec. Are there natural ways to treat heartburn? This week on our nationally syndicated public radio show (The People’s Pharmacy), we interview Dr. Tieraona Low Dog, author of the eBook, Healing Heartburn Naturally.
PPIs are usually effective for short-term relief of heartburn. But if you read the label on your OTC omeprazole, you’ll find that it is not intended for immediate symptom relief; it may take one to four days for the effects to kick in. Moreover, if you need it for more than two weeks, you should be under a doctor’s care.
You WON’T find a list of side effects from extended use, but some can be quite troubling. People who take PPIs on a regular basis for an extended time are more susceptible to respiratory tract and digestive tract infections, including C. diff that can cause terrible diarrhea. They may be more likely to experience cardiovascular complications like heart attacks or kidney injury. Weakened bones or even osteoporosis may result form reduced absorption of nutrients such as calcium, magnesium or zinc. Changes in the gut microbiota and liver inflammation are other potential problems. No wonder some heartburn sufferers are looking for natural ways to treat heartburn!
If you have had frequent heartburn, chances are your doctor has suggested you should be careful with your diet. Frequently, people are urged to avoid tomatoes, citrus fruits, spicy foods, coffee, alcohol, fried foods, cheese and other foods high in fat. Chocolate, garlic, onion and peppermint are often forbidden. When we looked for scientific data supporting these recommendations, though, we couldn’t find much. What we did find were studies demonstrating that people following a low-carb diet are less likely to suffer from heartburn.
People who have been taking a PPI for some time may find it difficult to stop. Rebound acid can cause a lot of discomfort. Utilizing natural ways to treat heartburn can help as people slowly discontinue their PPI. Find out what Dr. Tieraona Low Dog recommends for this process.
A number of herbs have soothing properties that can help heartburn. Many people appreciate aloe vera, especially when the laxative portion has been removed. Licorice root is beneficial, but heartburn sufferers should look for DGL (deglycyrrhizinated licorice). Glycyrrhizin can raise blood pressure, so it is inappropriate for long-term use. You may never have heard of the Indian herb amla, but Dr. Low Dog is enthusiastic about it for stomach problems. Marshmallow (the plant, not the candy) is also quite effective, according to Dr. Low Dog.
She also describes how probiotics can be helpful. When gut microbes get out of balance (a condition termed dysbiosis), probiotics may help them recover. If you must take an antibiotic for a bacterial infection, a probiotic might help protect the gut microbes or encourage their restoration. Dr. Low Dog suggests checking for more details. To maintain good digestive health, consider Dr. Low Dog’s natural ways to treat heartburn.
Tieraona Low Dog, MD, is a founding member of the American Board of Physician Specialties, American Board of Integrative Medicine and the Academy of Women’s Health. She was elected Chair of the US Pharmacopeia Dietary Supplements/Botanicals Expert Committee and was appointed to the Scientific Advisory Council for the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Her books include: Women’s Health in Complementary and Integrative Medicine; Life Is Your Best Medicine and Fortify Your Life: Your Guide to Vitamins, Minerals and More. Dr. Low Dog’s latest eBook is Healing Heartburn Naturally. We recommend it highly.
Her website is  She also provides a wealth of information at
The podcast of this program will be available Monday, March 7, 2022, after broadcast on March 5. You can stream the show from this site and download the podcast for free.
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