Question: At night, I am plagued with frequent heartburn. Is there anything I can do to cure or prevent this?


Our spa approach to this question offers options like yoga and massage to reduce ‘background’ levels of stress and tension that cause indigestion. The belly is constricted by stress reactions which inhibit natural breathing. Consequently, the internal organs do not get their regular massage from each breath. ‘Conscious’ body exercise like yoga can help diffuse stress that otherwise might concentrate in the belly. A balanced approach to stretching and relaxation will compliment the ‘flat belly quest’ of conventional abdominal exercises. Massage is perfect, since you’re in the ‘corpse pose of yoga’ to connect with your natural breath, and with a skilled massage therapist [you may]greatly reduce abdominal tension. Spa menus may include modalities specific to abdominal massage like visceral manipulation, Chi Nei Tsang, Reflexology, Thai Massage and Yoga.

Amy McDonald is the Spa and Programs Director at El Monte Sagrado Living Resort and Spa in Taos, New Mexico. Amy has been in the spa industry for twenty years and is an industry expert in integrating both spa and educational programs into transformational experiences for guests.

Elizabeth Somer, M.A.,R.D.

Heartburn, also called acid reflux or acid indigestion, is that burning sensation in your chest or throat. It can be treated by changing what and when you eat or by taking medications that curb stomach acid. For starters, eat slowly and thoroughly chew food to reduce the chances of swallowing air, which contribute to gas and belching. Eat light, low-fat dinners, don’t drink fluids with meals, and wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothes to reduce pressure on the stomach. Avoid lying down for three hours following a meal to keep acidic stomach contents in their rightful place. Lose weight if you are overweight, don’t smoke, avoid alcohol in the evening, and chew gum after meals to stimulate saliva, which is a buffer to stomach acid. Some people say they are prone to heartburn after eating fruit, chocolate, garlic, onions, or spicy foods, but there is no solid evidence to support these claims, so don’t eliminate a food unless you’re sure it causes you symptoms. One study actually found that indigestion improved when people took capsules of red pepper powder before meals! Chronic heartburn over time can damage the esophagus, increasing a person’s risk for cancer, so consult a physician if your condition persists.

Elizabeth Somer, M.A.,R.D., is author of several books, including Food & Mood (Owl Books, 1999) and Nutrition For Women (Owl Books, 2003).

Nancy Welliver, N.D.

The goal of an herbal therapy for heartburn is to tone the failing sphincter between the stomach and esophagus. The best herb to tone the stomach, including this gastro-esophageal sphincter, is Filipendula or Meadowsweet. It makes a very pleasant tea or can be used in tincture form. Using herbal bitters before each meal can also tone the stomach and sphincter. Bitters also aid mineral absorption. Poor mineral status may also contribute to poor muscular tone. Bitters and Meadowsweet are available in most health food stores. A caveat about using herbs with heartburn: avoid mint. Mint can cause relaxation of the gastroesophageal sphincter and increase symptoms of heartburn. All of these suggestions work best when used on a long-term basis, rather than just at the time of symptoms.

Dr. Nancy Welliver has been a practicing naturopathic physician for the last eleven years and is currently a faculty member at Bastyr University.

Amy McDonald

Healing Lifestyles & Spas Team
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