1. Heartburn or acid indigestion
One of the most common digestive complaints, heartburn is described as a feeling of burning behind the sternum, with the discomfort often radiating upwards towards the mouth. It can also be described as a cramping, bloating, or a stabbing feeling. Heartburn happens when a sphincter (a muscle that is controlled by the nervous system) in the stomach doesn’t close properly, allowing stomach acid into the wrong areas of the intestinal tract. In many people, heartburn can be exacerbated by large meals, spicy foods, alcohol and caffeine. While taking an antacid may bring on relief, Adam Prinsen, a naturopath based in Peterborough, Ont., says suppressing stomach acid may not be the best long-term solution. “Stomachs produce acid for a reason: to digest the protein in your stomach,” he explains. “If you don’t have enough of it, you will compromise your digestion.” And that could make the problem worse. Because sphincters are affected by stress, Prinsen recommends calming your nerves as a first step. “Your digestive system won’t work properly when you’re stressed,” he explains, “because your body is in a fight-or-flight response-so all your blood goes to your muscles, rather than to your digestive system. Because people are always in a chronic state of stress, the digestive system eventually just shuts down.” That’s why the secret to easing heartburn may be as simple as slowing down.