Four Ways to Quench Heartburn

About a week or so ago, I experienced an uncomfortable but familiar burning sensation in my chest after indulging a plate of leftover rotini pasta. I knew that I had been hit with a case of heartburn. Blessedly, I’m not a chronic heartburn sufferer but I do have family members who know this condition all too well. My mother-in-law was diagnosed with acid reflux, which is associated with heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

According to a 1999 report by the Archives of Internal Medicine, twenty-five million adults experience heartburn daily and more than $1 billion was spent on nonprescription heartburn remedies. Heartburn occurs when the esophagus is exposed to gastric acid because the lower esophageal sphincter, which normally prevents acid from entering the esophagus, becomes relaxed. The esophagus ain’t built to handle the acid like the stomach can. That burning sensation happens when sensory nerve endings are stimulated by acid reflux or esophageal distention. Acid reflux may be a sign of GERD, a chronic condition that may damage your esophagus. Certain types of food such as peppermint, onions, garlic, and alcohol may induce heartburn. Even body position (e.g. reclining or bending over) can stir that burn. And of course, lifestyle factors such as stress, cigarette smoking, and obesity may result in heartburn.

In my pre-vegan days, my roll of antacids was my best friend if I felt any sort of discomfort. Now, I try to really pay attention to the foods I eat, although I do have my moments (look, Mama needs chocolate cookies every once in a while or she goes batsh** crazy! 😉). Potassium-rich foods like sweet potatoes may be helpful because potassium causes the contraction of the lower esophageal sphincter muscles and prevents that acid from entering into the esophagus. Here are some other foods that may help halt heartburn for you:

Deglycyrrhizinated licorice

Coming from a West Indian family, I have always been somewhat familiar with licorice and its medicinal purposes. But licorice is a well-known remedy for heartburn and other stomach ailments. Commercial licorice products come from the root extracts of the plant. The roots are reported to have demulcent, antacid, anti-ulcer, anti-inflammatory, diuretic, expectorant, and antimicrobial activity. The sweet taste comes from the substance glycyrrhizin, which is reputed to be 50 times stronger than refined sugar. But glycyrrhizin may also cause severe hypertension. So deglycyrrhizinated licorice is the best bet for the benefits of licorice without those nasty side effects. Deglycyrrhizinated licorice works by increasing blood flow to damaged stomach mucous membrane to promote healing. Licorice contains antioxidant compounds like glabridin that prevent low-density lipoprotein. In addition, some studies suggest that licorice may be beneficial in treating other gastrointestinal disorders. For example, a 1995 study found that licorice reduced the number and size of gastric ulcers. Further, some research indicates that licorice extracts may suppress the growth of breast cancer cells. Occasionally, I really like this particular brand of licorice whenever I need a little extra help with heartburn.

 

 

Seaweed

I am not ashamed to admit that I have always loved seaweed. Some of the best eating times involve seaweed: Back in the late nineties, I remember ordering a kombu and tempeh combination at one of my favorite veggie restaurants back in the day, Angelica’s Kitchen (RIP). Or eating veggie sushi with my friends in the backyard of a restaurant on Carmine Street in the Village. Yeah, Mama’s that old. For our purposes, when I am referring to seaweed or marine algae, I mean the brown, green, and red algae like kelp, kombu, nori, or Irish moss. What is great about seaweed is that it does contain fiber but its not digested to any great extent in the gut. So that means easier digestion as it passes through the gastrointestinal tract. Seaweed contains nutrients such as vitamins A, thiamin, riboflavin, folate, B12, C, and E, and calcium, iron, zinc, copper, and iodine. If you’re a chronic heartburn sufferer, you are familiar with alginates that are derived from brown seaweed, which are used as an alternative to antacids. What’s more, most seaweed varieties contain polyunsaturated fatty acids such as linoleic acid (LA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) that are essential for growth and development. Additionally, seaweed is full of carotenoids like beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin as well as metabolites that have antifungal, antiviral, antibacterial, and antimicrobial properties. In fact, it has been reported that the polysaccharides from marine algae may inhibit the mumps and influenza B viruses. I like to keep it really simple with seaweed, so I did this mash-up of kelp, kombu, carrots, and broccoli for dinner.

 

Marshmallow root

I first heard about marshmallow root in my attempts to find a natural hair detangler. Marshmallow root contains mucilage that makes it oh so easy to run a comb through even the most wicked hair knots. But this plant is so much more than that. Some evidence shows that the roots may counteract excessive stomach acid that may result in that dreaded heartburn. Marshmallow root, like seaweed, is a good source of polyunsaturated fatty acids like LA and ALA. More so, marshmallow root has antioxidant flavonoids such as kaempferol and other constituents like polysaccharides that show antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory, and antitussive activities. For example, a 2011 study found that marshmallow root extracts may be effective in treating certain types of oral cavity bacteria. Further, a 2007 study showed that marshmallow root significantly reduced the coughing of hypertension patients. And some animal studies suggest that the polysaccharides from marshmallow root may reduce blood glucose levels. I like to use this particular brand when I need to get my marshmallow fix.

 

Beetroot

When I started going out with my husband, one of the first things he said to me was never give him anything with beets. Apparently, his mother ate a bit too much beets when she was pregnant with him and he came out the womb despising them. For those of you who are like him, I implore you to give beets are chance because they can absolutely be tasty and wonderfully healthy—I promise you! Beetroot contains nutrients such as vitamin C, potassium, and magnesium. In addition, beetroot also has phenolic compounds such as caffeic acid and bioactive pigments known as betalains that have high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Beetroot has nitrates that increase gastric blood flow, which may be beneficial in combatting heartburn. But please note that some studies link high nitrate intake with gastric cancer, so do your own research. Some research indicates nitrate-rich beetroot may be helpful increasing cerebral blood flow in young adults. And a 2010 study showed that beetroot extract alleviated pain and inflammation in osteoarthritic patients. This juice will make you a believer when it comes to beets.

 

So those are the foods that I use to douse heartburn–what do you use?

Advertisements

Five Great Ways to Fight Fatigue

This past week has been really really challenging: my son was off for spring break, the neighbors were especially noisy (#livinginNY), and we experienced indiscriminate weather changes like dry heat/low humidity one minute then moist air/high pollen count the next minute. Not to mention other personal or self-employment stresses. Just make ya wanna holla. So, getting a good night’s rest can be an issue. But I know that when these situations pop up, the very first thing I need to do before I employ any sort of natural remedy is to give thanks for the things that I do have. I have a healthy family, a place to sleep, and food to eat. And believe me, that is a lot! Gratitude must be the foundation for any true healing to begin. Okay, enough preaching—here are some of the things that I use to combat fatigue:

Ashwagandha

I have recently started using this adaptogen and it is bananas how well it works. Adaptogens allow us to handle environmental stressors without further damage to our bodies. This differs from a stimulant, which can decrease brain catecholamines like dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. Various studies indicate that ashwagandha has antistress, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties. When I feel especially exhausted, I combine the suggested dose with a glass of water before breakfast. Please note that some studies indicate that ashwagandha may alter thyroid function and testosterone levels, so please consult a doctor if needed.

IMG_20170417_131914569_HDR

Sunlight and Vitamin D supplementation

Soak up as much sun as possible when you can. Consistent fatigue may be a sign of vitamin D deficiency. Older adults, those with increased skin pigmentation (e.g. African Americans like me), those that are obese, and those on medication are especially at risk for deficiency. When possible, I try to work sitting near an open window but this can be difficult during the colder months. So, I supplement with a multivitamin that contains 1,000 IU of vitamin D. The daily recommended dose is 600 IU for those age 1 to 70 years and pregnant or breastfeeding women. You can find out more about it here. In addition, many fortified foods like milk and orange juice contain vitamin D. Again, please consult your doctor if needed.

Shiitake Mushrooms

Shiitake mushrooms are an excellent source of vitamin D, vitamin B, fiber, selenium, zinc, and iron. They are also antimicrobial. What’s more, some research suggests that these mushrooms may boost energy, which is a godsend for us tired folks. I like to drizzle olive oil on shiitake mushrooms and scallions and bake them in an oven for about 8 to 9 minutes. You can toss in a nervine herb like rosemary to ward off any issues associated with fatigue like sadness. (BTW, this is a pic of some random fungi that I took while I was walking but it looks similar to shiitake so enjoy😉)

IMG_20150619_083207637

Tomatoes

Sometimes, I’ll indulge in a small plate of chopped tomatoes on a veggie burger sans bun for lunch to prevent that midday slump around 3:00 or 4:00 pm. Tomatoes are one of many vegetables that contain tyramine, an amino acid that encourages the release of norepinephrine, a brain stimulant. Enjoy some tomato salsa with fresh cilantro when you need that extra boost of energy.

IMG_20170417_131827533

Ginger

Ginger is an absolute staple in our home. We use it for colds and digestion issues and, unfortunately, there are plenty of that in our household! Ginger is a circulatory stimulant that can increase blood flow to extremities like hands and feet—a definite plus when you’re fatigued. I like to have a cup of green tea with a splash of ginger juice first thing in the morning. I also like to have a few ginger slices with my avocado toast.

These are some of the tips I use to fight fatigue. What are some ways that you handle it?

How I Manage Stress–And You Can Too!

Confession time: I am not always great at managing stress. In fact, there are times when I get angry and just like most people and say the wrong thing or slam a door or two. But there are times when I’m aces at handling stress. I’ve found that when unexpected situations pop up I can usually deal with them just fine. The situations that are difficult involve times when I go against my personality or nature. For example, I am an introvert, so I energize by being alone in quiet settings. So a challenge might be dealing with a person who is the opposite (i.e. an extrovert) in a confined setting. Or another stressor might be when I push myself in a decision to do something that I honestly don’t believe in. The lesson here is be as authentic as humanly possible in everything that you do.

But I digress, here are a few of the stress-relieving tips that have helped me:

Pumpkin Seeds

Okay, let’s just pause for a second so I can just explain how much I love pumpkin seeds!

1093966

 

Pumpkins seeds are just crunchy and satisfying and wonderful! One cup of pumpkin seeds equals a whopping 168 mg of magnesium. Magnesium deficiency is tied to stress. I like to sprinkle some in my morning chia seed pudding of coconut milk yogurt and oatmeal. Occasionally, I’ll put a small amount in my homemade protein balls made from shredded coconut, almond flour, and carob powder. It is simple and delicious just the way I like it.

 

Coconut oil

Yes, I know, I know, *cue yawn*. What can’t coconut oil do? Coconut oil is a MCFA (a medium-chain fatty acid). Some of you may know that this MCFA promotes better calorie burn in the body because it goes to the liver instead of the muscles or fat like other saturated fats. But did you know that coconut oil can also be an antistress oil too? A 2014 study on showed mice treated with virgin coconut oil exhibited increased levels of brain antioxidants, which may prevent further neuronal damage. I like to put at least a teaspoon or so of coconut oil on my morning avocado toast. Talk about starting the day off right!

 

Lavender essential oil

This oil has been a godsend for myself and my family. Lavender oil has antifungal and antibacterial properties. Whenever a cold is about to hit one of us, we sprinkle a few drops in a steaming shower and we are good to go! But studies have also shown that lavender oil can also induce sleep and relieve anxiety. I also use lavender oil in my homemade hair leave-in spray of amla powder and aloe vera gel.

 

There you have it. These are just some of the ways that I manage stress—what are a few ways that work for you?