About a month ago, I had a bad case of heartburn (AKA “acid indigestion”). After two days of having my stomach “burp” hydrochloric acid up my digestive tract, my esophagus (the part of the digestive tract that’s directly above the stomach) got inflamed and the pain would persist even when there was no acid.
I had to do something about it, and, of course, I turned to the Internet for advice. Here’s what I tried based on my research:
- First, I started taking Maalox (mixture of magnesium hydroxide and aluminum hydroxide) chewable tablets. I also considered Manti, but it is 50% more expensive (in Poland at least) and the only difference is that it also contains simethicone, which helps relieve excess gas. Maalox helped neutralize the acid, providing instant relief, but I found I had to take it at least once every 2 hours. That didn’t look like a good remedy to me.
- Some obscure sites recommended eating Jonagold apples for heartburn and GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), which is a kind of chronic heartburn. The idea is that apples contain pectin, which neutralizes stomach acid, and Jonagolds have the most pectin. I could find no reputable sources recommending apples as a remedy, but I thought it was worth a try. What I found was that the apples worked well — they actually provided longer-lasting relief than Maalox.
Even though I had found some ways to temporarily relieve my symptoms, my esophagus kept hurting. My mother suggested that I drink ground flaxseed, which she considers a good remedy for indigestion. Obviously, I scoffed at this advice. After all, I spent many hours researching heartburn on the Web and there was not one place that listed flaxseed as a possible remedy. Just to be sure, I ran a quick Google search, and — sure enough — absolutely no link between heartburn and flaxseed. Was I going to trust the whole of the world’s medical knowledge or my mother’s uneducated guesses?
Later that day, my mom made me some ground flaxseed with hot water, which I drank reluctantly, and — you guessed it — now the Internet shall have a page linking flaxseed and heartburn, because the flaxseed worked like a charm. Not only did it instantly kill the burning pain in my esophagus, it also seemed to neutralize the acid (or somehow shield my digestive tract from it). After days of popping Maalox, eating apples and watching my diet, I finally felt I was getting to the underlying cause of my condition. As an added bonus, I find the taste much better than Maalox. [Update: For a few more weeks, I still had the burping and an acidic taste in my mouth, especially after eating a considerable meal on a relatively empty stomach. But I had no burning pain, and I credit flaxseed with this change. Also, I did not have to take flaxseed every couple of hours, like antacids. In my case, the effects persisted for a really long time.]
Certainly I could be an isolated case, or I guess it could be some weird coincidence that I got better immediately after drinking the flaxseed. I don’t know if flaxseed will relieve your heartburn. But the results I experienced were too dramatic for me to keep this to myself.
The specific product that I used was Len mielony (podwójnie odolejony) made by Herbapol Lublin, a Polish manufacturer of herbal products. The name translates as Ground flaxseed (doubly de-oiled) and it is a sort of “diet” version of regular ground flaxseed with less flaxseed oil and fewer calories. It is a pretty fine powder with a faint smell reminiscent of pumpkin seeds. You prepare it by simply pouring a glass of hot water over a teaspoon of the flaxseed powder.
In Poland, ground flaxseed is readily available in most drugstores. I’m not sure how easily it can be purchased in other countries. You can probably get it in health food stores and the like. If you suffer from heartburn and you can find it, I suggest you give it a shot.
About heartburn causes: I don’t know what caused my episode. The Internet tells me that heartburn is commonly caused by an incompetence of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which is a kind of valve that connects the stomach with the esophagus. There is a long list of possible causes of this “incompetence” (eating too much, eating wrong, smoking, hiatus hernia, etc.). About the only thing that I was able to identify with was eating shortly before bedtime, and I have adjusted my habits accordingly. So far this seems to have helped, although I sometimes feel some acidity, which seems to occur when I make long breaks between meals.