There are numerous reasons people get heartburn or indigestion, says Shirlene Ried, Missouri-based lead dietitian of Understood Nutrition. These reasons can range from sleeping positions and food intolerances to drinking carbonated beverages. Discomfort could also stem from genetics or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which happens when stomach acid creeps into the esophagus and causes an offputting burning sensation. If this is chronic, you could consider talking about the pattern to a provider. But, no matter the cause, you have some options if you're looking for an in-the-moment solution for heartburn.
Start with deep breathing
Place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach, says Ried. Then, take deep breaths counting in for four and out for four. Repeat this breathing pattern for 5-10 breaths to activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which kicks your digestion into high gear and can, in turn, reduce discomfort. This also massages your system from the inside by engaging your diaphragm, a strong muscle that sits below your lungs.
Next, try the clockwise rub
Imagine your stomach as a clock, and your belly button is noon, says Elizabeth Trattner, AP, LAc, NCCAOM, a Florida state licensed acupuncturist and nationally board-certified acupuncturist. She recommends using your hand or three fingers to slowly rub your stomach in a clockwise circle, starting at your belly button. Then, continue the deep breathing you were doing and move slowly. The idea is to increase blood flow to the area and facilitate digestion—which can continue to help reduce your symptoms.
Finally, try a massage to induce a bowel movement
Peristalsis is a wave-like contraction and relaxation of your digestive muscles and tract that move the contents of your stomach through your body and out when you poop. That's where the phrase "bowel movement" comes from. Because this is involuntary, you don't need to think about it. However, Dr. Trattner recommends a gentle massage to potentially support your digestive system's natural peristalsis, which can help you poop. Studies show that this muscle movement can reduce indigestion and heartburn by keeping your system moving along.
Dr. Trattner recommends you start by lying down on your back with a pillow supporting your head. Then you'll bring your knees up, but keep your feet flat on a bed or sofa. Begin massaging your lower left abdomen and use your hands and the tips of your finger like they are gently scooping upwards from the lower left. Then slowly massage in a diagonal line across your belly below your belly button. This is the path that your stool takes through your body.
"Be gentle, don't push, and use pressure like you're working with clay. There are times you can feel impacted stool or feel the noise of your large intestine," says Dr. Trattner. "Another great way to deal with heartburn is to lie on your right side, preferably after your massage. Your stomach empties via the right side of your body and will help with gastric movement and emptying."
These experts stress that it's important to move slowly and gently when trying a heartburn massage. The most important part of this is probably your breathing, Ried says.
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