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Heartburn Relief and Prevention

If you listen to television commercials you’d think that heartburn, also known as ‘sour stomach’ and sometimes called ‘reflux‘, has reached epidemic proportions in the US, and indeed it possibly has. There are endless commercials that suggest drugs to take to eliminate this problem and its related symptoms which can include upset stomach. However, there are other things to do before you turn to drugs, and prevention may be your first and best line of defense.

To begin with, what is heartburn? It has nothing to do with the heart and is the common name for a condition also called hyperacidity. As the name suggests, it is the overproduction of hydrochloric acid and other strong chemicals in the stomach. The effect of this overabundance of stomach acid includes irritation and damage to the delicate stomach lining. If the valve between the esophagus, the tube down which food travels from the mouth to the stomach, is also irritated, it can allow a regurgitation of strong-tasting and burning material into your throat. This is acid and even as it burns your throat and mouth, it can also be the cause of stomach ulcers.

Measures that you can take to reduce or eliminate heartburn include eating balanced meals on a regular basis, avoiding late night meals, and perhaps elevating your head and upper chest with an extra pillow while you sleep. Stress levels also contribute to heartburn and we can reduce stress on the body by getting enough sleep and exercise. Many upset stomachs can be avoided by eating more slowly and chewing food more thoroughly. We should be aware that salmonella, a serious cause of stomach problems, can be acquired through eating undercooked chicken and turkey.

The stomach is located in the mid and right side of the abdomen just under the diaphragm, a large, strong sheet of muscle that separates the chest cavity from the abdominal cavity. The esophagus and many important blood vessels pass through an opening in the diaphragm. Weak places in the esophagus in the area of the diaphragm are sometimes called hiatal hernias, and can become problematic for heartburn and swallowing food successfully.

Reflexology is particularly effective for dealing with stress, and stress is a major component of heartburn and stomach-related issues. According to the principles of reflexology, there are maps of the entire body located on the ears, hands and feet. By working these maps in the proper areas, we are able to release the effects of stress that are manifested in the greater body. In other words, by working the stomach reflex found in the ear, hand or foot, we are able to relieve the effects of heartburn and stomach pain. We use a gentle press and release motion of the thumb or fingers to work the reflexes found in the ears, hands and feet.

The most convenient reflex to work for your stomach is located in your left hand, just below where the fingers join the palm. Work this area with a gentle press and release motion, moving your thumb gradually over your entire palm. As you work this area with the thumb of your right hand, you may feel places of tenderness which indicate congestion or other effects of stress. Any areas which are sensitive should be worked repeatedly and perhaps more gently if they are very sensitive. The sensitivity will begin to fade as you continually work over the same spaces. Remember it’s helpful to work the entire palm area as the adjacent reflexes also support the digestive process. People often find that working as long as 3 to 5 minutes and sometimes holding pressure on a particular point can be very helpful in reducing tenderness in the palm, and consequently the effects of stress in your stomach and abdomen. Many people experience relief of their heartburn symptoms almost immediately. This same area can be helpful for hiccups as well.

As you work over the sore places you’ve located in your hand, you are breaking up congestion. Toxins often build up behind the areas of congestion, and therefore it is important that you drink plenty of water after you’ve done reflexology on yourself or received it from someone else. The water helps your body flush the toxins and keep them from circulating continuously through your system.

‏Grateful acknowledgement to Bill Flocco, American Academy of Reflexology, for material excerpted from various of his publications