Introduction to Gastrointestinal System & Heartburn
When it comes to the organ systems of the human body, the gastrointestinal system plays a vital role. The gastrointestinal system is accountable for the total digestion process, starting from ingestion to excretion. It involves the ingestion, digestion, absorption, assimilation, and expulsion of the food we eat. The gastrointestinal system comprises of organs like the esophagus, stomach, small and large intestine, and rectum. Besides these, the digestive system is equipped with the secretion of various enzymes and chemicals that assists in breaking down the complex food materials to absorbable nutrients. The gastrointestinal system is affected by various factors like age, intestinal flora, inflammation, and underlying stress of medical conditions. The commonly observed symptoms in a patient with gastrointestinal disorders are heartburn or acid reflux, indigestion, bloating and flatulence, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and constipation.
What is Heartburn?
Heartburn is a cardinal condition that is a common symptom observed in patients with Gastro-esophageal reflux disease( GERD). The reflux or backflow of the gastric contents is quite common in some individuals. It is due to the occasional movement of the lower esophageal sphincter in the opposite direction. But when the regurgitation leads to the backflow of gastric and other secretive juices, it causes potential harm to the esophageal lining. Hydrochloric acid and proteolytic enzymes like pepsin and trypsin are the major cause of heartburn as their backflow in the esophagus promote cell damage and shredding. Heartburn is characterized by a burning agitation in the chest region and substernal pain that is sometimes accompanied by a feeling of chest tightness.
There are various underlying reasons that act as a contributory factor in the development of heartburn or acid reflux disease. Some of the common reasons are impeded gastric emptying, hiatal hernia, hampered relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter muscles, and abnormalities of the lower esophageal sphincter pressure. Nocturnal acid reflux is more prevalent in patients and elevates the risk of gastroesophageal reflux disease and heartburn. The acid reflux and heartburn greatly impact daily life as well as the quality of life of the patients. It majorly impedes physical activity, social relations, sleep, and productivity at the workplace.[2,3,4]
Treatment Options Of Heartburn
The treatment modality for heartburn and acid reflux condition can be broadly categorized as modification in lifestyle habits and the use of medicines to monitor the symptoms. Lifestyle modifications include alteration in food habits. Patients with heartburn have reported that certain foods like chocolate, spices, onion, sauces, citrus fruits, carbonated beverages, caffeinated drinks, alcohol, and tobacco exacerbate the condition.
Thus avoiding the consumption of these food items should be restricted in heartburn sufferers. The effects of the treatment proliferation when accompanied by medical therapy like proton pump inhibitors, antacids, histamine receptor antagonists, prokinetics, etc. Proton Pump Inhibitors are the most preferred choice of treatment by physicians nowadays, owing to its profound property of acid suppression
Apart from these approaches, there are various traditional medicines that have been used for ages to treat heartburn and other alimentary disorders. The common functional foods, herbal plants, spices, and condiments that are known for beneficial effects are ginger, fennel, onion, mustard, garlic, pepper, peppermint, anise, chamomile, dandelion, melissa, etc. These foods, when included in the diet, provide relief from the burning sensation in the sternum region and are natural home remedies for heartburn.
Mustard To Treat The Condition Of Heartburn And Acid Reflux
Mustard is a popular spice in Indian households that have been known for centuries because of its nutritional and medicinal values. Mustard seeds are rich in proteins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals. While it is primarily used as cooking oil, but, the folklore medicine has evidence of its use to cure a number of human ailments. Mustard belongs to the family Brassicaceae and has three major varieties- fellow, black, and brown.
Some of the major therapeutic properties of mustard oil and seeds are antimicrobial action, anti-inflammatory action, antidiabetic, as well as antimalarial action.
One of the important therapeutic advantages of mustard that contributes to the treatment modality of heartburn or acid reflux is its effect on digestive juices. Mustard is known to boost the secretion of the salivary gland to secrete ptyalin. Ptyalin is an amylolytic acid that is alkaline in nature. The alkaline nature of Ptyalin helps to neutralize the acid regurgitating in the upper part of the food tract. Thereby providing relief from acid reflux or heartburn. Besides stimulating the secretion of salivary glands, mustard also promotes the production of gastric juices and promotes appetite. A good appetite prevents excess acid production as well as its backflow in the esophagus.
Mustard seeds or the seeds of Brassica nigra, the black variant is rich in Sinigrin. Sinigrin is a natural compound of aliphatic glucosinolate found in all the plants of the Brassicaceae family. Several studies have been carried out to investigate the therapeutic properties exhibited by the chemical compound Sinigrin. The results have revealed that Sinigrin has anti-inflammatory, antitumor, antibacterial, antifungal, and wound healing properties. The major properties of the phytochemicals compound Sinigrin that is useful to relieve the conditions of acid reflux and heartburn are anti-inflammatory and wound healing benefits. Sinigrin exerts its effect on the mediators that are responsible for generating the inflammatory response in the body. An essay done by the ELISA method using calorimetry confirms the potent anti-inflammatory activity of Sinigrin. The phytochemicals compound helps to treat the Gastrointestinal reflux disease because of its wound healing properties. The excess secretion of the hydrochloric acid in GERD patients leads to erosion of the mucus layer of the stomach. It causes ulcers and wounds on the inner linings of the stomach and is also a leading causative factor for acid reflux and heartburn. Sinigrin promotes the healing of the ulcer wounds on the stomach and thus helps to reduce the symptoms of heartburn.
People in Argentina have started switching to the use of traditional plants and herbs to cure gastric ailments. The country has around 148 plant species that have been documented for their prospective use for the treatment of gastrointestinal ulcers, gastritis, heartburn, and acid reflux conditions. A study was initiated in Argentina to review and record all the ancestral knowledge accessible regarding the use of herbal drugs as gastroprotection, and gastric wound healing compounds. The study found pieces of evidence that mentioned Brassicaceae as a potent herbal treatment of gastritis. Gastritis is characterized by excess secretion of the hydrochloric acid in the stomach, which in turn, can lead to regurgitation of acid in the esophagus leading to the conditions of heartburn. It also has information about the plant having antiulcer properties. Thus, the plant has a testimony of effective use in acid reflux and gastric disorders not only in Indian Ayurvedic literature and folklore but also in countries like Argentina.
Every country has some native plants and herbs that act as regional treasures owing to their extensive therapeutic properties to cure a myriad of ailments. The indigenous plants with medicinal properties are rich in bioactive compounds. One such investigation was performed in the LakkiMarwat District of Pakistan to study the medicinal plants in their region. During the research, around 62 species of different flowering plants were collected from various parts of the region. The species belonged to 37 families and 57 genera being known for their use in ethnomedicine. The major families were Fabaceae, Brassicaceae, Apocynaceae, Solanaceae, etc. The major proportion of these species exhibited therapeutic properties to cure gastric disorders, followed by gastric and gynecological problems. Among the plants documented for gastric disorder treatment, Brassica rapa or mustard was one of the major species. It exhibited antispasmodic and anti flatulence properties. The spasmodic contraction of the esophagus can be a major causative factor for the backflow of acid in the upper food tract. It causes a feeling of heartburn, inflammation, and uneasiness. Thus, the antispasmodic property of mustard is useful in heartburn and acid reflux conditions.
Mustard As A Natural Household Remedy For Acid Reflux
The phytochemical component of mustard Sinigrin is subjected to encapsulation to form a suitable medium for treating the inflammatory conditions of the stomach like acid reflux and heartburn. But a majority of the treatments of acid reflux with mustard are home remedies. Some of them are as follows:
Eating Raw Mustard Paste Or Powder: Although mustard is least known when it comes to heartburn and gastric issues, eating a half teaspoon of yellow mustard or black mustard is highly effective. It has a quick effect on the regurgitated acid and chases it down to the stomach in just a few minutes.
Eating Mustard Seeds: Mustard is loaded with minerals and vinegar. Vinegar is a weak acid, but it is accompanied by an alkaline compound in the mustard seeds. The alkaline component in the mustard seeds helps to neutralize the effect of the hydrochloric acid, which has flowed back into the esophagus. Thus, it is advisable to chew down a teaspoon of mustard seeds when you feel sensations of upcoming heartburn, or you already have one.
Mustard in Diet: The use of mustard oil for cooking is good for patients suffering from acid reflux. Eating foods that contain mustard either in the form of paste, spice, or sauce is beneficial for heartburn patients.
Yellow Mustard And Buttermilk: The strong pungency of mustard might render it difficult for people to eat it raw. If you find it difficult to chew mustard seeds directly, mix two-three sons of yellow mustard powder or paste in buttermilk. It will help to mask the smell and provide relief from heartburn. You can also add some chopped cilantro, a pinch of asafoetida, and salt to improve the taste.
Honey and Mustard: You can make a heat burn relief drink by mixing two teaspoons of organic yellow mustard in a glass of lukewarm water with some honey in it. Regular consumption of this mixture will keep heartburn at bay.
Mustard Tea: Tea lovers can also chase away their heartburn problems by drinking mustard tea as a home remedy. You need to boil water and add some tea leaves. Then after a few minutes of boiling, add two teaspoons of mustard powder, followed by a quarter spoon of cinnamon powder, and finally half teaspoon of grated ginger. Furthermore, boil a little before straining. You can add a little amount of honey in your tea and drink regularly. You can also add a little amount of milk in the last stage or your choice.[12,13,14]
Other Measures To Combat Heartburn and Acid Reflux
Besides mustard, there are numerous herbal home remedies that can be used to treat heartburn and acid reflux. A few common therapies that help to soothe heartburn are as follows:
Aloe Vera: Aloe vera plant is one of the most cherished herbal plants all over the world. The anti-inflammatory characteristic of aloe vera juice helps to form a protective coating in the esophageal lining. The protective layer helps to prevent the regurgitation of acid from the stomach.
Bitter Foods: Bitter foods like dandelion greens and devil claws boosts the secretion of salivary enzymes and saliva in the buccal cavity. It helps to neutralize the acid and provides relief from heartburn.
Chamomile Tea: Chamomile tea is a natural anti-inflammatory agent. It helps to subdue the reflux from the stomach and improve digestion.
Lemon Balm Leaves: The condition of lemon balm leaves acts as a carminative and neutralizes the stomach acid
Ginger Root: Eating raw ginger root of sipping a warm brewed ginger tea with honey is a good remedy for heartburn that is popular among the western population.
Heartburn or acid reflux is a gastric disorder characterized by a feeling of pain, chest tightness, and a burning sensation in the upper digestive tract.
The most effective medicine for the treatment of acid reflux is a proton pump inhibitor, but when it comes to herbal home remedies, mustard proves to be a magical seed. The anti-inflammatory and wound healing properties of mustard have been documented in various traditional treatment modalities throughout the world. Various home remedies like tea, concoction, paste, or raw mustard seeds are highly beneficial for patients suffering from heartburn.
- Greenwood-Van Meerveld, B., Johnson, A. C., & Grundy, D. (2017). Gastrointestinal physiology and function. In Gastrointestinal Pharmacology (pp. 1-16). Springer, Cham.
- Castell, D. O., Murray, J. A., Tutuian, R., Orlando, R. C., & Arnold, R. (2004). the pathophysiology of gastro‐oesophageal reflux disease− oesophageal manifestations. Alimentary pharmacology & therapeutics, 20, 14-25.
- Boeckxstaens, G. E. E. (2007). the pathophysiology of gastro‐oesophageal reflux disease. Alimentary pharmacology& therapeutics, 26(2), 149-160.
- Lee, S. W., Lien, H. C., Lee, T. Y., Yang, S. S., Yeh, H. J., & Chang, C. S. (2014). Heartburn and regurgitation have different impacts on the life quality of patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease. World Journal of Gastroenterology: WJG, 20(34), 12277.
- Sandhu, D. S., &Fass, R. (2018). Current trends in the management of gastroesophageal reflux disease. Gut and liver, 12(1), 7.
- Valussi, M. (2012). Functional foods with digestion-enhancing properties. International journal of food sciences and nutrition, 63(sup1), 82-89.
- Sahu, M., Devi, S., Mishra, P., & Gupta, E. (2020). Mustard Is a Miracle Seed to Human Health. In Ethnopharmacological Investigation of Indian Spices (pp. 154-162). IGI Global.
- Thomas, J., Kuruvilla, K. M., &Hrideek, T. K. (2012). Mustard. In Handbook of herbs and spices (pp. 388-398). Woodhead Publishing.
- Mazumder, A., Dwivedi, A., & Du Plessis, J. (2016). Sinigrin and its therapeutic benefits. Molecules, 21(4), 416.
- Teves, M. R., Rotelli, A. E., Wendel, G. H., Paredes, J. D., Giraudo, E., Petenatti, M. E., & Pelzer, L. E. (2015). Records of medicinal plants utilized as gastroprotective and for treatment of gastrointestinal ulcers, gastritis, and heartburn in Argentina: a survey of the literature. Journal of herbs, spices & medicinal plants, 21(4), 333-371.
- Ullah, S., Khan, M. R., Shah, N. A., Shah, S. A., Majid, M., & Farooq, M. A. (2014). Ethnomedicinal plant use value in the LakkiMarwat District of Pakistan. Journal of ethnopharmacology, 158, 412-422.
- Minocha, A., & Carroll, D. (2003). Natural stomach care: treating and preventing digestive disorders using the best of Eastern and Western healing therapies. Penguin.