Natural Remedy for Acid Reflux
Gastroesophageal reflux (GER), commonly referred to as acid reflux, happens when the contents of the stomach splash up into the esophagus. Many people experience acid reflux occasionally, and while it may happen without causing symptoms, it often causes uncomfortable symptoms, including heart burn (acid indigestion). If you suffer from acid reflux more than twice per week, you may have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). GERD is a more severe, chronic condition whereby acid reflux causes repeated, disruptive symptoms, and may lead to complications over time, including esophagitis, esophageal stricture, Barrett’s esophagus and even complications outside of the esophagus. In this article, we will take a look at a natural remedy for acid reflex, as well as other treatment options.
Causes of Acid Reflux
The lower esophageal sphincter and diaphragm usually prevent acid reflex. However, if the lower esophageal sphincter is weakened, or if it relaxes when it shouldn’t, acid reflux may develop. There are various factors that affect the lower esophageal sphincter and lead to GER, or GERD, including:
- Hiatal hernia.
- Smoking, including second-hand smoke.
Additionally, there are medications that can cause GERD, or worsen symptoms of GERD, including:
- Calcium channel blockers.
- Tricyclic antidepressants.
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
- Certain asthma medications.
Treatment for Acid Reflux
There are a variety of over-the-counter and prescription medications that you can take to manage acid reflux symptoms, including:
- Antacids – helps to relieve mild heartburn and other mild symptoms of acid reflux.
- H2 blockers – helps to lower that amount of stomach acid your body makes. They also help the esophagus heal.
- Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) – helps to lower the amount of stomach acid your body makes. They also help the esophagus heal and tend to work better than H2 blockers.
Additional medications that may be prescribed include:
- Sucralfate – helps to form a protective film on the surface of the stomach and esophagus.
- Metoclopramide – encourages efficient contraction of the esophagus and emptying of the stomach.
Natural Remedies for Acid Reflux
There are also a variety of lifestyle changes and natural remedies you can try to manage symptoms of acid reflux.
1. Maintain a Healthy Weight
Acid reflux is more prevalent in adults who are overweight or obese. Excess weight, particularly around the abdominal area, puts excess pressure on the stomach, increasing the risk of acid reflux. Losing 1 to 2 pounds a week can help to reduce stress on the stomach and reduce the risk of acid reflux.
2. Identify and Avoid Your Food Triggers
There are various foods and drinks that are known to increase the risk of acid reflux, including:
- Fried foods.
- High-fat foods.
- Spicy foods.
- Tomato-based products.
- Citrus fruits and drinks.
- Carbonated beverages.
By reducing your consumption, or avoiding these foods completely, you may have fewer symptoms of acid reflux. Additionally, you may have other foods and drinks that trigger your symptoms, so keeping a food diary can help to identify these triggers.
3. Learn to Enjoy Your Food, Slowly
Eating quickly, as well as overeating, are associated with acid reflux. Be mindful when you are eating, slow down and listen to your body’s cues. Minimize distractions (avoid watching TV or scrolling through your phone) and chew each bite slowly and thoroughly.
4. Eat Smaller Meals
Larger meals increase the pressure on your lower esophageal sphincter, increasing the risk of acid reflux. Try eating smaller meals scattered throughout the day.
5. Avoid Laying Down After Eating
Laying down after eating can trigger acid reflux. Avoid laying down for at least three hours after eating. Elevating your head 4 to 6 inches and sleeping on your left side at night can also help to prevent nighttime symptoms.
6. Wear Loose-Fitting Clothes
Tight clothes put pressure on the stomach and can lead to acid reflux. Look for clothes that don’t fit snug around your waist and avoid wearing belts.
7. If You’re a Smoker — Quit
Nicotine can weaken the lower esophageal sphincter, which can lead to acid reflux. Quitting smoking may therefore lower your risk of acid reflux.
8. Learn to Manage Stress
Stress can trigger acid reflux symptoms in some individuals. Learning to manage stress appropriately may help to reduce the risk of suffering from acid reflux symptoms.
9. Consume Helpful Foods
Consuming a diet low in fat can help to reduce your risk of acid reflux symptoms, while consuming a diet high in protein and fiber can help to keep you full and prevent over-eating.
Chewing on non-mint gum can help to increase saliva in your mouth and decrease acid in the esophagus. Consuming the following foods may help to manage your acid reflux:
- Broccoli, green beans, cauliflower, asparagus, potatoes, leafy greens and cucumbers.
- Non-citrus fruits including apples, pears, bananas and melons.
- Egg whites.
- Lean meats including chicken and turkey, fish and seafood.
- Healthy fats including walnuts, avocados, olive oil, sunflower oil, sesame oil and flaxseed.
10. Try Herbal Remedies
Licorice, chamomile, marshmallow and slippery elm have been used for the treatment of acid reflux. Keep in mind that while these herbal remedies are often touted to help manage acid reflux, scientific studies on their use are limited. Further, they have the potential to interact with other medications you may be taking, so it is essential that you speak with your doctor before using them.
When Surgery is Necessary
If symptoms don’t improve with lifestyle changes and medicine, your doctor may recommend surgery to manage your symptoms and prevent complications. Surgical options include fundoplication, which involves sewing the top of the stomach around the end of the esophagus to increase pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter, helping to minimize acid reflux. Bariatric surgery may be recommended if you suffer from acid reflux due to obesity. In rare cases, endoscopy is used to either sew the top of the stomach around the lower esophageal sphincter, or to deliver radiofrequency energy to the lower esophageal sphincter.
Acid reflux can cause uncomfortable symptoms and be disruptive to your life. The good news is that in many cases, symptoms can be controlled with lifestyle changes and over-the-counter medication. However, if you are suffering with persistent symptoms of acid reflux, speak with your doctor as you may need prescription medication, or surgery to manage your symptoms.