I can’t count all the times patients have come to me with acid reflux complaints! With the fast foods, sodas, and chocolate-laced coffee drinks we grab all too often, along with late night eating, the opportunities to create too much stomach acid have become part of our daily routine!
Did you know, however, that by following a few simple guidelines and using some natural, non-drug remedies, that you can get rid of acid reflux for good? That’s right, and you don’t need to take prescription, or over-the-counter acid reducers that can have side effects and are expensive!
What Is Acid Reflux?
A few hours after eating your favorite spaghetti marinara, chocolate cake and coffee for dessert, you start burping up hot, sour liquid into your throat. Sounds like you? If so, you know what acid reflux feels like. Do you know, however, what causes it to occur? Allow me to explain.
When we eat, digestive acids work to digest food in our stomach. At the base of our stomach, there is a structure called the lower esophageal sphincter, or LES, a valve that opens and shuts letting acid-digested food pass out of our stomach into our small intestine.
However, if we eat heavy, oily, acidic dishes, these foods can cause the LES to relax and not close properly. Digestive acids in our stomach then reflux, or come back up the esophagus. The burp and burn sensation is acid traveling up, rather than down, the digestive tract.
Symptoms of Acid Reflux
All of us can have indigestion or heartburn once in a while from eating spicy food or drinking too much coffee, tea, alcohol, or soda. However, the following are common symptoms associated more with acid reflux than the occasional indigestion:
- Regurgitation of a burning, sour liquid in the back of your throat or mouth.
- Heartburn that seems to move from your stomach into your chest or throat.
- Painful swallowing from narrowing of the esophagus.
In addition, there are some other related symptoms of acid reflux that might surprise you:
- Chronic hiccups, burping – you swallow more trying to keep regurgitated food down.
- Chronic cough – acid droplets can aspirate or enter the lungs causing coughing.
- Chronic sore throat – acid can cause inflammation and pain of the throat tissues.
- Chronic hoarseness or “hot potato” voice – acid can affect your vocal chords as well.
- Bloody stool – acid can cause irritation and bleeding along the digestive tract.
- Sinus congestion – mucus protects the lining of your sinuses. Acid can back so far up the throat that it stimulates mucus production in response to the irritating agent.
Things That Aggravate Acid Reflux
As I’ve mentioned above, acid reflux can be painful. In addition, it can also damage the entire digestive tract from your throat down! It causes chronically inflamed tissues that can leave you susceptible to ulcers and even cancer! Let’s look at some things that can aggravate acid reflux:
- Food offenders – tomato, chocolate, mint, garlic, onions, heavy oils.
- Eating late, or lying down after a heavy meal – best to go for a 20 minute walk before retiring to help food empty out of the stomach.
- Muscle relaxants – like ibuprofen, also relax the LES muscles and keep the valve open.
- Aspirin – causes irritation of the stomach.
- Smoking – nicotine stimulates digestive juices to flow.
- Drinks – coffee, alcohol, tea, carbonated beverages all can increase acid production.
- Certain health conditions – like diabetes, pregnancy, stress can aggravate acid reflux.
Banish Acid Reflux with Natural Remedies
As I tell my patients, preventing acid reflux needs to be done on both a long and short-term basis. In the long-term, avoid, or limit, the unhealthy offenders listed above. In the short-term, these easy-to-do, simple, natural remedies can help you get through a bout of excess acid!
- Green, “Granny Smith” apple – the strong malic acid in these apples helps counteract sour digestive acids and soothe irritation. Eat the entire apple.
- Apple Cider Vinegar – A natural, “kitchen medicine” cure for acid reflux. 2 tablespoons good quality apple cider vinegar in cool water has given much relief.
- Drink cooled, Chinese oolong tea – helps break down heavy fats, digest food, neutralize acids, and move food out of the stomach faster.
- Take Licorice – deglycyrrhized licorice lozenges found in health food stores stimulates production of mucus that protects the digestive tract. The anti-inflammatory properties heal inflamed tissues and prevent further damage to the digestive tract.
- Take Ginger – long used for digestive upsets, tea or lozenges (found in health food stores), helps neutralize digestive acids.
- Drink Aloe Vera Juice – ½ cup 20 minutes before eating. Be sure the aloe vera you use is for internal consumption. Anti-inflammatory soothes the digestive tract.
- Drink plain, filtered water – at onset of acid. Water dilutes the acid and helps move digested food out of the stomach.
- Mila – a high Omega-3 fat natural food/seed from the Chia plant. Absorbs 7-10 times its weight in liquid. Drinking 1/3 cup Mila gel at onset of acid quells the burning pain.
Acid reflux can be a painful, sometimes chronic, condition that can lead to serious health issues. What aggravates it for one person may not for another. Avoiding, or limiting, things that create too much acid for you will help stop acid reflux. In addition, trying some of the natural remedies listed here can help you banish acid reflux without the dangerous side effects of drugs!
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.