Like many of my patients, you may include spicy foods, chocolate, and alcohol in your diet on occasion and may wake up in the middle of the night with a 3-alarm fire in your belly! You run for the fizzy tablets, or chew a few of those big pills or do a few tablespoons of those chalky acid remedies, but often times they just don’t work. Well, take heart, let me share with you what I advise my patients about how to neutralize acid the natural way.
Prevent Excess Stomach Acid
My patients know that I’m a firm believer in prevention medicine. So, in order to talk about how to get rid of excess acid, I’d first like to tell you how to prevent excess acid from occurring to begin with.
Like most of my patients, before you hit 40, you probably could eat or drink anything and it didn’t come back to haunt you in the middle of the night with a case of acid stomach. However, when we pass the age of 40, our metabolisms slow down and this affects how well we digest our food and how fast we’re able to move it through our digestive tract.
As I advise my patients, as you get older, you need to give your slower metabolisms and digestive systems a little help especially before you head off to bed for the night. Here are some things you can do:
- Stay Relaxed: Stress, tension and heavy, spicy foods don’t mix. Although it happens every day, many business and life changing decisions are made over lunch and dinner and they may be the source of your late night acid attacks.
- Down-size your meals: If you are dining out, you can eat smaller portions of the same spicy, heavier food you want to enjoy. Smaller amounts allow you to digest faster. Perhaps share the entrée with your dinner mate, or take half home to enjoy the next day.
- Have a digestivo: These are very small shots of alcoholic, fermented liqueurs that promote digestion. Italian varieties include limoncello, made from lemons (and vodka) which are alkaline and prevent acid. Sip these slowly to promote relaxation and digestion.
- Digestive Teas: Asian teas like oolong and ginger help digest heavier fats and starches.
- Digestive enzymes: Many over-40 people do not produce enough hydrochloric acid and/or other digestive enzymes to digest their food properly. Choose one that contains beet juice which is high in hydrochloric acid and helps break down fats and starches.
- Limit High Acid Foods: These typically are animal meats, butter, cheese, citrus fruits, chocolate, coffee, starches. An occasional indulgence is okay, but balance with lower pH foods too.
- Add Alkaline Foods: On occasion you can still indulge in some spicy, fried or fatty foods if you remember to balance their high pH with some “cooler” low pH foods like avocado, soy or almond milk, a salad with greens, cucumbers, and beets, vegetables like asparagus, artichokes, bok choy, Brussels sprouts.
- Try Licorice: Deglycirrhized licorice, buy it at health food stores, chewed 15-20 minutes before eating can help you prevent excess stomach acid.
- Get some exercise. Walk at a moderate pace for at least 20-30 minutes. It revs up your metabolism and helps digest your food faster. It’ll also help you sleep better later. Regular aerobic exercise also helps keep the stomach muscles toned to aid digestion.
- Postpone bedtime: If you’re going to be eating later than your usual dinner time, move your bedtime later 2-3 hours as well. Also helpful, use an extra pillow to elevate your head so acid stays in your stomach instead of washing up into your esophagus and throat.
- Drink Water: My patients are often surprised to know that dehydration can also contribute to excess stomach acid. Be sure to stay well hydrated by drinking enough water throughout the day. 90 ounces for women and 110 ounces for men, plus add an extra cup of water for every cup of coffee or caffeinated beverage you drink.
Natural Remedies To Neutralize Acid
If despite all your best efforts at preventing excess acid you still are troubled with it, here are a few natural, non-drug things you can do to help get rid of it when it occurs:
- Drink water: At the first sign of burning acid, start drinking cool water. This helps dilute the acid and keep it from burning so badly. It also helps flush it and undigested food out of your stomach.
- Baking soda: You may add ½ tsp of baking soda to a large glass of cold water. Baking soda is alkaline and helps neutralize stomach acid.
- Green Apple: This may not work for everyone, but many people swear by eating a “Granny Smith” type, very tart apple. The high concentration of malic acid in the apple helps neutralize stomach acid.
- Apple Cider Vinegar: Similarly, “ACV”, or apple cider vinegar, 1-2 tsp in a large glass of cold water is another natural remedy for excess stomach acid. The acid in the vinegar counteracts the acid in your stomach.
Getting an uncomfortable bout of stomach acid at any time of day is no fun. However, by making an effort in your dietary habits and lifestyle, such as suggested here, you should be able to keep excess acid attacks to a minimum.
If you continue to have excess stomach acid despite your efforts at prevention, please consult your doctor for an evaluation. You may actually have a bacterial infection like H.pylori in your stomach, or food allergies, other intestinal conditions, even diabetes, which may be triggering the excess acid bouts.
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.
Photo Credit: buzzle