Gas, burping, bloating: all are signs of acid reflux, acommon (and also very painful) digestive issue that occurs when the acid from the stomach rises into the esophagus.
In your stomach, gastric acid is a good thing: it activates digestive enzymes while at the same time destroying and preventing harmful pathogens from entering your intestinal tract.
Without stomach acid, we wouldn’t be able to digest, absorb, or assimilate nutrients – and we’d likely all end up with bacterial infections.
Normally, stomach acid stays in your stomach. But when you have acid reflux, it moves up towards your esophagus. This movement produces a painful burning sessions because your upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract isn’t protected from the harsh effects of the acid, while your stomach’s lining is.
To help you better manage and protect against the painful symptoms associated with acid reflux, I put together a list of 9 natural home remedies.
But before we get into acid reflux remedies, let’s take a look at the symptoms, causes, and long-term effects of acid reflux.
Who gets GERD?
Anyone can have GERD. Women, men, infants and children can all experience this disorder. Overweight people and pregnant women are particularly susceptible because of the pressure on their stomachs. Recent studies indicate that GERD may often be overlooked in infants and children. In infants and children, GERD can cause repeated vomiting, coughing, and other respiratory problems such as sore throat and ear infections. Most infants grow out of GERD by the time they are one year old.
Tips to Prevent GERD
- Do not drink alcohol
- Lose weight
- Quit smoking
- Limit problem foods such as:
- Carbonated drinks
- Tomato and citrus foods
- Fatty and fried foods
- Wear loose clothing
- Eat small meals, and slowly
What causes GERD?
Physical causes of GERD can include: a malfunctioning or abnormal lower esophageal sphincter muscle (LES), hiatal hernia, abnormal esophageal contractions, and slow emptying of the stomach.
Lifestyle factors that contribute to GERD include:
- alcohol use
Certain foods can contribute to GERD, such as:
- citrus fruits
- caffeinated drinks
- fatty and fried foods
- garlic and onions
- mint flavorings (especially peppermint)
- spicy foods
- tomato-based foods, like spaghetti sauce, chili, and pizza
Symptoms of Acid Reflux
Since acid reflux is a condition that affects the digestive tract, other symptoms that are linked to poor digestion are commonly found with it.
These symptoms include:
- Dysbiosis (an overgrowth of bad bacteria)
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD)
- Diarrhea or Constipation
- Bad breath
- Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
- Frequent colds or flus (a sign of a weakened immune system)
- Difficulty swallowing your food
- A sour taste in your mouth (caused by stomach acid)
- Chest pain or heartburn
Since acid reflux impairs your body’s ability to absorb essential nutrients for your health, many other (and more serious) symptoms can result if long-term acid reflux (also known as GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease) goes without being treated.
Acid reflux is diagnosed as GERD if the symptoms regularly occur more than twice per week.
Diet and Lifestyle Issues
Low stomach acid is primarily linked to dietary and lifestyle factors.
Chronic stress, smoking, a diet high in refined sugar, frequent antibiotic use (hint: this is why prescription drugs for acid reflux can do more harm than good), eating while multi-tasking or when upset, and consuming too much alcohol can all contribute to low stomach acid production.
Acid reflux can also occur during pregnancy, due to fluctuating hormone levels (3).
Acid reflux is not only an unpleasant condition that reduces the overall quality of your everyday life, but it can also become dangerous if left untreated – and that’s to say the underlying root cause has not been addressed, not that symptoms have been covered with a prescription drug.
Unresolved acid reflux can lead to a weakened immune system, asthma, permanent scarring and tissue damage, and in serious cases, esophageal cancer.
Why is Acid Reflux Worse at Night?
If you have acid reflux and notice it gets worse at night there could be two reasons: one, eating late at night and two, lying down while your body is digesting.
First off, the amount of stomach acid you produce decreases throughout the day, so your lowest levels of stomach acid are at night. If you eat a late meal and are already prone to acid reflux, the symptoms may become aggravated.
Second, if you’re lying down, simple body mechanics means that it’s easier for the stomach acid to travel to your esophagus.
To help combat nighttime acid reflux, try having your largest meal earlier in the day (or eat smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day to reduce the amount of stomach acid needed) and avoid lying down right after meals – sit upright instead.
Even if the symptoms of acid reflux are worse after a meal and you feel the need to lay down, lying horizontally will only make it worse.
Things to Avoid
There are specific foods that are known to aggravate symptoms of acid reflux in some people. This either due to a high acidity content (such as coffee or tomatoes), or because they can deplete stomach acid (such as ice cold water with meals or alcohol).
If you commonly experience acid reflux, try eliminating these foods/activities and see if you notice a difference:
- Garlic, Raw Onions, Spicy Food
- Ice Cold Water with Meals
- Refined Sugar
Lifestyle Cures for Acid Relux
In addition to the 9 natural remedies listed above, taking routine measures to help improve your overall health can also promote healing of the underlying cause of acid reflux, and further prevent the occurrence of symptoms.
Actions I recommend taking each day for optimal health include;
- Drinking plenty of water
- Including probiotics in your diet
- Managing stress levels
- Eating without distractions
- Chewing your food thoroughly.
These actions will not only be great for your health, but might help cut back on your symptoms, as well.
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Techniques for Managing Acid Reflux
There are several things you can do to reduce acid reflux symptoms. Following these guidelines may even help eliminate symptoms entirely. Talk to your Nashville gastrointestinal specialist at St. Thomas Medical Group to learn more about the lifestyle changes that may be most appropriate for managing your acid reflux.
- Maintain a healthy weight. One study found that women who gained 10-20 pounds had a 3x increase in heartburn symptoms. Losing even just a few pounds (if overweight) may help reduce your symptoms.
- Avoid food/drink triggers. Fatty and fried foods, garlic, onion, mint, tomato sauce, alcohol and caffeine can trigger acid reflux.
- Eat smaller portions. Large meals fill the stomach, causing more pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter.
- Don’t lie down after eating. Eat dinner earlier or purchase a wedge-shaped pillow to prop yourself up if you must lie down after eating.
- Don’t smoke. Smoking can contribute to acid reflux symptoms. If you do smoke, talk to your doctor at St. Thomas Medical Group about quitting.
- Monitor symptoms with a journal. Keep a journal that records what you eat and drink, as well as when you experience heartburn symptoms. By keeping records, you and your physician may be able to identify avoidable triggers.
Upper Endoscopy for GERD Treatment
In some cases, your gastroenterologist may recommend an upper endoscopy for diagnosing and treating GERD. During this procedure, frequently performed at our Gastroenterology Endoscopy Center, a small flexible endoscope is inserted through the mouth to explore and gather images of the upper digestive tract. Patients are sedated during this procedure, which can take five to twenty minutes to complete.
Learn more about upper endoscopy, pricing, and outcomes.
See a Gastrointestinal Specialist In Nashville
Meet our gastroenterologists at St. Thomas Medical Group. For scheduling information, please call +1 (615) 297-2700. You can also request an appointment online.