Acid reflux is not an uncommon health problem as many people are affected by it. The most apparent symptom is heartburn. It begins as a burning sensation that is often felt behind the breastbone which then usually travels travel up the throat. At times, this condition can be so severe that it can be mistaken for heartburn.
Some health experts believe that it is caused by excessive amounts of acid in the stomach, while others say that the problem is as a result of too little acid in the stomach.
Acid blocking drugs are often prescribed for the condition, but there are other safe and effective alternatives.
As food passes along the esophagus into the stomach, a valve known as the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), shuts. This prevents stomach acid and food from moving back up.
When the lower esophageal sphincter relaxes in an inappropriate way, acid from the stomach backs up into the esophagus. The stomach is not producing too much acid, but the normal amount of acid is simply backing up into the esophagus.
Acid reflux is related to hiatal hernia or Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori). These two conditions are not related, yet people who have one usually have the other.
H. pylori cause low-level stomach inflammation which results in the other symptoms. A diagnosis of acid reflux is usually confirmed with an Endoscopy.
Common Acid Reflux Symptoms
The most obvious and widely complained symptom of acid reflux is heartburn. Burning pain or other discomforts may move from your stomach to your chest. The throat can even be affected.
Stomach acid backs up from the stomach into the esophagus. Often, the pain that results can be mistaken for a heart attack.
Consult a physician to confirm that the pain you are feeling is only heartburn and nothing more.
Regurgitation is the backflow of stomach acid into the throat and mouth. One may experience a bitter or sour taste in the mouth. Vomiting can also occur with regurgitation.
People have reported that regurgitation gave them a feeling as if they could not breathe. Others have stated even choking on the stomach acid that back flowed into the throat and mouth.
People who experience acid reflux often display signs of dyspepsia. Dyspepsia is a term for stomach discomfort.
Symptoms include burping, upper abdominal pain and discomfort, nausea after eating, and stomach bloating.
4. Bloody Stool and Vomiting
Acid reflux can affect regular bowel movements which can turn out to be black, bloody or both. If you see signs of these symptoms for an extended period, you might have acid reflux.
Vomiting and nausea are other unpleasant and common signs that can be related to acid reflux; however, they can be symptoms of other issues as well.
Another issue that can be as a result of acid reflux is dysphagia. It occurs when the esophagus narrows, and there is a sensation of food being stuck in the throat. Dysphagia can be very frustrating and scary.
When a person experiences dysphagia, swallowing will be difficult. Several factors can contribute to this condition. The functioning nerves of the mouth, pharynx, and upper esophageal sphincter malfunction and result in dysphagia. The malfunctioning of these nerves is usually attributed to acid reflux.
Other causes can lead to dysphagia besides acid reflux. Sometimes the nerves and muscles in the mouth and throat simply become sensitive.
6. Coughing, Wheezing, or Sore Throat
These signs can indicate respiratory issues, but acid reflux can cause these problems as well.
The backing up of stomach acid into the esophagus and throat for long periods can irritate the lining of the throat and esophagus.
This sensation can feel as if you are catching some respiratory infection or cold.
This is not really a common symptom of acid reflux as most people have hiccups at least a few times during their lifetime for no specific reasons. What makes some cases of hiccups unusual is the fact that they never seem to stop— extending for a long period of time.
Hiccups occur as the result of issues with the diaphragm. The stomach sits below the diaphragm. When stomach contents come up to the esophagus, the diaphragm can be upset. Involuntary contractions can cause irregular breathing as well as interaction with the vocal cords.
The pressure to the diaphragm must be relieved for the hiccups to stop. One way to accomplish this is to try deep breathing—holding your breath for 30 seconds and exhale. Repeat the process a few times.
Sipping on water is another way to help get rid of the hiccups. Cold water is the best to drink for hiccups because it is believed that cold water relaxes the diaphragm and relieves the esophagus.
8. Unexplained Weight Loss
If tremendous weight loss experienced for no explainable reason can be as a result of acid reflux. In severe cases, food eventually stops staying down, and the individual vomits due to irritation of the esophagus.
How to Treat Acid Reflux Naturally
It is best not to leave these symptoms untreated. If a diagnosis of acid reflux is confirmed, there are a variety of natural treatments available.
Stomach acid can damage the esophagus which leads to other serious health issues. Cells in the esophagus can be altered which leads to cancer.
Making some alterations to your lifestyle can make all the difference you need. However, natural strategies are available to help you treat this condition effectively.
1. Ginger Root Tea
Ginger has a gastroprotective effect. It blocks acid and suppresses H. pylori. [R]
Add two or three slices of fresh ginger root to two cups of hot water. It should steep for about thirty minutes. Drink it about twenty minutes before eating. [R]
2. Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)
Since acid reflux can result from having too little acid in your stomach, you can improve your condition by drinking raw and unfiltered apple cider vinegar (with the mother).
ACV can also help balance the stomach’s pH levels, thus, neutralizing stomach acid. Combine one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in a glass of water. [R]
3. Aloe Vera
Juice from the aloe plant naturally reduces inflammation meaning it reduces the symptoms of acid reflux.
It has been suggested that drinking a half-cup of aloe juice before meals will prevent any unpleasant symptoms associated with acid reflux.
4. Baking Soda
One teaspoon of baking soda in an eight-ounce glass can relieve acid reflux. It neutralizes stomach acid. [R]
Baking soda should not be used regularly, but if you are having a horrible episode of acid reflux, it will bring almost immediate relief.
5. Chamomile Tea
Drinking chamomile tea before going to bed can soothe the stomach and help reduce stress. You will rest better and lessen stress-related episodes of acid reflux.
6. Glutamine-Rich Foods
Glutamine can address issues associated with heartburn flare-ups. It also supports a healthy intestinal tract and keep inflammation at bay. [R]
The following are Glutamine-rich foods:
- Seafood such as fish and mussel
- Vegetables like red cabbage, spirulina, parsley, Asparagus, and broccoli
- Nuts like almonds, walnuts, and pistachios.
7. Folate-Rich Foods
Folic acid intake has been found to reduce bouts of acid reflux. Folate is found in foods such as beans, okra, leafy greens, beets, asparagus, and Brussels sprouts, papaya, and nuts and seeds.
8. Slippery Elm
Slippery elm is soothing as it coats the throat, stomach, and intestines. It contains antioxidants and addresses bowel issues. [R]
Slippery elm stimulates nerve endings in the gastrointestinal tract which will protect against ulcers and excess acidity.
9. Vitamin D
Vitamin D can address any infectious issue. Sun exposure is the best way to get the appropriate amount of Vitamin D.
10. Licorice Root
Licorice can treat indigestion as it is anti-inflammatory that can calm muscle spasms in the gastrointestinal tract.
A tea can be made adding one teaspoon of dried licorice root to 4-8 ounces of boiling water. Let it steep for 5 minutes and allow to cool.
Licorice root can also be chewed for relief.
11. Fennel Seeds
These little guys are rich in vitamins and minerals and have been known and used by the world for many years to aid with digestion.
Seep crushed fennel seeds into boiling water for a tea and sip it after a meal.
12. Kudzu (Japanese Arrowroot)
Kudzu is a Chinese remedy that has been used for years for the treatment of heartburn. Combining kudzu with apple juice has been said to settle the stomach. [R]
13. Lemon Water
Lemon water can improve ingestion as it can neutralize stomach acid. Make a soothing concoction by mixing one tablespoon of lemon juice in warm water. Let it sit for a few minutes then drink.
These are some other tips to avoid acid reflux:
- Sleep in an upright position: Sleeping in an upright position will keep digestive acids in your stomach. Avoid bending over after a meal.
- Stay on your left side while sleeping: It has been suggested that favoring your left side when you sleep keeps acid from coming back up into the esophagus.
- Avoid overeating: Eating smaller portions of foods makes the digestion process more relaxed, regulating the production of digestive enzymes.
- Quit smoking: Smoking has said to be a cause of acid reflux. It causes the sphincter to relax and acid to rise.
What to Eat
Although parsley is generally used for decoration, this herb can do so much more than look pretty. It has been a traditional treatment for stomach issues over the years.
Fresh ginger can soothe an acid ridden esophagus and stomach. Use it in cooking meats, when making drinks, and as suggested above, in tea form.
Organic Almond Milk
You can find many good brands of organic almond milk such as Pacific Foods, 365, and Kirkland Signature in health food stores or on Amazon.
Oatmeal is a whole grain that is high in fiber, but it is not acidic. Consuming organic oatmeal can relieve acid reflux symptoms.
Kimchi is a Korean staple that is made from fermented vegetables. It is also loaded with natural probiotics. These factors are favorable for the reduction of acid reflux.
Cabbage, the main ingredient in Kimchi, also has alkaline properties. [R]
What to Avoid
Below are some of the foods to avoid when you have acid reflux.
Citrus fruits are usually the ones that irritate the stomach of a person with acid reflux. Oranges, grapefruits, lemons, and limes are the main culprits. Tomatoes should be avoided if possible.
Coffee, alcohol, tea, carbonated beverages, citrus, and tomato juices should be avoided. Even without caffeine, coffee can irritate acid reflux symptoms. Only consume beverages that you tolerate well.
High Fat and Fried Foods
Fatty foods delay the emptying of your stomach which can cause issues with acid. Decreasing your fat intake can reduce the risk of acid reflux.
The following foods should be avoided:
- Deep fried onion rings
- French fries
- Creams and sauces
- High-fat sour cream
- Whole milk
- High-fat red meat
- High-fat and creamy salad dressings
Foods that are hot, contain chili powder or barbecue sauces can cause extreme issues with acid reflux.
Occasional exposure to these foods does not always cause acid to rise to the throat and esophagus. Overdoing these can create stomach issues.
Always pay attention to how you feel after eating certain foods.
Other Foods and Supplements
Chocolate, processed foods, iron, potassium, nitrates, theophylline, bisphosphonates, alpha blockers, calcium channel blockers, and antibiotics are foods and supplements that can irritate acid reflux symptoms.