Acid reflux, to my surprise, is something so many people I talk to suffer from. Every time they eat they suffer from that burn. Are you one of them? The other surprise, people just aren’t popping tums anymore they are on daily prescribed medication for the rest of their lives to control the burn. Acid reflux is no joke for those who suffer from it.
Can acid reflux be cured for all…maybe not but for some yes! If you follow the natural guidelines below you can do a really good job of minimizing your symptoms. The more severe your condition, the bigger the challenge to feel better. But you can!
What is Acid Reflux?
More than 20% of Americans experience the unpleasantries of acid reflux every day. What causes it? During digestion, the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) located at the end of the esophagus opens up to allow food to pass into the stomach. After the food passes into the stomach it closes. In many cases with heartburn the LES has weakened or become more relaxed and therefore is now allowing contents from the stomach to flow back up into the esophagus therefore causing heartburn or acid reflux.
GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) is a more severe form of acid reflux. It’s much more than just the occasional heartburn. It’s always been thought that when you have GERD you are experiencing chronic and consistent acid reflux therefore leading to increased risk for damage to the esophagus lining, ulcers in the esophagus and esophageal cancer. There is a now a new theory, and it’s getting much more attention. Most note worthy, studies are showing that GERD is the product of an immune reaction called inflammation not necessarily the acid reflux itself. Inflammation usually stems from poor gut health.
Traditional treatment for acid reflux is over the counter (OTC) or prescription medication. These types of medications are used to prevent or block the production of stomach acid. If you have less stomach acid you have less acid coming back up into the esophagus and less symptoms and discomfort. Although the symptoms and discomfort of acid reflux are relieved, the medication is just treating the symptom not treating the underlying problem. Typically, if you are finding relief with using medications, your physician will recommend staying on them for years and sometimes indefinitely despite the fact that GERD can many times be treated through nutrition, supplementation (if needed) and lifestyle changes. Consequently, medications do not come without side effects.
Other Thoughts on What Can Cause Acid Reflux
- Hiatal Hernia
- Eating large meals
- Eating right before bed
- High stress levels
- Dietary habits
- Food sensitivities or allergies
- Altered gut health/leaky gut syndrome
- SIBO (small intestinal bacteria overgrowth) *gas/bloating from the bacteria can put pressure upwards on the stomach
- Drinking large quantities of liquid right before bed
Acid Reflux Foods To Avoid
Foods that weaken the LES
- Coffee (with or without caffeine) and caffeinated beverages
- Fatty or fried foods (also cause delayed gastric emptying which leads to acid reflux)
Foods that irritate and inflame the esophagus
- Tomatoes (processed products such as tomato juice, pasta and pizza sauces are highly acidic)
- Citrus fruits and fruit juices (orange, grapefruit, and pineapple have a high acid content)
- Alcohol (also known to weaken the esophageal sphincter)
- Carbonated beverages (gas/burping can put pressure upwards on the stomach)
- Spicy foods or black pepper
How To Cure Acid Reflux Naturally with Nutrition and Lifestyle
Inflammation and Food
A study published in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) May 2016 suggests that “gastrointestinal reflux disease may be caused by an immune reaction, rather than direct chemical injury from stomach acids.”
So What Foods Cause Inflammation?
It’s important to take a look at your diet. What are you eating? If you have a diet high in inflammatory foods you need to start cutting them out of your diet. Following a general anti-inflammatory diet above all can help decrease inflammation in the body and lessen that burn every time you eat. Inflammatory foods are:
- Processed foods, fast foods
Well, what do you eat now? Anti-inflammatory foods for your new acid reflux diet. Anti-inflammatory foods are:
- Vegetables (all colors and varieties)
- Healthy Fats (avocado, nuts and olive oil)
- Bone Broth
- Probiotic Foods: cultured veggies, kefir and kombucha (if tolerated)
As mentioned earlier, one of the things that can cause GERD are food sensitivities/allergies (allergies are different from food sensitivities in that they are typically immediate and severe to the point of being life threatening). Food sensitivities trigger an immune response when a particular food is eaten therefore can result in chronic low grade inflammation.
Common food sensitivities include gluten and dairy but really anyone can be sensitive to any food, including those foods we would consider “healthy or anti-inflammatory.” Because of this it can be difficult to figure out what foods trigger symptoms. Food sensitivity testing and elimination diets can be very helpful in identifying and removing those foods that cause unpleasant symptoms. Once you are able to identify and remove these foods you can start to calm down your immune system, decrease inflammation and feel better.
Making changes to your lifestyle can be as beneficial as making changes to your diet
- Eat snack-sized small meals, for example 5 per day
- Slow down at mealtime and chew your food thoroughly
- Do not eat 2-3 hours before bedtime
- Do not drink large amounts of liquid 2-3 hours before bedtime (small amounts to wet your palate is okay)
- Drink most of your liquids between meals
- Keep upright at least 30 minutes after meals
- Raise the head of your bed 6-12 inches up when sleeping
- Avoid tight fitting clothes, this can put pressure on your abdomen
- Decrease life stressors
- Stop smoking!
Lastly, the following supplements are options to help heal the GI tract, fight inflammation and support immunity. If you need suggestions for a “clean” brand email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, I’d be happy to help.
- Probiotics: supply healthy bacteria that aid in healing both the digestive system and immunity
- L-Glutamine: aid in healing the digestive system
- Licorice root (DGL): may form a protective coating that decreases damage to the esophagus and stomach and allowing the lining of the esophagus to heal if needed
- Vitamin C: enhances/supports immunity and acts as an antioxidant
Because symptoms of GERD can mimic other digestive issues it’s wise to visit your gastroenterologist to rule out any other illnesses. It doesn’t hurt to discuss treatment options even if in the end you choose to make changes to your nutrition and lifestyle habits before a trial of medication.
Starting out with natural remedies such as nutrition and lifestyle changes can certainly make a huge impact on how you feel by decreasing symptoms and discomfort. For that reason I encourage you to work on decreasing chronic inflammation (especially inflammation in the esophagus) by starting with an anti-inflammatory diet, identify your food sensitivities, avoid trigger foods, lose weight (if needed), quit smoking and manage any stressors in your life.
If you have had success curing your acid reflux or GERD please tell me below what worked for you. I’d love to know!
Lastly, I have put together a Free handout to help you with your acid reflux or GERD called the 5-Steps To Immediately Improve Gut Health! Once you have downloaded your FREE handout if you still have questions, don’t hesitate to reach out for a free 20 minute consultation or fill out the contact form on my website so we can connect. You can also check out my 5-R protocol blog for additional information.