Lois has over ten years' experience in the home/herbal remedy field. She seeks to inform her readers and help them save money.
Your lower esophageal sphincter plays an important role when you eat. It is like a door from your esophagus to your stomach that opens up that allows food to enter the stomach. It closes to prevent food and stomach acid from entering your esophagus. According to WebMD, Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) occurs when the “. . . esophageal sphincter (LES) doesn't close all the way or if it opens too often, acid produced by your stomach can move up into your esophagus." When you regurgitate food, it will not only leave a bad taste in your mouth, it will also cause irritation and pain and may even damage your esophagus.
GERD is basically known as acid reflux, heartburn, or indigestion. It happens when the acids build up in your stomach and travel upwards. Symptoms can range from slight discomfort under the breastbone to a severe pain. When a person does not know that he is suffering from heartburn, he may think that he is having a heart attack if the pain is bad enough. However, this has nothing to do with heart conditions. Since the burning sensation is located mostly by the breastbone, people tend to think it is the heart.
Acid reflux occurs when the gastric acids are regurgitated into the esophagus. This causes temporary or long-term damage to the wall that separates the stomach and the esophagus. When you have this condition you may notice pain in swallowing, nausea, or a bitter taste in your throat and mouth.
Acid reflux occurs by eating the wrong types of food. Spicy foods (such as tacos) and greasy foods are the main culprits, as well as drinking caffeinated, carbonated, and alcoholic beverages. Also, smoking and stress leads to acid reflux as well as taking certain medications. Pregnant women also suffer from acid reflux. Medications, too, have side effects. Check the ones that you are currently taking and see if heartburn or acid reflux is listed as a side effect.
Preventing Acid Reflux
Acid reflux can be avoided if you watch what you eat and do. If you skip greasy and spicy foods altogether, switch to decaffeinated coffee and tea, avoid beverages with alcohol and quit smoking, your symptoms will disappear. However, you may not want to stop eating the foods you like. Therefore, there are several steps you can take to reduce the discomforts of acid reflux.
- Do not overeat. Eat until you no longer feel hungry. Do not eat to the point where you are stuffed. It is better to eat more frequent meals that are smaller in size. When you are full to the point of bursting, you are putting extra pressure on your stomach. This pressure encourages acid reflux.
- Eat slowly rather than quickly. When you eat slowly rather than quickly the extra saliva you produce helps neutralize the acids in your stomach. Wait two hours after eating before you go to sleep. This not only helps you reduce the chance that you will get acid reflux, it will help you lose weight faster if you are trying to shed some extra pounds. If you are overweight, it is best to change your diet to lose weight since many people who suffer from acid reflux are overweight.
- Do not sleep flat on your back; use pillows to elevate your head.
- Eat foods that neutralize acid. If you eat foods that are acidic, include other foods in your meal that help absorb the excess acids. The best ones are bananas, bread, carrots and peas.
- Drink a glass of milk. Milk or buttermilk will provide a soothing comfort to your pain. However, do not drink milk or other dairy products right before you go to bed.
- Consume coconut oil. Coconut oil also provides a soothing effect on your acid reflux pain. Just taking a tablespoon a day works wonders.
- Include more fiber in your diet. Grains, fruits, and vegetables are good choices. However, avoid fruits and vegetables that have a higher acidic content. These include oranges, lemons. Pineapple, tomatoes, cauliflower, onions, broccoli, spinach and brussel sprouts. Including fiber as well as eight glasses of water a day helps get rid of the excess acids in your stomach.
- Watch what you wear. What you wear has a direct impact on acid reflux. When you are suffering from heartburn, look at the clothes you are wearing. Are you pants skin tight? Do you have a tight shirt on? When you wear tight-fitting clothes, they press against your abdomen causing the acid to move back up. It is best to wear loose-fitting clothes to reduce the chances of you suffering from acid reflux.
If you suffer from acid reflux, you can purchase many over-the-counter medications to help make the symptoms go away. If the pain is too severe, your doctor can prescribe stronger medications. However, since medications for acid reflux are not intended for long-term use, many people find out that acid reflux comes back once they stop taking the medications. If you prefer not to take any medications or just want to save money or want a safer alternative, there are also many home remedies that will help do wonders.
If you drink tea, put some ginger in it. To do this, boil a cup of water and put a ¼ inch piece of ginger in it. Cover the cup with a plate and allow it to steep for at least ten minutes. Add some honey for more health benefits. You can make the tea ahead of time and store it in your refrigerator. Just heat a cup in the microwave for forty-five seconds to a minute. You can also cut a small piece of ginger root and eat it right before your meals. You can find ginger in the spice section of your local grocery store. Another option is to buy ginger root at a health food store. With the spice, put a teaspoon of it in your tea. If you buy the root, dice it before adding it.
While mint tea does not get rid of the excess acids in your stomach, it helps sooth the stomach and eases reflux. Steep a teaspoon in a cup of hot water and add a teaspoon of honey if you want a sweeter tea. The best ones to use are peppermint, spearmint, lemon mint and winter mint. Some people do experience an upset stomach with mint and complain that their acid reflux gets worse after consuming mint. Try a cup at first and see how your body reacts.
Baking soda is another remedy. Since this is a base it neutralizes the acids in your stomach. Mix a teaspoon in a glass of warm water.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar has an acid in it that neutralizes the acids in your stomach. Mix a tablespoon with warm water. You can also just have an apple or a bowl of applesauce.
Drink water instead of carbonated beverages. Since you have damaged tissues in your esophagus, sodas and other drinks such as orange juice will not help. In fact, they may even do more damage. Water is good at repairing the damaged tissues. If you need to drink soda, go for ginger ale. As mentioned before, ginger plays wonders with acid reflux.
Mix two tablespoons of slippery elm root bark powder and a teaspoon of honey in an eight ounce glass of warm water. Drink it after you eat and just before you go to bed. You can add more honey if you want to improve the taste.
Chamomile contains anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic properties which are excellent in treating acid reflux. You can grow the plant in your backyard and pick three to four leaves and steep it in a cup of hot water and drink it as a tea. You can also purchase a herbal tea that contains chamomile in it.
When you hear the word marshmallow, you probably are thinking about the soft, squishy candy that you cook over campfires or make smores out of them. Believe it or not, the candy is actually made from the root of the marshmallow plant, or Althaea officinalis. The marshmallow plant is excellent for treating acid reflux. Add a teaspoon of the root or leaf to a cup of hot water and drink as a tea.
The flavoring of licorice comes from the root of Glycyrrhiza glabra. This plant helps settle your stomach because of its calming properties. You can purchase licorice in many health food stores in capsules, tinctures, extracts, and roots. If you like the candy itself, it is best to purchase it at a health food store since it contains real licorice rather than artificially flavored licorice.
Aloe vera plays wonders in relieving acid reflux. While many people think of also vera when it comes to external body lotions, you can also purchase it as a consumable juice. Many health food store and several grocery chains, such as Wegmans, sell this. While drinking two to three cups of aloe vera juice a day is enough to relieve your stomach, you can add other juices, such as carrot, apple or banana for added benefits.
Lifestyle Considerations to Reduce Acid Reflux
Stress, anxiety, and acid reflux go hand in hand. Many of us have a busy lifestyle. Sometimes it may be a demanding job where we have to meet deadlines, work long hours and so on. Other times it is a busy home life with keeping up with children’s activities such as school programs, PTA meetings, and sporting events while meeting the demands of the spouse, paying bills and cleaning house.
Some of us may be able to keep up with the demands and view the stress in a positive way. However, your body, including the digestive system, does not respond to stress well. Therefore, you want to include anti-anxiety herbs in your daily diet. Two excellent herbs are skullcap and valerian which contain calming and relaxing properties. You can add a tablespoon of one of the herbs to a cup of water, allow it to steep for 15 minutes and drink it as a tea. You can also purchase these as tinctures or capsules at your local health food store. However, since these herbs contain calming and relaxing properties, read the daily recommended usage-which is usually up to three times a day, and do not exceed it. These herbs can cause drowsiness. Therefore, do not take if you operate heavy machinery or drive long distances.
Also just by taking a break from the stress and leaving time for you to relax with a good book or movie does your body wonders. Exercise is an excellent stress buster. This does not mean exercising once in a while. You must exercise at least four days a week. While you might not have the time or convenience to join a gym, you can exercise right in your home. Doing things like walking instead of driving the car, walking up the stairs instead of using the elevator and doing basic exercises-such as crunches and squats-will help lower your stress. When you include more activity in your life you will experience less stress than those who lead a sedentary lifestyle. The less stress you have, the less chance that you will suffer from acid reflux.
Chances are you will be the victim of acid reflux at least once in your life. Do not let it control you. When you feel that burning sensation, remember the simple home remedies that can cure it. Always use common sense with any home remedy. Make sure you follow the recommended dosages. If your pain does not go away, or goes away and keeps coming back, and is too severe for you to handle, call your doctor. If you are having difficulty swallowing, make an appointment with your doctor since be suffering from esophagitis, which is an inflammation of your esophagus. Remember these are remedies for acid reflux, not medical treatment.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2017 Lois Ryan
Lois Ryan (author) from Binghamton NY on November 22, 2017:
I get it once in a while too, and it's usually from something I ate. I get the heartburn more often and usually a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar helps.
Catherine Giordano from Orlando Florida on November 22, 2017:
I do have acid reflux once in a while. Your advice is very good. I try to eat a light meal in the evening and never eat anything after 8pm. Sometimes I have chamomile tea and ginger-lemon tea at night. I also arrange my pillows so that my head is slightly raised while I sleep.