How Prevalent is Indigestion / Acid Reflux and GERD?
Available data shows that acid reflux affects about 50% of Americans. So what is acid Reflux? The major symptom of acid reflux which is also commonly referred to as GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), is actually heartburn, which itself is often referred to as indigestion. It is a burning sensation behind the breastbone that sometimes travels up to the throat and can enter the back of the throat causing a sour tasting burning sensation in the mouth. Most adults experience heartburn or indigestion pain during their lifetime. Contrary to the conventional beliefs that acid reflux was caused by excessive amounts of stomach acid; it is actually an indigestion symptom that is mostly related to a hiatal hernia and/or Helicobacter pylori infection. The pain that is associated with acid reflux can actually be so severe that it could be mistaken for a heart attack.
The Technical Definition: Indigestion Caused by Acid Reflux / GERD
As soon as food passes through your esophagus and finds its way into the stomach, a muscular valve which is called the lower esophagus sphincter closes. This closure prevents food or stomach acids from moving back up. When the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) relaxes inappropriately, it allows stomach acid to flow (reflux) back into the esophagus. The World Health Organization (WHO) has actually identified H. pylori bacteria as a Group 1 carcinogen. Although the two conditions are unrelated, most people experiencing hiatal hernia also have H. pylori and this leads to chronic low-level inflammation of the stomach lining which could result in an ulcer and the associated symptoms.
Common Risk Factors for Acid Reflux Disease
There are certain conditions or factors that could lead to the increased chance of you experiencing acid reflux disease. Some of them include:
- Being obese or overweight
- Snacking close to your bedtime
- Lying down immediately after your meals or eating large meals
- There are certain foods that could cause acid reflux. Fatty or spicy foods, tomato, mint, garlic, chocolate, citrus and onions
- Certain beverages such as carbonated drinks, tea or coffee
- Pregnancy can lead to acid reflux
- Certain drugs such as ibuprofen, aspirin, blood pressure medications and certain muscle relaxers
Common Indigestion Symptoms Caused by Acid Reflux / GRED
There are several symptoms of acid reflux, however, the common ones can be found below:
- Regurgitation- This is when a sour or bitter-tasting acid backs up into your mouth or throat with an immediate stinging sensation
- Heartburn or Indigestion- A burning discomfort or pain that may likely move from your stomach to your chest or abdomen and could also move up to your throat
- Dysphagia- It is the narrowing of your esophagus which leads to a sensation of food being stuck in your throat
- Weight loss can occur
- Excessive burping
- Hiccups that usually won’t let up
- Wheezing, hoarseness, dry cough or a chronic sore throat
Natural Indigestion Cures for Acid Reflux / GRED
There are more than 16,000 articles found in the medical literature which suggests that suppressing stomach acid does not really address acid reflux. It can only treat the symptoms temporarily. Basically, the starting point towards eliminating acid indigestion or heartburn is to try and restore your natural gastric balance and function through a “bland” diet which is often referred to as reflux diet or GERD diet.
Rather than eating processed foods, you should eat a lot of vegetables, unprocessed foods, and other high-quality organic foods. It is also helpful if you eliminate food triggers such as nicotine products, caffeine, and alcohol to help you stick to your reflux diet. Another important step towards eliminating acid reflux is to get sufficient beneficial bacteria from your diet. Having enough beneficial bacteria will help to balance your bowel flora which can help you to naturally eliminate H. pylori bacteria without using antibiotics.
Ingesting enough beneficial bacteria will also aid in the proper assimilation of food in your body. In order to get the beneficial bacteria, you will need to get probiotics from fermented foods or you can supplement with probiotics regularly. There are several cultured foods and beverages that you also need to introduce to your diet, each of these foods will inoculate your gut with several micro-organisms. You can also easily make the following fermented foods at home:
- Fermented vegetables
- Fish like Swedish gravlax and mackerel
- Cultured dairy such as sour cream, kefir, and yogurt.
Other natural remedies that could also help to eliminate acid reflux and heartburn include:
- Aloe Juice- The Aloe juice that is extracted from aloe plant can help to reduce inflammation. This may ease the symptoms of acid reflux. You can drink ½ cup of aloe vera juice before your meals. In order to avoid the laxative effect, you can search for a brand that has eliminated the laxative component
- Raw and Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar- You can also improve the content of acid in your stomach by simply taking one tablespoon of raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar in one large glass of clean water
- Chamomile Tea or Ginger Root- It has been discovered that ginger has gastroprotective effect by blocking acid and also suppressing helicobacter pylon. Simply add two or three slices of fresh ginger roots to two cups of hot clean water. Allow it to steep for about half an hour then drink it 30 minutes before your meal. You can also try a cup of chamomile tea before bed to soothe stomach inflammation
- Chinese Herbs for Treating “Gu” Symptoms- The Gu symptoms include digestive issues that are related to inflammation and pathogenic infestation. You can also treat acid reflux with the Chinese herbs for treating Gu symptoms
- Vitamin D- Vitamin D is crucial when it comes to addressing infectious component. As soon as the vitamin D level in your body is optimized, you will also optimize the production of approximately 200 antimicrobial peptides which will aid your body in eradicating any infection. You can easily increase your vitamin D levels by exposing yourself to the appropriate amount of sun or through safe tanning bed
- Baking Soda- Adding half or one teaspoon of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) into an eight-ounce glass of clean water may actually ease the burn you get from acid reflux because it will help to neutralize stomach acid. However, this remedy is not recommended as a regular solution but can be used when there is an emergency especially when you are experiencing excruciating pain
- Do not Lie Down, Chin Up- It has been observed that heartburn indigestion symptoms tend to worsen at night. This is because you lie down when sleeping and gravity works against you, making it much easier for the digested contents of your stomach to flow back to your esophagus along with the acid in your stomach. When sleeping, try to elevate your head about 6 inches by placing books or bricks under the legs at the head of your bed. You should not just pile up extra pillows because it is very easy to slip off at night. Rather, you can use a wedge-shaped pillow under your mattress. Try not to lie down within 3-4 hours after eating a meal, lying with a full stomach will make the content of your stomach press harder against your lower esophageal sphincter
- Avoid Tight Clothes- When things are secured tightly around your waist, it can actually worsen heartburn. You should avoid very tight jeans especially when you sit down because the waistband will definitely sink into your abdomen region. This also applies to tight belts and shirts. The shirts exert extra pressure on your lower esophageal sphincter increasing the possibility of stomach acid being pushed through leading to reflux
Acid Reflux / GERD Diary
Although tracking your triggers requires dedication, time and energy, it may likely be the solution that will keep acid reflux completely away from your body. Rather than focusing on taking over-the-counter medications to stop the acid, you can maintain a small diary that will help you record what you ate or drank prior to developing indigestion symptoms. You can also track your activities and what you were wearing. You should watch what you eat, taking note of the possible food triggers. Observe how you eat too, avoid the intake of large mouthfuls of food, rather, take small bites and eat slowly. This will give your stomach time to digest what you have eaten and help prevent possibly pushing the stomach acid into your esophagus. Finally, observe when you eat, avoid eating 3-4 hours before bed since lying down could increase the likelihood of your stomach acid flowing back into your esophagus.
What Has Worked For Me Battling Acid Reflux / GERD
I have had good luck with following: bland indigestion / acid reflux / GERD diet since I was diagnosed with this aliment in 2006. Using the diary system I have learned which food will increase the likelihood of my indigestion symptoms flaring up. I have learned that it's okay to eat the foods that aggravate my acid reflux condition as long as I do it in moderation and it's not an everyday occurrence. The foods that will trigger my acid reflux condition are:
- Spaghetti due to the red sauce (I go lite on the sauce now)
- Chocolate (in any form, ice cream, candy bars, etc)
- Citrus (moderate amount is okay but I cant over due it)
- Large amounts of "junk food" (the unrefined sugar)
Additionally, if I lay down after eating a big meal or having the foods listed above, my acid reflux will flare up. When you pay attention to what triggers your symptoms it doesn't take long to identify the antagonizing foods. I have noticed that if I consistently have the foods that aggravate my acid reflux symptoms then the indigestion pain worsens in severity and length of occurrence. If I only had some chocolate the symptoms might just be mild indigestion, but if the next day I have another "trigger" food my symptoms will be worse and this cycle will continue until the stomach acids eventually feed back up into my esophagus and "burn" my throat and mouth. Once I have the burning effect happen I become very strict with my diet until I get the acid reflux back under control.
The best natural indigestion remedy that works for me is mixing 1 tablespoon of raw apple vinegar into my morning and evening glass of Fresca. The Fresca masks the taste of the apple vinegar. Do not drink the apple vinegar without diluting it in some type of liquid as it will burn your throat.