Acid reflux symptoms, diet & treatment

Acid reflux symptoms, diet & treatment
January 26 12:59 2017

Between 25 percent and 40 percent of Americans of all ages suffer from acid reflux symptoms, and an estimated 20 percent of adults experience gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD, a more severe case of acid reflux) weekly or daily. (1) Acid reflux causes include pregnancy, hiatal hernias, an unhealthy diet and an imbalance of stomach acid, all of which can result in the regurgitation of acid that causes the unpleasant symptoms of acid reflux. (2)

The lower esophageal sphincter is supposed to close as soon as food passes through. However, if it doesn’t close all the way, acid can creep up and begin to cause problems. (3) Acid reflux remedies can help to balance stomach acid and relieve acid reflux symptoms.

If it’s not treated properly, acid reflux can cause severe long-term damage and easing the symptoms temporarily is not a cure. Due to regurgitation of acid, scarring of tissue in the lower esophagus can result in the narrowing of the esophagus, Barrett’s Esophagus (a serious complication of GERD), cancer of the esophagus and chronic coughs. (4)

Rather than cure the symptoms, over-the-counter and prescription medications for acid reflux only suppress symptoms temporarily. Notorious side effects of these medications include headaches, muscle cramps, rapid heart rate and digestive upset.

Continued use of these medications can lead to serious nutrient deficiencies including in levels of vitamin B12, calcium and magnesium. (5) They can also contribute to poor digestion, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), depression, anemia and fatigue. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, gastric acid suppression medications is associated with an increased risk of C. difficile infections. (6)

C. difficile infections can be life-threatening, and present initially with abdominal pain and diarrhea. Most individuals that are diagnosed with C. difficilie have low levels of healthy bacteria in the gut because of prolonged antibiotic use, or have digestive tract problems, including GERD and acid reflux that’s been treated with proton-pump inhibitors. (7)

Acid Reflux Symptoms

The symptoms of acid reflux and GERD must be treated by changes in diet to avoid long-term complications. Don’t ignore your body trying to alert you to a problem in your digestive tract! If you experience any of the following acid reflux symptoms below, it’s vital that you change your diet, make necessary lifestyle changes and add acid reflux–fighting supplements to your diet.

Acid reflux and GERD symptoms include:

  • Heartburn
  • Bitter taste in mouth, periodically, or throughout the day
  • Waking up choking or coughing in the middle of the night
  • Dry mouth
  • Gum irritation, including tenderness and bleeding
  • Bad breath
  • Regurgitation of acid or foods
  • Bloating after meals and during bouts of symptoms
  • Nausea
  • Bloody vomiting (possible sign of damage in lining of esophagus)
  • Black stools
  • Belching after meals
  • Hiccups that are difficult to stop
  • Difficulty swallowing (possible sign of narrowing esophagus)
  • Unexpected weight loss
  • Discomfort worsens when bending over, or laying down
  • Hoarseness upon arising or throughout the day
  • Chronic throat irritation, soreness and dryness

Root Causes of Acid Reflux Symptoms

Contrary to popular belief (and what pharmaceutical companies say in advertisements), acid reflux symptoms are not caused by too much acid in the stomach. In fact, studies show that not enough stomach acid often causes symptoms. Without proper levels of acid, digestion is labored, often causing unpleasant symptoms.

  • Hiatal hernias can also cause the unpleasant symptoms of acid reflux. The diaphragm helps to separate the stomach from the chest; a hiatal hernia is when the upper part of the stomach protrudes above the diaphragm, allowing acid to escape. (8)
  • During pregnancy, the baby can put extra pressure on the esophageal valve, causing the release of acid and symptoms of acid reflux. Elevating the head during sleep, sipping herbal teas and eating smaller meals can help.
  • Much like pregnancy, being overweight or obese can put extra pressure on the valves and sphincter that allow release of acid. In addition, obesity is often associated with low levels of stomach acid.
  • Large meals are a culprit, as is snacking too close to bedtime. An overly full stomach places excessive pressure on the diaphragm, causing acid to leech out.
  • Smoking cigarettes impairs muscle reflexes and increases production of acid, and it should be avoided for anyone suffering from acid reflux.
  • Certain medications including ibuprofen, muscle relaxers, some blood pressure prescriptions and aspirin can cause acid reflux and GERD. Read warning labels and discuss alternatives with your physician.
  • Heartburn can be the first system of an H. pylori infection that is common in two-thirds of the population. Left untreated, this infection can cause stomach cancer. (9)
  • Even excessive exercise can cause acid reflux by putting extra pressure in the abdominal cavity. This includes running and other aerobic high-impact exercises. (10)
  • Magnesium deficiency can lead to improper functioning of the sphincter that prevents acid from escaping.

Acid Reflux Diet

Virtually every research study done on GERD and acid reflux points to diet as a contributing factor. While everyone’s gut is different and has different food sensitivities as well as triggers for acid reflux, there’s some repeat offenders that cause acid reflux symptoms. (11)

Here are the foods that make acid reflux worse:

  • Alcohol
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Energy drinks
  • Sugar
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Fried foods
  • Vegetable oils, including canola oil
  • Spicy foods
  • Processed foods
  • Corn and potato chips
  • Chocolate
  • Tomatoes and tomato products
  • Creamy/oily prepared salad dressings
  • Mint and peppermint
  • Grains

And here are the foods that improve acid reflux:

The GAPS diet focuses on whole foods that treat IBS, leaky gut, ADHD and many other conditions. A diet rich in fresh organic vegetables, free-range chicken and grass-fed beef, and bone broth can help to reduce symptoms associated with acid reflux. In addition, it’s important to add aloe vera, parsley, ginger and fennel. (12)

Also, be sure to include the following foods:

  • Kefir and yogurt help balance healthy bacteria in the stomach, aiding in digestion and soothing the digestive tract. Select products that have live and active cultures that have been fermented for 24 hours.
  • Bone broth made from grass-fed beef, slow cooked to extract essential compounds including collagen, glutamine, proline and glycine.
  • Fermented vegetables including kimchi and sauerkraut.
  • Kombucha packed with healthy bacteria and probiotics.
  • Apple cider vinegar helps to balance stomach acid and lessen the symptoms of acid reflux. Mix one tablespoon of raw apple cider vinegar with a cup of water and drink five minutes prior to eating.
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Artichokes
  • Asparagus
  • Cucumbers
  • Pumpkin and other squash
  • Wild-caught tuna and salmon
  • Healthy fats including coconut oil and ghee
  • Raw cow’s milk cheese
  • Almonds
  • Honey

For good digestive health and overall health and wellness, it’s important to select organic foods free from GMOs. Nearly one-third of the population suffers from digestive disorders and diseases, including IBS, Crohn’s, celiac and acid reflux. Many chronic conditions are linked to digestive health.

Increasing fiber intake, supporting healthy bacteria with probiotic rich foods and supplements, reducing grains, and eating high-quality protein will help protect the digestive tract, balance hormonal function and help to prevent many serious chronic diseases.

Best Supplements for Acid Reflux Symptoms

In addition to eating a healthy diet of foods that help to soothe the symptoms of acid reflux and GERD, it’s important to add natural supplements to your diet.

  • Digestive Enzymes – take one or two capsules of a high-quality digestive enzyme at the start of each meal. They help foods fully digest and nutrients absorb properly.
  • Probiotics – take 25–50 billion units of high-quality probiotics daily. Adding healthy bacteria helps to balance the digestive tracts and crowd out bad bacteria that can lead to indigestion, leaky gut and poor absorption of nutrients.
  • HCL with Pepsin – take one 650 milligram pill prior to each meal. Add additional pills as necessary to keep uncomfortable symptoms at bay.
  • Chamomile tea – sip one cup of chamomile tea prior to bed sweetened with raw honey. Chamomile tea helps to reduce inflammation in the digestive tract, supporting healthy functioning.
  • Ginger tea – boil a one-inch piece of fresh ginger in 10 ounces of water for 10 minutes. Sweeten with honey and sip after meals or prior to bed. Ginger is used for digestive support around the globe. If you don’t have fresh ginger on hand, a high-quality ginger supplement in capsule form taken at the onset of symptoms can help soothe.
  • Papaya leaf tea – papain, an enzyme in papaya, aids in digestion by breaking down proteins. If fresh organic, non-GMO papaya is not available, organic papaya leaf tea is a good alternative. Eat one cup of fresh papaya at the onset of acid reflux symptoms or sip a cup of tea prior to bed.
  • Magnesium complex supplement – take 400 milligrams of a high-quality magnesium supplement twice per day. As mentioned above, being deficient in magnesium can cause improper sphincter functioning resulting in GERD symptoms. Magnesium is shown to be effective at treating heartburn. (13)
  • L-Glutamine – take five grams of glutamine powder twice per day with meals. Numerous research studies show that it helps to heal leaky gut and benefits both ulcerative colitis and IBS. (14)
  • Melatonin – take six milligrams each evening. Research indicates that melatonin levels in individuals with acid reflux are significantly lower than individuals without acid reflux. Approximately 50 percent of individuals that take melatonin for 12 weeks had symptoms improve or go away. (15)

Best Natural Treatments for Acid Reflux Symptoms

Curing acid reflux and GERD requires a multi-prong approach. Eating a healthy diet, avoiding food triggers and taking the right supplements can help. In addition, there are many people that find relief from other natural treatments.

Low stomach acid and poor digestion, however, will not be cured overnight. It’s essential to find the combination of protocols that are best for you personally. Ongoing research is focusing not just on pharmaceutical drugs for relief of acid reflux, but also on lifestyle modifications, including change in diet, acupuncture, yoga, exercise, weight loss and alternative therapies.

  • Coconut water – is high in potassium and electrolytes that help to keep the body hydrated. Sip coconut water throughout the day and drink a glass before bed to help keep acid reflux at bay. Coconut water can also be made into kefir, which adds additional healthy probiotics into the stomach that individuals with acid reflux desperately need.
  • Coconut oil – take one tablespoon of coconut oil daily, spread on sprouted grain bread or incorporated into other foods. The lauric acid and other natural compounds help to fight inflammation, to boost immunity and to kill candida.
  • Lemon and Lemon Essential Oil – add a slice of organic fresh lemon to your water each day. You can also add a drop or two of lemon essential oil to water, or place one drop on your tongue, swish and swallow.
  • Raise the head of the bed 4–6 inches – use blocks to raise the bed, not just pillows. Propping up your head with just pillows can cause neck problems. Raising your head at night can help keep acid in the stomach and relieve symptoms of acid reflux and GERD. There is an ongoing research study testing sleep positions and their effect on acid reflux symptoms at night. (16)
  • Manage stress – stress worsens symptoms of acid reflux and it’s important to start incorporating relaxation techniques into your daily routine. This may include yoga, meditation, art therapy or whatever helps you effectively manage stress.
  • Acupressure – certain reflex points at the base of the rib cage are associated with digestion and can help relieve the symptoms.
  • Don’t overeat – eat smaller meals to allow foods to properly digest. Large meals and overeating puts extra pressure on the sphincter, which in turn can result in regurgitation of acid and undigested foods.
  • Don’t rely on drugs — as mentioned above, prescription medications only temporarily treat the symptoms. For long-term relief, you must adjust your diet.
  • Exercise – exercise moderately, as studies have shown that rigorous exercise and running can agitate the digestive tract and cause acid reflux. Exercise earlier in the day.
  • Smoking – if you smoke, stop.
  • Alcohol – individuals with acid reflux disease can benefit from giving up alcohol.
  • Clothing – avoid tight-fitting clothing and belts, especially during mealtime.
  • Don’t consume food three hours prior to bed — allow your stomach to digest the foods from the meal and sip an herbal tea with honey to soothe digestive upset.
  • Chew foods thoroughly — most people today don’t chew their food enough; remember, digestion starts in the mouth. The more you breakdown food prior to swallowing, the easier your stomach will be able to digest it.

Now I hope you have a much better understanding of acid reflux symptoms as well as those associated with GERD, plus the potential dietary and natural ways to treat this uncomfortable, life-altering disorder.


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