Many people suffer from it, but do you REALLY know why? Acid reflux happens because at the entrance of the stomach there is a valve, or a ring of muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter or LES. Normally, the LES closes as soon as food passes through it, but if the LES doesn't close all the way, or if it opens too often, acid produced in the stomach can move up into your esophagus.
This increase in pressure will cause acid reflux, however, other issues such as being overweight, lying down after eating a large meal, pregnancy, alcohol, leaky gut and certain acidic trigger foods can also lead to acid reflux and heartburn. If acid reflux symptoms happen more than twice a week, you have acid reflux disease, that is also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
If you want relief from acid reflux fast, you must address these root causes. In this article I will summarize some helpful information, symptoms and tips to minimize or cure the pain and discomfort associated with acid reflux or heartburn, and get you feeling normal again.
Symptoms of Acid Reflux Disease
Common symptoms of acid reflux are:
- Heartburn: a burning pain or discomfort that may move from your stomach to your abdomen or chest, or even up into your throat
- Regurgitation: a sour or bitter-tasting acid backing up into your throat or mouth
- Bloody or black stools or bloody vomiting
- Dysphagia -- a narrowing of your esophagus, which creates the sensation of food being stuck in your throat
- Hiccups that don't let up
- Weight loss for no known reason
- Wheezing, dry cough, hoarseness, or chronic sore throat
What Causes Acid Reflux
First of all, too much stomach acid is NOT the cause of acid reflux, the primary cause is that acid enters the esophagus due to a leaky valve. There are a variety of reasons that this happens, but typically the valve that connects the esophagus and stomach is unable to close properly, which allows gastric juices to “sneak back up the pipe”. Some common causes include:
- esophagus. However, if the upper part of the gut moves above this muscle that separates the chest from the stomach, acid can leak through.
- Being Overweight or Obese – Extra body weight can cause acid reflux by increasing pressure on the esophageal valve and may also be linked to low stomach acid.
- Too Little Acid – Possibly surprisingly enough, too little stomach acid causes a slew of GI issues (like leaky gut) that contribute to acid reflux.
- Eating Too Much Before Bed -Eating a lot too close to bedtime, then laying down puts your body in a position that is abnormal for digestion.
- Excessive Exercise – Doing lots of long distance cardiovascular exercise like marathons can make it harder to digest the food you eat.
- Pregnancy – The excess pressure from a growing fetus can be too much for the esophageal valve.
- Smoking – This habit damages the mucus membranes, impairs muscle reflexes, increase acid secretion, and reduce salivation smoking can lead to acid reflux.
- Taking Medications – Drugs like aspirin, ibroprofen, muscle relaxers, blood pressure medications, steroids and anti-biotic drugs can damage the gut lining causing acid reflux.
Foods To Fight Acid Reflux
When looking for acid reflux cures you will want to first change your diet. There are specific foods that are essential to natural treatment of acid reflux including:
- Aloe Vera – Aloe Vera Juice helps with acid/alkaline balance of the digestive system and reduces yeast fermentation. Yeast fermentation occurs when there is an overgrowth of the normal yeast balance in our gut causing a fermentation process that leads to an increase of intra-abdominal pressure.
- Organic Chicken or Turkey – These meats are low in fat and easy to digest, just make sure you chew it well before swallowing in order to activate the proper enzymes, which aid in digestion.
- Fish & Seafood – Seafood is very helpful for reflux, but it should be baked, grilled, or sautéed, never fried. Shrimp, lobster, and other shellfish are also good choices, but be sure to get Wild fish, not the farm-raised variety.
- Oatmeal – Oatmeal is just about the best breakfast and any-time-of-day snack or meal recommended by The Reflux Diet. It’s filling and doesn’t cause reflux.
- Couscous & Brown Rice – Couscous (semolina wheat), bulgur wheat, and brown rice are all outstanding foods for acid reflux. Remember, a complex carbohydrate is a good carbohydrate!
- Apple Cider Vinegar – Mix 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar with one ounce of water about 10-20 minutes before a meal.
- Probiotics – These aid digestion. Choose a probiotic with soil based microrganisms and lactobacillus strains.
- Ginger – In moderation, ginger is one of the best foods for acid reflux. It has been used throughout history as an anti-inflammatory and as a treatment for gastrointestinal conditions.
- Salad – You could do worse than to eat a salad every day. Salad is a primary meal for acid refluxers, although tomatoes and onions should be avoided, as well as cheese and high-fat dressings.
- Roots & Greens – Cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus, green beans, and other greens are all great foods for acid reflux. Essentially all of the green and the root vegetables are recommended for people following this diet.
- Celery – Celery has almost no calories because of its high water content, and is a good choice if you have acid reflux. It is also an appetite suppressant and excellent source of roughage.
- Bananas – Bananas make a great snack, and at pH 5.6, they’re usually great for people with acid reflux. However, about 1% of acid refluxers find that their condition is worsened by bananas. So keep in mind that what works for most people may not work for you.
- Melon – Melon (pH 6.1) is good for acid reflux. However, as with bananas, a small percentage (1% to 2%) of those with acid reflux need to avoid it. Also included in the good-for-reflux category are honeydew, cantaloupe, and watermelon.
- Parsley – This fantastic herb has been used for thousands of years to settle the stomach and help with digestion.
- Fennel – A perennial herb that is also categorized as a vegetable, has been shown to improve stomach function by balancing pH. Add fennel to soups and salads as a delicious way to consume this important herb.
- Alcohol – Leads to inflammation and puts stress on the liver.
- Tomatoes – Contains two types of acids: citric acid and malic acid. Both are triggers for acid reflux. The cells in our stomach, known as parietal cells, create an acid that naturally lines the stomach to break down foods that have been eaten or are sitting in the stomach. For some, the consumption of tomatoes adds more of acid than the stomach needs and this gets backed up into the esophagus causing acid reflux.
- Citrus Fruits – As with tomatoes, citrus fruits also contain citric acid. This can trigger acid reflux when our stomach has excess citric acid produced by the parietal cells in our stomach. This acid is used to break down the foods that we eat, however; too much citric acid will cause a back up into the esophagus and cause acid reflux.
- Carbonated Beverages – Affects digestive system in negative way increasing growth of yeast and bad bacteria.
- Refined Sugar & Carbohydrates – These cause bacterial overgrowth and candida.
Acid Reflux Foods to Avoid
If you want to reduce acid reflux there are certain foods that must be avoided including:
Tips to Alleviate Acid Reflux
Chew Food Well & Take Time While You Eat
Most of us just swallow food without really taking time to chew it properly. Thoroughly chewing foods will send messages to the rest of the gastrointestinal system to begin the digestive process. When our food is not properly broken down it becomes prone to bacteria, leading to indigestion.
Being overweight is a major contributor to heartburn, making overweight individuals twice as likely to suffer from symptoms of GERD as are people at a healthy weight. Extra weight increases pressure on the stomach, causing a backflow. Body fat may also release chemicals that interfere with normal digestion. The good news is that research shows that losing even a small amount of weight can help relieve symptoms and control heartburn.
Incorporate Moderate Exercise
The key word here is moderate. As I mentioned above, vigorous exercises like running can agitate the digestive tract and provoke reflux. However, incorporating moderate, low-impact exercises such as walking and lifting is actually beneficial (and keeps you upright, allowing gravity to aid digestion). Exercise can also help you lose weight, which can dramatically reduce the severity of heartburn. To minimize the risk of symptoms, wait at least two hours after eating to work out, and avoid store bought sports drinks that can aggravate reflux due to their acidity. If you're a beginner, start slow and build up to at least 30 minutes of walking most days of the week.
Cut The BAD Fats
Stop eating out. Lay off the chicken wings, fried foods, deep-dish pizza, and marbled steak. High-fat meals like these relax the LES, delaying stomach emptying, and making it more likely to experience reflux. Diet staples should consist of lean proteins like skinless poultry, seafood, beans, and lean cuts of red meat, paired with fiber-rich produce and whole grains.
Wear Loose Fitting Clothing
Avoid anything tight around your middle, as it can put pressure on your stomach, creating more discomfort and pain. Until your symptoms are under control, think stretchy and comfortable!
Chew Cinnamon Gum After Meals
Chewing gum stimulates saliva production, which helps to neutralize stomach acid. Gum chewing also encourages frequent swallowing, which clears the acid from the esophagus more quickly. Make sure to choose non-mint flavors, as peppermint and spearmint can relax the LES and exacerbate symptoms. Pick up cinnamon or fruit flavors instead.