Acid reflux affects babies, children and adults. It is a debilitating condition for some and is often linked to the food or drinks you consume. When people are diagnosed with acid reflux, they start to wonder what it really means. Just how dangerous is this condition for your health?
After that, they want to know how to stop it. The good news is you can stop acid reflux with your diet. There are also many other options, whether you want a homoeopathic remedy, an over the counter product, or don’t mind medical options.
Here’s all you need to know about acid reflux and how to stop or prevent it.
What Exactly Is Acid Reflux?
Acid reflux can also be referred to as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or heartburn. Many people only realise they have it when they feel a burning sensation in their chest. For some, it is just a temporary problem and quickly resolved. Others find they have to deal with it on a daily basis, finding ways to manage the pain and discomfort.
It occurs because the valve to your stomach doesn’t close properly. It needs to open to allow food into the stomach and then should close to prevent any of the stomach acid going back up. When it doesn’t close, the stomach acid can leak through into the oesophagus.
Sometimes the problem is linked to the valve opening too often. The food hasn’t quite finished digesting, or you’re not actually eating anything, but the valve opens and allows acid out of the stomach.
Another cause of acid reflux is when people suffer from a hiatal hernia. This is when the stomach partially moves above the diaphragm. The valve follows, and the diaphragm can’t help to keep the acid inside the stomach. You get the same symptoms of acid reflux, but they are symptoms of the problem.
Why Does Acid Reflux Occur
The most common reason to suffer from GERD is the valve problem. This can occur because you have eaten big meals or because you lie down straight after eating. The body struggles to digest food, and the acid can move in the wrong direction.
Those who are overweight or obese are also more likely to suffer because their stomach isn’t able to make space for all the food to digest. Pregnant women also find they have heartburn, especially later in pregnancy. Hormonal changes and the growing baby are linked to this issue. Once you give birth, you’ll likely find that the heartburn completely disappears.
Certain foods cause GERD, and we’ll look into these in more detail later. For now, be aware that anything with citrus, garlic and onions, spicy and fatty foods, and chocolate can all lead to acid reflux. You may also find coffee and tea, carbonated drinks, and alcohol is also a problem.
Those who are on certain medications may also suffer from the problem. You’ll need to discuss the risk of the side effect with your doctor, especially if your take blood thinning medication.
Knowing the Symptoms of Acid Reflux
Before you can work on preventing it, you need to know if you definitely have GERD. You’ll also need to make sure that it’s not a symptom of another problem.
Most of the time you’ll be able to self-diagnose acid reflux. You’ll feel a burning feeling in your chest, usually referred to as heartburn. This is the acid attacking the oesophagus. Sometimes, you may feel this burning feeling in your throat, depending on how high up the acid has been able to travel.
Regurgitation is another common problem, and you’ll usually feel like you’ve brought up your stomach acid. This is just the acid being allowed to get further up the chest and into the mouth. Try not to swallow anything back down, as you’ll just feel the pain on the way back down. The best thing to do is to spit it all out.
Some people feel like they burp much more often due to the acid and gas in their chests. They can also feel bloated, or have hiccups that just don’t stop. You may feel nauseous, and even find that you lose weight without even trying since your body doesn’t quite digest all the food that you eat.
It is possible that you’ll have this feeling of food still being in your throat. This is common in those where the valve doesn’t close completely and food escapes or when there is an underlying reason for your GERD.
If the acid is in your throat, it can burn or feel sore all the time. You may also feel wheeze and have a dry cough. There are times that the acid will come up but then go down the wind pipe.
Finally, bloody and black stools are common. You may also find that there is some blood in your vomit or when you spit out the acid. This is because of the burning within the oesophagus.
When Will You Feel the Symptoms?
The symptoms can be experienced at any time. If you’re resting, you may experience the pain a lot more often than if you were on your feet. When trying to sleep is one of the most common types that you’ll likely experience the symptoms.
Lying down makes it much easier for the acid to travel up. Think about it! When you’re standing, gravity plays a part. It is always much harder for anything to travel up, even if the valve is completely open. While lying down, you’ll find that the acid is more likely to get into your chest, and you start feeling the burn.
If you’ve had a big meal, you can also find that the symptoms are more common. The body is struggling to get rid of all the food and has to produce more acid. This then gets into the rest of the body.
So if this is something natural, what exactly can you do? That’s what we’ll look into now because there are a few options at your hands.
Top Ways to Stop or Eliminate Acid Reflux
Now it’s time to stop GERD from causing you any bother. Of course, your first step needs to make sure that this is the problem, and there’s not an underlying issue. If you have an underlying problem, making lifestyle changes will help but not completely prevent or stop acid reflux affecting your life. You may also have other symptoms that you can’t get rid of.
Speak to your doctor about getting tested for any underlying reasons or to make sure that it really is heartburn. This will give your body the best chance.
It’s Time to Make Some Lifestyle Changes
Making lifestyle changes is one of your best options to help combat GERD. One of the best lifestyle changes you can make is to cut out smoking completely if you do it. It’s bad for your health in more ways than one and is contributing to your GERD. While you may enjoy it, do you really want to put your overall health at risk when there are so many better ways to enjoy your life?
If you’re overweight, it’s also time to lose it. Don’t crash diet, as this can just make your acid reflux worse. It’s time to find a healthy eating program that will help you lose the weight you need. The program may also help to deal with the other reasons for your acid reflux disease.
Try to get your weight into your healthy BMI range. This won’t just help to combat the acid reflux, but can also help to reduce the risk of other health problems in the future. You may also find that the underlying health problems that contribute to GERD are rectified.
Exercise is your friend. It will help you with your weight loss. When you do decide to choose a routine, avoid doing it too soon after eating. This will just make it harder for your body to digest. Not only will you end up with stomach cramps, but you can make your GERD worse.
Cut back on the amount that you drink too. Alcohol is one of the worst problems for those with acid reflux. It’s worth reducing it for your overall health, too.
Those who have tight clothing will need to make some changes. Remember that bloating feeling? You can soothe the symptom by undoing your belts or getting rid of the restrictive clothing. You’ll also find that your organs aren’t restricted, making it easier to digest food. It’s time to give your body a helping hand.
Change Your Actions After Eating
It’s not always going to be about your diet, but about what you do after you eat. If you lie down right after eating, you’re making it easier for the stomach acid to get into the oesophagus.
Now is the time to make some changes in the way you act after food. Avoid lying down and try to avoid resting too much. Remain sat up or stand for some time afterwards. Allow your body the chance to digest the food.
If you do need to lie down after eating, try to remain as upright as possible. Use some pillows on the couch or on the bed to keep yourself propped up. This could be the perfect excuse to catch up on your favourite TV show or read the next chapter of your book.
Prop Yourself Up at Night
It may not be the most comfortable sleep you’ve had at first, but you will get used to it. You’ll also find it easier to sleep because you won’t have the constant problems of acid reflux.
Keep head and chest propped up throughout the night. Just a few inches will be more than another. This isn’t going to cure the issue, but it will make it easier to prevent the acid from seeping upwards from your stomach.
Avoid food just before going to bed. You should give your body two or three hours to digest the food before you go to bed. This may also help to avoid nightmares, as your body isn’t trying to digest while your subconscious takes over.
Opt for Home Remedies for Your Heartburn
There are various home remedies available if you don’t want to rely on over the counter medications right now. Try these as they will help you keep the cost down.
Bicarbonate soda and water is one of the most beneficial options for acid reflux. It is something included in the majority of medications available, especially those that involve a tablet dissolving in water.
Bicarbonate soda is an alkaline so it will neutralise the stomach acid. You’ll get a soothing feeling as you swallow it, and it can also help fight against a sore throat. You could gargle it before swallowing to help sooth that croaky voice if the stomach acid has caused other damage.
This is one of those home remedies that can be used if you are on other medications. It is 100% natural and won’t mess up any of the treatments, whether you have diabetes or need to take blood thinners. It’s also something that can be used with other home remedies. You can also use it if you’re pregnant without causing problems for your baby.
Aloe juice is another popular option because it can soothe the burn. It is commonly used as a topical treatment, but it can be ingested without risks to your health. The aloe juice will reduce any inflammation in your body, which can often make the symptoms worse.
Mix some juice together and have it by your bed on a night. If you wake up in the middle of the night, you can reach for it so you can get straight back to sleep. It’s also worth having a glass just before you go to bed to soothe any pain left over from dinner, so you don’t struggle to get to sleep in the first place.
Do be aware that aloe juice acts as a laxative so you may find that your stools loosen or you need to go to the toilet more often.
Opting for a banana a day or slice of apple after every meal will also help you deal with acid reflux. The fruits contain an antacid, which can act as a buffer along the walls of your oesophagus. While you won’t treat the condition, you will be able to reduce the symptoms that you experience on a daily basis.
Another option is ginger root tea. Ginger is excellent for soothing upset stomachs and reducing inflammation. It can also help to neutralise the acid in your chest, minimising the side effects. Try opting for this tea just before your meals to help limit the problems you experience.
Oil pulling may help to soothe the pain in the throat from acid reflux. It is soft and can help to pull the acid out of the mouth. You don’t want to swallow it, though!
There are some over the counter options available. Many of these come in tablet or liquid form, and you can take them before or after every meal. It’s also possible for you to take the medication as you feel the symptoms of acid reflux, such as if you wake up in the middle of the night.
The downside of the medications is that not everyone can take them. They can cause side effects like constipation or diarrhoea, especially when needed on a regular basis.
Many are suitable for pregnant women, but you will need to check the label. If in doubt, don’t take them until you discuss them with your doctor.
There are times that surgery or other medical treatments will be needed. This is especially the case if the acid reflux is the symptom of an underlying problem. If you find that none of the above tips work or you continue to need them on a daily basis, it is worth talking to your doctor to find out what else you can do.
How to Stop Acid Reflux Through Diet Changes
Since most acid reflux is due to the food you eat and the amount of it that you eat, learning how to control it through diet changes is the best thing you can do.
We’ll start with the amount you eat. Having smaller meals can work out better, as you will be able to reduce the amount of stomach acid that is needed by your body to digest. This can alert the valve that it needs to close since there will be enough stomach acid for the food. You’ll also find that the digestive process takes less time.
It’s especially important to have something small and light if you know you are going to lie down soon afterwards. This encourages your body to digest before you need to sleep.
When you still suffer, you’ll need to look at the type of food you’re eating; or the type that you’re not eating! For example, did you know that you may not be getting enough acid?
Sometimes, the acid reflux is due to the valve not knowing that it needs to close. The stomach says that it doesn’t have enough acid to digest the food, and then the acid leaves the stomach! If you eat more acid, you could help to give the body what it needs to help close the valve and keep everything where it needs to be in your stomach.
You will need to deal with the feeling of acid in your oesophagus. If you can’t do that, then you need to neutralise the acid that is already there. The saliva naturally does this, so you need to produce more of it. You don’t want anything to eat, though.
Why not chew some gum? It will help to tell the stomach that more food is coming, and the body starts producing saliva to make the digestive process easier. Rather than swallowing food, you just swallow the saliva to neutralise the levels of acid in the body.
You can do something similar by drinking more water. Alkaline water is great for this, as the pH levels will neutralise those in the acid. Have a glass by your bedside in case you wake up at night or drink right after eating. You can also use the alkaline water in your sports bottle while doing exercise because the water is beneficial in so many other ways for the health.
Opt for a bowl of oatmeal if you’re having a particularly bad day. Oatmeal, whether made with water or milk, doesn’t produce any acid. You’ll find that it soothes the pain on the way down. There’s a reason it is so great when we’re ill! You don’t need to make this from scratch. Those instant options are just as good for you when it comes to eliminating acid reflux for good.
We’ve already heard that ginger tea can help. It’s time to add more to your diet. Use it in your meals to offer soothing feelings while eating. You’ll also find it adds an oriental taste to your meals, and works extremely well in stir fries and couscous dishes.
Water based vegetables are a great alternative to the acidic ones. Rather than using tomatoes and onions in salads and dishes, opt for celery, spinach, and cucumber. You can also opt for some peppers, carrots, and mushrooms to help offer variety without the burning feeling.
When you do eat salads, avoid some of the dressings. Balsamic vinegar may make your heartburn worse, but an olive oil dressing can often work out to be soothing. Cheese dressings can help, but opt for full-fat versions to get all the antacid benefits.
Red meats can make your acid reflux worse, so substitute with poultry. Make sure you remove the skin from your chicken or turkey and cook them however you want. The only thing you should avoid is frying because this will add more fat to your diet.
It’s time to combat acid reflux. You can do it with your diet, by making some small and simple changes. One of the best things to do is reduce the acidity levels in your diet by drinking more alkaline water. You’ll hydrate on a daily basis while protecting your oesophagus.
Just keep in mind that you should be wise in choosing what you eat. Be mindful of the effects of the food you take in to your condition. There's always a way to manage acid reflux and you should just keep yourself disciplined all the time.
There are times that the reflux is due to not having enough acid in the stomach, so this will be a trial and error. If you are worried or believe there may be an underlying cause, you should speak to your doctor. This will help to stop treating the symptoms and get help for the actual cause.