There are a few names-- heartburn, acid reflux, GERD. Many of the people I work come to me after suffering from this condition for years. Some of them have been put on medication or told to just live with it. Really, live with it? A burning sensation in your chest, the feeling like there is food stuck in your throat, difficulty swallowing…There are many natural remedies that you can try before turning to medication or just settling for feeling unwell (scroll to the bottom if you want to get straight to the remedies).
There are two main reasons why people feel that awful gnawing pain and discomfort associated with GERD. The first issue has to do with the lower esophageal sphincter, which is a fancy word for the muscle that opens to allow food to go from the esophagus and down into the stomach. When this muscle is too relaxed, stomach acid flows backwards and creeps up into the esophagus. The esophagus is not meant for this level of acidity. Hence, that awful gnawing pain.
The second reason that people may develop GERD can be because of too little stomach acid. Say what?! This sounds counter-intuitive so, let me explain. A common bacteria that causes GERD symptoms is H. pylori. When people do not have enough stomach acid, this creates the perfect environment for H. pylori to multiply and inflame the stomach lining. So, you need a healthy amount of stomach acid to keep the bacteria away. Many medications such as proton pump inhibitors (i.e. omeprazole, pantoprazole) are used routinely when people tell their doctors about heartburn. However, these medications lower the acid in your stomach, ameliorating the pain temporarily, but actually make it easier for H. pylori to settle in. H. pylori will not only make your reflux worse, but it can also cause ulcers and is linked to stomach cancer.
If you or someone you're close to you suffers from heartburn, acid reflux or GERD, you may want to make some lifestyle changes before adding on a daily medication. I’ve helped many people eliminate this condition with simple diet and lifestyle alterations. Try making the changes outlined below.
8 Ways to Eliminate Acid Reflux / Heartburn / GERD
1. Chew your food! Digestion starts in your mouth with the mechanical action of chewing. Chewing your food will not only stimulate your system to secrete digestive enzymes but will also give your stomach less work to do by breaking down the food you eat more thoroughly! Try to chew about 20 times before swallowing.
2. Use apple cider vinegar to build stomach acid. Take one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in water 10 minutes before meals. Apple cider vinegar contains probiotics, enzymes and acetic acid to help you digest your food. Make sure there is a cloudiness to your apple cider vinegar and that it is organic, raw and unfiltered. I like Braggs.
3. Remove foods that impair stomach acid from building. Avoid citrus fruits, tomatoes, chocolate, coffee, carbonated beverages, sugar, grain products, and hydrogenated oils.
4. Replace the removed foods with new foods that are high in enzymes and easy to digest. For example, eat cooked greens and vegetables, non-citrus fruits, organic meats, and bone broth. Raw vegetables can be hard for some people to break down so save your system some work by cooking your food.
5. Consider supplementing. Start with digestive enzymes. If you need more support, add betaine HCl (hydrochloric acid) treatment with protein rich meals.When you increase acid, you kill H.pylori bacteria.
6. Eat less at meals. Reflux can be caused by overeating or eating too fast.
7. Make sure your vitamin D levels are adequate. Optimal levels of vitamin D will optimize production of antimicrobial peptides to help your body eliminate any infections and bad bacteria.
8. Eat a 2-3 hours before bedtime. GERD symptoms can be exacerbated by lying down so try to stay upright for a few hours after a big meal.
Note! If you are on medications like proton pump inhibitors, and you would like to stop taking them, it is important to never stop cold turkey. Wean yourself off with the help of your physician.