A Natural Approach to Acid Reflux

Jul 23, 2023 | Health and Wellness

By Alyssa Burnham, ND

Naturopathic Doctor at Wise Woman Wellness

The discomfort of acid reflux can be excruciating. It can interfere with sleep and lead to more serious medical conditions like esophageal cancer and tooth decay. If you’re relying on the conventional approach to acid reflux, you should know that natural remedies can provide effective relief. Here are some answers to common questions about acid reflux.

What Is Acid Reflux?

Acid reflux develops when stomach acid travels up your esophagus, which is the narrow tube connecting mouth to your stomach. Movement through the esophagus is controlled by the esophageal sphincter, which lets food through to the stomach, but then contracts to prevent the backwash of acid back into the esophagus. When it’s not working as it should, the result is acid reflux, which leads to feelings of heartburn.

As the name implies, heartburn is an uncomfortable burning sensation in your throat and/or chest. Other symptoms of acid reflux frequently accompany this burning sensation, including:

  *   Coughing
  *   A hoarse voice
  *   An acidic taste in your mouth
  *   Pain when you bend over
  *   Feelings of pressure behind your sternum
  *   Bad breath

It’s important to note that acid reflux and a heart attack can share similar symptoms. If you experience extreme pain, pain in your jaw or back, or difficulty breathing, please seek medical attention immediately.

How Can I Prevent Acid Reflux Naturally?

A holistic approach for acid reflux includes lifestyle changes, restoring proper stomach acid production (yes, more stomach acid may be needed!), and improving esophageal function. Let’s take a closer look.

1 – Work with a qualified practitioner to address deficiencies.

Increasing stomach acid production can be a game-changer for turning chronic acid reflux into a thing of the past. If you’ve been suppressing your stomach acid for a long time, it’s important to slowly restore its production. The first steps involve making changes to your diet and incorporating specific remedies such as apple cider vinegar. With guidance, gradually weaning off proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) can be beneficial, and supplementing with hydrochloric acid (HCL) and digestive enzymes may be necessary to support digestion. Incorporating targeted nutrients like zinc and B12 also play a crucial role in restoring your digestive health.

2 – Eliminate trigger food and make dietary changes.
Many foods can trigger acid reflux. Keeping a detailed food diary can help narrow down your specific triggers. You may find some are more triggering at certain times of the day, particularly in the evening. Common triggers include:
  *   Mint
  *   Carbonated beverages
  *   Alcohol
  *   Spicy foods
  *   Fried foods
  *   Chocolate
  *   Citrus
  *   Tomatoes
  *   Cheese
  *   Processed foods

In contrast, some foods can decrease acid reflux. Studies show that people who follow a Mediterranean-style diet, with an emphasis on whole foods and healthy fats, experience less heartburn.

If, despite your best efforts, you do have an acid reflux attack, try some proven natural remedies, including:

  *   Ginger. Strong anti-inflammatory that can bring relief to acid reflux symptoms.
  *   Apple cider vinegar. Can help balance stomach acid. Dilute small amount in water and sip prior to meals.
  *   Baking soda. Sodium bicarbonate can neutralize stomach acid, thus minimizing heartburn. Very small amounts, dissolved in water, are best, as too much baking soda can lead to “rebound” reflux.

3 – Quit smoking.
Tobacco can harm your esophagus, which makes it more vulnerable to reflux. One study looking at ways to reduce acid reflux found that participants who quit smoking were three times as likely to report an improvement in acid reflux than those who continued to smoke.

4 – Lose weight if needed.
Being overweight is associated with an increased risk of acid reflux. Overindulging can also lead to acid reflux because of increased abdominal pressure.

5 – Adjust your sleeping environment and routine.
Try sleeping with your head slightly elevated to facilitate the flow of acid into your stomach and avoid eating before bed. Some research suggests sleeping on your right side may also help protect your esophagus.

6 – Reduce stress.
In one study, half of participants said stress was the most common trigger for their reflux. Stress reduction and mindfulness activities can make a big difference. Focus on getting enough rest, meditation, and relaxing activities like walking outside.

You don’t have to suffer through acid reflux alone. Let’s work together to get your symptoms resolved for good! Call us today to get started.

McGwin G. The Association between Ranitidine Use and Gastrointestinal Cancers. Cancers (Basel). 2020 Dec 23;13(1):24. doi 10.3390/cancers13010024. PMID: 33374592; PMCID: PMC7793066.
Richter JE, Rubenstein JH. Presentation and Epidemiology of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. Gastroenterology. 2018 Jan;154(2):267-276. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2017.07.045. Epub 2017 Aug 3. PMID: 28780072; PMCID: PMC5797499.
Chang P, Friedenberg F. Obesity and GERD. Gastroenterol Clin North Am. 2014 Mar;43(1):161-73. doi 10.1016/j.gtc.2013.11.009. Epub 2013 Dec 27. PMID: 24503366; PMCID: PMC3920303.
Haruma K, Kinoshita Y, Sakamoto S, Sanada K, Hiroi S, Miwa H. Lifestyle factors and efficacy of lifestyle interventions in gastroesophageal reflux disease patients with functional dyspepsia: primary care perspectives from the LEGEND study. Intern Med. 2015;54(7):695-701. doi 10.2169/internalmedicine.54.3056. Epub 2015 Apr 1. PMID: 25832928.
Person E, Rife C, Freeman J, Clark A, Castell DO. A novel sleep positioning device reduces gastroesophageal reflux: a randomized controlled trial<https://doi.org/10.1097/MCG.0000000000000359>. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2015;49(8):655-9. doi:10.1097/MCG.0000000000000359
Al-Abri SA, Olson KR. Baking soda can settle the stomach but upset the heart: case files of the Medical Toxicology Fellowship at the University of California, San Francisco. J Med Toxicol. 2013 Sep;9(3):255-8. doi 10.1007/s13181-013-0300-4. PMID: 23591957; PMCID: PMC3770998.
Morozov S, Isakov V, Konovalova M. Fiber-enriched diet helps to control symptoms and improves esophageal motility in patients with non-erosive gastroesophageal reflux disease. World J Gastroenterol. 2018 Jun 7;24(21):2291-2299. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v24.i21.2291. PMID: 29881238; PMCID: PMC5989243.
Zalvan CH, Hu S, Greenberg B, Geliebter J. A Comparison of Alkaline Water and Mediterranean Diet vs Proton Pump Inhibition for Treatment of Laryngopharyngeal Reflux. JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2017 Oct 1;143(10):1023-1029. doi: 10.1001/jamaoto.2017.1454. PMID: 28880991; PMCID: PMC5710251.
Kaswala D, Shah S, Mishra A, Patel H, Patel N, Sangwan P, Chodos A, Brelvi Z. Can yoga be used to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease? Int J Yoga. 2013 Jul;6(2):131-3. doi 10.4103/0973-6131.113416. PMID: 23930033; PMCID: PMC3734640.