Most people have experienced some sort of pain or discomfort following a large meal or a particular food that didn’t quite agree with their stomach. While acid reflux symptoms can happen without a specific underlying condition, there can be a more severe form of it that happens more frequently or more intensely, a condition known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
GERD is a condition where you experience heartburn, regurgitation, or nausea, typically after eating. It comes as a result of your esophagus and valves not working properly. During normal digestion, food passes through your lower esophageal sphincter (LES), then the LES closes and the food moves to your stomach for digestion. Those who experience reflux often have a LES that doesn’t close all the way, leading to the acid from the stomach coming back up, causing burning in your chest and throat. This condition is usually considered GERD if it occurs more than twice per week.
Although GERD can affect anyone, it’s most often seen in overweight or obese people, pregnant women, smokers, and people who take certain medications to regulate blood pressure. There are many medications, both over the counter and prescription that can help, but here are five acid reflux remedies you can turn to in order to reduce the symptoms of acid reflux on your own.
There are several beverages known to trigger GERD reactions for different reasons. Alcohol increases stomach acid while also making it difficult for the esophagus to clear away the acid. Coffee has a similar effect, with caffeine weakening the LES. Other studies indicate that carbonated beverages which may cause more belching can also increase the amount of acid that travels from the stomach to the esophagus. Finally, acidic juices like orange or grapefruit juice can irritate the lining of your esophagus and make your heartburn worse.
A lot of GERD management boils down to your diet, with factors changing depending on what you eat, when you eat it, and how much you eat. Your best bet is to eat smaller meals, as GERD reactions are more closely associated with large meals. Some research shows that eating a low-carb diet can be helpful. Evidence has indicated that the bacteria caused by impaired carb digestion can lead to more reflux symptoms. Lastly, some weak correlations have been shown between both mint and chocolate and GERD. Although the evidence isn’t strong, you can adjust your diet accordingly to see if it helps.
GERD is common in overweight or pregnant patients. Although pregnancy isn’t a time to be concerned with losing weight, it is something you should think about outside of pregnancy in order to lessen the effects of GERD. It tends to be related to carrying too much belly fat, where the pressure in your abdomen pushes up your LES, a condition known as hiatal hernia. If you lose the belly fat, your esophagus is more likely to start functioning properly, lessening the effects and frequency of GERD.
Eating late at night or right before laying down can worsen your symptoms. You're less likely to experience discomfort if you stay upright while your meal digests.
If you’re more frequently experiencing GERD symptoms at night, you may consider elevating the head of your bed. This can help with the backflow of stomach acid. Consider not sleeping on your right side. Some evidence shows that due to your anatomy and where the stomach acid is created and stored, sleeping on your left side may be more comfortable. All of the suggestions above should be easy to implement in your daily life, considering they’re simple lifestyle changes that don’t require a visit to the doctor or any medication.
However, if you have been experiencing discomfort due to acid reflux, you should book an appointment with Carolina Digestive Health Associates so we can determine if there is an underlying cause of your discomfort and give you tips to manage it. Along with the non-medicinal solutions, we can also recommend medication based on your individual circumstances, health, and needs.