A Practical Natural Guide for Dealing with Acid Reflux (GERD) and Ways to Prevent
The following guide provides natural means to help lessen and improve the symptoms of Acid Reflux (GERD) mostly through home remedies and understand what triggers GERD.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) sufferers often have symptoms that are insidious. There may be the occasional heartburn, a little regurgitation at times after a large or spicy meal, pain after eating or if lying down after a meal, or they may have symptoms that would seem more like the onset of a cold or flu. They may be self-medicating thinking they have a cold and taking the wrong medicine. Most people simply need a practical guide for dealing with acid reflux, what symptoms to expect, the causes of acid reflux and what works to deal with the problem.
Signs and Symptoms of GERD
Signs and symptoms of GERD may include heartburn, pain in the chest (often severe and lasting longer than expected). Heartburn is often mistaken for a heart attack. Pain and burning in the throat or a bitter taste in your mouth are classic symptoms of GERD.
Those with acid reflux may have pain after eating or when lying down. With chronic GERD you may experience a sore throat, hoarseness, cough, and may experience asthma like symptoms like wheezing and shortness of breath.
For some people the only symptom they may experience is nausea after eating. Another symptom that may indicate GERD is increased amount of saliva. If you are having trouble swallowing - suspect acid reflux. All symptoms can mimic other disease processes so it’s always a good idea if you have frequent symptoms or chest pain to see a doctor. Acid reflux can cause damage that can lead to dysplasia and cancer.
Causes of Acid Reflux
There are many causes of GERD, which is also called acid reflux or simply heartburn. Obesity is a common cause of GERD because of increased pressure on the stomach, and may be accompanied by an incompetent sphincter which normally blocks the acid from rising in the digestive tract. Pregnancy may cause temporary acid reflux while the enlarging uterus causes upward pressure on the stomach. The good news is symptoms usually resolve once the baby is born. Gastroparesis which is an abnormal delay of emptying of stomach contents can cause GERD. Smoking may make symptoms worse if you have GERD.
Finally a hiatal hernia where the upper portion of the stomach moves upward into the chest – can cause acid to reflux. About 40% of Americans have a hiatal hernia.
Drugs that can worsen pain or cause GERD
Medications and dietary supplements that can irritate your esophagus and cause heartburn pain include:
• Antibiotics, such as tetracycline
• Bisphosphonates taken orally, such as alendronate (Fosamax), ibandronate (Boniva) and risedronate (Actonel)
• Iron supplements
• Pain relievers, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) and aspirin
• Potassium supplements
Medications and dietary supplements that can increase acid reflux and worsen GERD include:
• Anticholinergics, such as oxybutynin (Ditropan XL), prescribed for overactive bladder and irritable bowel syndrome
• Tricyclic antidepressants (amitriptyline, doxepin, others)
• Calcium channel blockers and nitrates used for high blood pressure and heart disease
• Narcotics (opioids), such as codeine, and those containing hydrocodone and acetaminophen (Lortab, Norco, Vicodin)
• Sedatives or tranquilizers, including benzodiazepines such as diazepam (Valium) and temazepam (Restoril)
• Theophylline (Elixophyllin, Theochron)
Foods to avoid that may cause GERD
Certain foods may trigger an episode of heartburn or exacerbate symptoms. Foods that commonly cause heartburn are tomatoes, garlic, onions, citrus foods, peppers or spicy foods, cheese, nuts, avocados, red meat, alcohol, caffeine, carbonated beverages, and chocolate.
Believe it or not another big offender and something people may eat or drink thinking it might help their symptoms is peppermint. I had a friend who suffered from horrible indigestion and GERD. I finally asked what he did for his symptoms and was horrified to find out he drank about a gallon of peppermint tea a day.
Peppermint actually relaxes the sphincter that prevents acid reflux and can cause worsening symptoms and even permanent damage to the lining of the esophagus. The following natural solutions will guide you to help to lessen the symptoms of Acid Reflux.
What can you do to lessen and control the symptoms of GERD?
If you are overweight losing the excess pounds will probably help your symptoms of GERD. Obviously if you smoke, quitting is a good idea and there are many good smoking cessation programs as well as products to lessen cravings. Losing weight and quitting smoking can add years to your life. Eating certain foods may decrease acid reflux symptoms. If you have GERD symptoms after eating or when lying down, you may want to raise the head of the bed or avoid lying down after a meal. Placing blocks or risers under the legs of the head of your bed may help. Avoid foods that trigger GERD and if possible any drugs.
Ask your physician about medications that can lessen symptoms. Many pharmaceutical drugs are now available over-the-counter (OTC) but you should still check with your doctor for any possible drug interactions or contraindications. For severe cases of GERD and insufficient sphincter and/or hiatal hernia surgery may be the only answer. Fundoplication surgery strengthens the valve between the esophagus and stomach (lower esophageal sphincter), which stops acid from backing up into the esophagus as easily and allows the esophagus to heal. If a hiatal hernia is present the hernia is usually repaired before fundoplication. These surgeries can usually be done laparoscopically.
Natural remedies for GERD you may want to try
Pharmaceutical drugs for GERD may not be the answer if they must be taken long term or the patient is on other medications that may not be compatible. Options to try other than pharmaceuticals are:
- Aloe vera juice – Aloe not only helps digestion but this amazing plant has natural healing properties that may sooth the pain of GERD.
- Digestive Enzymes – Eating raw food may not be a palatable idea, and if not you may want to consider supplementing with digestive enzymes to improve symptoms.
- Raw apple cider vinegar (ACV) - while vinegar may sound counterproductive, this remedy actually works to calm the stomach and improve digestion. Take a tablespoon of ACV in a half cup of water before meals.
- Baking soda – One of the best remedies for acid stomach is a teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of water. If you have heart problems you may want to consult your doctor.
- Fucoidan – A relatively unknown supplement from brown seaweed, fucoidan can decrease inflammation and pain. Studies show fucoidan mobilizes stem cells that migrate to areas of damage and can repair and regenerate tissues.