Acid Reflux: Signs, Symptoms, and What You Can Do

Acid Reflux: Signs, Symptoms, and What You Can Do
Julie Doherty Naturopathic Physician Hackham, SA

An Accredited Member of the Australian Traditional Medicine Society, Julie Graduated with distinctions from S.A. College of Botanic Medicine and Natural Therapies Pty Ltd. Professional Qualifications include: Naturopathic Doctor, Herbal & Homoeopathic Practitioner: Diet and Nutritional Medicine: Remedial & Therapeutic... more

Acid reflux comes with a variety of symptoms and causes. In general it refers to regurgitation of acid or partially digested food coming from the stomach into the oesophagus (food pipe) or mouth.

Symptoms may include heartburn, this being a burning sensation behind the breastbone, burping, a sensation or feeling that food is stuck after swallowing. Together with these symptoms can include bloatedness, stomach aches and pain.

Main causes:

  1. Diet: Overeating, especially animal protein or processed foods, as these take time and more digestive enzymes to digest effectively. Whereas animal or plant based foods are much easier to digest, therefore making it much easier for your digestive system. The foods you eat as well as the timing of your meals can affect the acid production of your stomach. A diet rich in spicy or greasy foods can trigger excessive acid in your stomach in order to assist digestion. High-fiber foods can cause an overproduction of stomach acid, as digestion of such foods takes longer. Eating small meals of non-processed foods often will help to keep your stomach acid levels at a more balanced level. When you minimize the quantity of animal protein you eat and processed foods, incorporating fruit and vegetables these assist the digestive process and decrease the symptoms of acid reflux. An easy rule with animal protein is to keep the portion size to the palm of your hand (as this is the size of your stomach), also to not have dairy products with your animal protein. So exclude dairy with any animal protein meal.
  2. Other food and drinks that can cause or aggravate acid reflux:
    Deep fried and fatty foods
    Hot spicy foods
    Onions & garlic: However, you will find these are great health assets and if you eliminate bad fats from your diet such as – animal fat, trans fats, chocolate & deep fried foods, onion and garlic can still remain in your diet, to support your immune system for a healthier you.
    Tomatoes and tomato-based foods
    Soda, carbonated soft drinks
    Coffee and other caffeinated drinks
    Some citrus fruits such as oranges and mandarins
    Commercial fruit juice
  3. Being overweight or pregnant
    Being overweight or being pregnant can increase the pressure on the abdomen, weakening the lower esophageal sphincter, causing the stomach contents to reflux up into the esophagus. Changes in your hormones during pregnancy can also contribute to reflux.
  4. Smoking – More than just a stomach irritant, smoking triggers acid production as it relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter.This then causes stomach acid to retreat to the throat region and causes acid reflux.  Not to mention other major health problems that smoking attributes to such as heart disease, lung disease, alzheimers, dementia and circulatory problems, just to name a few.
  5. Stress – Life gives us many obstacles and issues to tackle. If we have too much stress, or chronic stress, this can be a major contributing to your stomach’s acid production. During times of excessive stress and chronic stress it is important to take care of yourself. Eating healthy foods, small meals that are easy for your stomach to digest and take time out to recharge engaging in activities such as walking, yoga or Thai Chi.
  6. Pharmaceutical medications can cause acid reflux
    Certain painkillers, including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These include medicines such as aspirin and ibuprofen. Codeine can also increase reflux.
    Anticholinergics such as oxybutynin (brand name Ditropan), which is used to treat an overactive bladder. These medicines can increase the tendency of the lower oesophageal sphincter to relax. Older people are particularly sensitive to these medicines.
    Tricyclic antidepressants.
    Theophylline, e.g. Nuelin SR (sometimes used in the treatment of bronchitis, emphysema and asthma).
    Calcium channel blockers (these medicines are usually used to treat high blood pressure and angina).
    Bisphosphonates (medicines used in the treatment of osteoporosis).
  7. Stomach cancer – One serious condition that causes excessive stomach acid production is stomach cancer. This cancer increases gastrin hormone production.

When excessive stomach acid and reflux become a chronic condition without being treated by change of diet and lifestyle habits, it can lead to stomach ulcers, stomach cancer, bowel problems, and kidney problems. You will also notice a decrease in energy due to inadequate supply of nutrients to your organs and tissue.

What I recommend as a Naturopathic Practitioner:

Self-Help:

  • Eat small regular meals based on whole foods such as fruit, vegetables, wholegrain cereals such as organic muesli, oats and grains. Moderate portion sizes of proteins to the size of the palm of your hand and change them to lean meat, chicken, fish, and eggs. Keep cheese to a minimum amount and only eat whole cheese not processed cheese, if you have a lactose problem then change to goats cheese and lactose free products. Eliminate processed foods especially the mass produced processed foods that are full of chemicals, food additives and toxic fillers that will cause you damage.
  • Yogurt for gastric reflux: It is a cool, smooth and alkaline food that has soothing effect on the esophagus. Yogurt contains probiotics, a form of beneficial bacteria that are found in the digestive tract. This also helps to boost the immune system for overall health.
    Yogurt aids proper absorption of proteins and nutrients by the body. Yogurt is a healthy protein source and is very useful in the prevention of acid reflux as it properly digests the food. Yogurt is also a great source of calcium which helps to strengthen the muscles in the lower esophagus.
    Yogurt reduces the inflammation, the formation of gas in the intestine, improves intestinal motion and also reduces the pain and discomfort.
  • Basil leaves give relief upon the first signs of trouble. Chew on a few leaves or add to hot water to drink. These leaves are known to soothe your intestinal system by eliminating symptoms such as flatulence and nausea.
  • Bananas – Choose an overripe banana to combat excess acid as it contains more potassium than a ripe one. Bananas are known to aid in stomach mucus production to protect the stomach lining from acid damage.
  • Ginger – Ease the discomfort of symptoms by chewing on a small piece of ginger or drinking ginger tea. It can prevent stomach ulcers as it triggers the secretion of mucus to line the stomach walls. Ginger helps your body digest and absorb essential nutrients and maintain a healthy digestive system when consumed regularly.
  • Clove – By including cloves into your daily diet, can steep a couple of cloves with your favourite herbal tea or add to your meal, this will help to aid digestion.
  • Cinnamon – Mix a cup of boiled water with one teaspoon of ground cinnamon and drink this at least three times a day for relief of symptoms.
    Cinnamon targets bloating and flatulence and works as a natural antacid.
  • Bicarb – for instant relief and safe reduction of stomach acid levels. Add a teaspoon of Bicarb to a glass of filtered water and drink. The bicarb has a natural alkalizing effect and is how it is seen as a support treatment for cancer or preventing cancer.
  • Kefir is a cultured milk drink with a thick, creamy consistency, served plain or flavoured. Traditionally, it’s prepared by combining fresh milk with Kefir culture, which is made up of living yeasts and bacteria. It’s these live cultures that provide Kefir with many health benefits, including helping soothe acid reflux and other gastrointestinal symptoms. These beneficial bacteria, known collectively as probiotics, may help counteract acid reflux triggers.
  • Apple cider vinegar and apples – some people find a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar added to a glass of filtered water, drunk morning and night helps to reduce acid reflux. The eating of one – two apples, especially red ones, per day has been found to help reduce stomach bloating.

Online consultations for chronic conditions

You will receive individual advice about improving your diet, reducing stress, and making lifestyle changes. In addition to advice on diet and lifestyle changes, a herbal formula can be incorporated as part of your treatment. Herbs such as marshmallow, slippery elm, chamomile and gentian are used to support healthy digestion and reduction of acid reflux. If there are other underlying health problems then herbs can be incorporated in your formula to support healthy restoration of any organ or tissue damage.

Follow this link to book your online consult.

Dos and don'ts

Do take time to relax, allow some form of leisure activity during your day that helps you to eliminate anxiety, stress and feel good about you. This might be going for a walk, playing a sport, dancing, swimming, watching your favourite movie or listening to your favourite music. Just choose one thing a day.

Always eat – Slowly, sitting down and in a relaxed atmosphere. Make meal time an enjoyable time.

Eliminate smoking – If you smoke, then give it up. It’s not that hard when you measure it against the harm that it is going to do to you and the life it is going to rob you of.

Eliminate or minimize drinking of alcohol, soft drinks and juices.

Decrease or eliminate the taking of medications, as certain painkillers cause bleeding of the stomach and therefore aggravate the lining of your stomach.

Get enough sleep – whether you like it or not, whether you believe you can perform well on little to no sleep, the truth is that it is not possible to perform well, nor for your body to repair when you don’t get enough sleep. The recommended time frame is 8 – 10 hours per night. If you are a shift worker this may well be during the day, ensure that you go to bed in a well darkened room, herbal teas such as chamomile or lemon balm, Valerian, also if you keep your banana skins, boil these for 10 minutes keep the juice and drink with a teaspoon of honey this will also help you sleep. Also empty your mind, no matter how much you worry about something, the worry isn’t going to change the situation or person, the best thing that will help is a good night's sleep because it will all look better in the morning.

Avoid tight clothing and belts – These restrict your stomach’s ability for proper digestion.

Reduce the quantity of coffee you drink and also eliminate instant coffee. Only drink coffee in the morning and limit it to one to two cups. Then if possible change to black coffee with no sugar, as this is what will benefit your health the most.

Is it common knowledge throughout Medicine:

“All disease begins in the gut” – Hippocrates

Keep your gut healthy and you will prevent disease, to live a life of optimal health, happiness, and vitality

For further support with diet, nutrition, and health, download today: Eating to Live

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