Acid Reflux: Root Causes, Nutrition, and Natural Remedies
Acid reflux, commonly referred to as heartburn, is an unpleasant sensation of burning pain in the chest or throat due to stomach acid flowing backward into the esophagus. This discomforting condition can have multiple root causes and can greatly impact the quality of life. However, nutrition and natural remedies can play a pivotal role in managing and even preventing acid reflux. In this article, we’ll delve into the root causes, food choices, supplements, herbs, and lifestyle changes that can help.
Root Causes of Acid Reflux
- Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES) Dysfunction: The LES is a muscle located at the junction of the stomach and esophagus. Its primary function is to prevent stomach acid from flowing back into the esophagus. If it weakens or relaxes at inappropriate times, acid reflux can occur.
- Hiatal Hernia: This occurs when the upper part of the stomach bulges through the diaphragm, leading to increased acid reflux.
- Prolonged Gastric Emptying: Delayed emptying of the stomach can increase the risk of acid backup.
- Lifestyle Factors: Overeating, obesity, smoking, and excessive caffeine or alcohol consumption can exacerbate acid reflux.
- Medications: Certain drugs, such as aspirin, certain muscle relaxants, and blood pressure medications, can contribute to acid reflux.
Nutrition and Food Choices
The food we eat can play a substantial role in the development or mitigation of acid reflux. Here’s what to consider:
- Alkaline Foods: Foods with a higher pH can help neutralize stomach acid and reduce symptoms. These include leafy greens, cucumbers, melons, bananas, and almonds.
- High-Fiber Foods: Dietary fiber can help absorb excess acid and speed up digestion. Beans, whole grains, and vegetables are excellent sources.
- Limit Trigger Foods: Foods such as spicy dishes, citrus fruits, tomatoes, onions, chocolate, caffeine, carbonated beverages, fatty foods, and mint can exacerbate acid reflux in many people.
- Smaller, Frequent Meals: Eating smaller portions more frequently can prevent overloading the stomach and reduce the risk of acid reflux.
Supplements and Herbs
Several supplements and herbs can help manage acid reflux:
- Digestive Enzymes: These can assist in breaking down food components, thereby facilitating smoother digestion and reducing the chances of acid reflux.
- Probiotics: By maintaining a healthy gut flora, probiotics can improve digestion and reduce the risk of stomach acid backing up into the esophagus.
- Slippery Elm: This herb can coat the stomach and esophagus, acting as a barrier against acid.
- Aloe Vera: Consumed in juice form, it can soothe the stomach and esophagus, reducing irritation caused by acid reflux.
- Licorice: Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) can boost mucus production, which protects the stomach and esophageal lining from acid.
- Marshmallow Root: Similar to slippery elm, it can form a protective barrier against stomach acid.
Remember to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any supplement or herb regimen.
Beyond food choices and supplements, certain lifestyle changes can make a significant difference:
- Elevate the Head While Sleeping: Keeping your head 6-8 inches elevated can prevent acid from flowing back into the esophagus.
- Avoid Eating Before Bed: Wait at least three hours after your last meal before lying down to give your stomach time to empty.
- Maintain a Healthy Weight: Excess abdominal fat can press against the stomach, pushing acid into the esophagus.
- Stay Hydrated: Drink ample water throughout the day, which can help neutralize stomach acid and flush it from the stomach more quickly.
- Limit Alcohol and Caffeine: Both can relax the LES, leading to increased acid reflux.
- Stop Smoking: Nicotine can weaken the LES, making acid reflux more likely.
Acid reflux, while common, need not become a chronic affliction. By understanding its root causes and leveraging the power of nutrition, supplements, herbs, and conscious lifestyle choices, one can mitigate, manage, or even prevent its uncomfortable symptoms. Remember, it’s essential to listen to your body, recognize triggers, and be proactive in making dietary and lifestyle adjustments. And, as always, when in doubt or when symptoms persist, seek advice from a healthcare professional.
Foods to Sidestep for Acid Reflux Prevention
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Veronica is dedicated and experienced nutritionist and certified health coach who specializes in functional medicine, She's a published author, nutritional instructor, WBFF professional figure athlete, and both the brains and beauty behind all that Makeover Nutrition offers.
Veronica is also the President & CEO of a BC based health and wellness association; Pacific Alliance of Body Care.