Acid reflux is a common and painful condition that can occur for a variety of reasons. Some people only have occasional reflux issues, while others have medical conditions that may require serious dietary modifications or even a medication.
Wondering how to reduce acid reflux? Fortunately for most people, acid reflux can be managed naturally by changing a few of your daily habits. Most people with mild to moderate cases of acid reflux can improve their situation simply by implementing these lifestyle changes.
Signs of Acid Reflux
How do you know if you have reflux? Here are some of the most common signs:
- Regurgitation – A feeling that undigested food is coming up into your throat.
- Burping – This often coincides with regurgitation. It can result from gas or bloating, which can put pressure on the gateway between your stomach and throat.
- Heartburn – A painful burning sensation in the middle of the chest or upper abdomen. Because it’s acidic, stomach acid can burn when it enters the esophagus.
- Unpleasant taste – Stomach acid and the contents of your stomach entering your esophagus can leave a bitter taste in your mouth and throat.
- Irritated throat – Although more common with prolonged reflux episodes, throat irritation is another common occurrence.
What Causes Acid Reflux?
There are many different causes of reflux. The average individual will experience reflux from time to time. For others, certain life events or medical conditions can cause it or make it worse.
These may include, but aren’t limited to:
- Gastrointestinal (GI) distress
- Eating acidic, greasy, or spicy foods
- Stress, anxiousness, or nervousness
- Being overweight
- Irregular or irritable bowel
The lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is the gateway between your esophagus and stomach. It sits at the bottom of your esophagus and prevents stomach acid and contents from coming up into your esophagus.
When some of the above conditions are present, the LES softens or is pushed open by hormonal changes, weight gain, or increased pressure on the sphincter (if you’re overweight or pregnant). This allows stomach contents to backflow into the esophagus, which is commonly referred to as reflux.
Counteracting the effects of reflux may depend on your unique situation. The following are some general methods for reducing acid reflux naturally.
6 Tips to Reduce Acid Reflux Naturally
1. Drink Water Before Meals
Drinking water with meals dilutes your stomach acid, which makes it easier for it to come up into your esophagus.
Small sips are fine, especially if it helps you consume food safely without choking. However, avoiding large amounts of water with meals will give your food enough time to break down without increasing the liquid volume of your stomach’s contents.
If you’re prone to reflux, avoid drinking water a half hour before and after meals. But continue to drink water between meals to stay hydrated.
2. Sit Up After Meals
It’s important to avoid laying down after meals, especially if you’re having frequent flare-ups. Lying down can cause stomach acid to move up into the throat. Use gravity to your advantage by sitting up so your stomach contents can stay where they’re supposed to.
If you frequently eat just before bed, this may be causing your reflux. Especially for pregnant or overweight individuals, filling your stomach before lying down can increase the pressure on your LES, allowing it to open. Stay upright for about two hours after you eat to allow your food time to digest and your stomach time to settle.
If you’re still experiencing reflux, some of the natural remedies below may be good to incorporate into your post-dinner routine. Just remember to hold off on the teas for about 30 minutes after you eat.
3. Learn Your Trigger Foods
Everyone has different trigger foods. Learning which foods cause greater issues for you can help you manage your reflux. As you eat different foods, make notes to identify patterns and avoid foods that cause reflux.
In general: spicy, greasy, and acidic foods (such as tomatoes or pineapple) cause reflux for many people. Since this varies from person to person, it’s recommended to use trial and error so you can limit as few foods as possible from your diet.
If you aren’t sure which foods are bothering you, it can be helpful to eliminate common trigger foods altogether for a few weeks, and then slowly add them back into your diet one by one and note which ones bother you.
4. Wear Loose-fitting Clothing
Tight clothing can put pressure on your LES, causing reflux. Wear loose-fitting clothing to help relieve this pressure. If you can take a deep breath comfortably in it, you should be good to go.
5. Maintain a Healthy Weight
Being overweight can put pressure on the LES.
Losing weight can help reduce and relieve acid reflux. If you believe this may be contributing to your reflux issues, talking with your doctor or a registered dietitian about your weight is a great place to start.
6. Be Proactive About Stress Management
For many people, their nerves can cause an upset stomach and reflux. If you’re able to anticipate events that may increase your nerves (such as a presentation or meeting with your boss), start taking measures well in advance to practice calming yourself before the event takes place.
This will help train your brain and body to respond to the stressor in a way that doesn’t cause the discomfort reflux brings. Calming techniques such as meditation, journaling, affirmations, and talking it out with a friend or loved one are all ways to help you cope so you don’t hold as much tension in your body.
Natural Remedies to Soothe Reflux
Sometimes, even when you’ve taken steps to avoid having an episode, you get reflux anyway. Here are some natural ways to deal with reflux when it happens.
Stress can affect your breathing without you even realizing it. The mind-body connection is strong. Pausing to breathe for a minute (or five) can improve your mental state and help relieve stress.
Deep breathing can also activate your parasympathetic nervous system, responsible for the “rest and digest” modes. A breathing technique designed to activate this part of your nervous system can help.
Not only is peppermint tea calming for your stomach, it’s warm and has a cooling effect, which can soothe irritation in your throat. Adding a bit of honey increases the soothing effects of this tea because honey helps retain moisture when your throat feels dry.
Ginger is a common remedy for soothing stomach troubles. However, ginger can be hit or miss for reflux, depending on the person. Ginger is a hot spice, meaning it can generate a feeling of heat in the throat and stomach.
While some people may experience relief, others may find that ginger increases the burning sensation caused by reflux. For this reason, ginger may be better as a preventative measure for reflux if you find that it bothers you.
You can find ginger tea in most grocery and drug stores, or prepare a batch yourself with this recipe:
Easy Ginger Tea Recipe
- Begin by heating six cups of water to a gentle boil. Wash and slice ginger, you need 3 inches of ginger sliced about ⅛ inch thick.
- Add ginger to nearly boiling water.
- Allow this to simmer for 8-10 minutes, covered.
- Remove the saucepan from heat and allow it to cool for 1-2 minutes before serving. Add honey to taste and enjoy!
Recipe adapted from Ginger Lemon Turmeric Tea
Mild to moderate acid reflux is common and highly treatable. It’s also preventable by taking a few simple steps. By modifying some daily habits, managing stress, and adding some nourishing foods and herbs to your diet, you can improve this condition.
If you experience severe acid reflux, it’s time to call your doctor. This could be a sign of a more serious issue that may require medication to manage.
Before taking any supplements, consult with your healthcare provider, especially if you’re taking any prescription medications. These prescriptions may interact with herbs.
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