What We Can Do to Alleviate Acid Reflux
Have you ever had heartburn? You know, that annoying burning sensation in your chest that can take place after a heavy meal. When this happens you might even burp and experience a sour aftertaste in your mouth. You may feel your throat burn, too. Well, in case you get this every now and then and never gave it much thought, you could be one of millions of people who experience acid reflux.
Okay, so acid reflux is pretty common among the general population (in the USA it is estimated to affect 20% of people). It can be pretty frustrating and at times even painful to deal with. Although the occasional reflux is not dangerous, it should still be taken seriously. If you suspect that you do have acid reflux, watch out for the signs and see if the symptoms are recurring. If you experience it regularly (at least twice a week), you may have gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD). If left unchecked and untreated, GERD can lead to conditions like peptic ulcer, damage to the esophagus and even increase a person’s risk for developing esophageal cancer. For those who are in the severe and chronic stage of acid reflux, it is best to consult a specialist and have it checked out, as with any chronic or severe health symptom(s).
Acid reflux is caused by the weakness or relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). Normally this valve should close tightly after food enters our stomach. When it relaxes, it allows the stomach acid to rise up into the esophagus. This then causes the typical symptoms: heartburn, chest pain, difficulty in swallowing, a ‘lump’ sensation in the throat and regurgitation of food or sour liquid. Well, the good news is that there are quite a few things you can do when you experience acid reflux. So, let’s look into this pretty common condition and better understand how to minimize it or even eliminate it altogether.
Food and Beverage to Avoid
You definitely need to avoid foods that have a high acidic content or those that can loosen the muscle barrier separating the esophagus from the stomach. So the main foods that fall in either or both of these two categories, which you should limit or avoid, are the following:
- Foods high in fat, such as meat, cheese, nuts and avocados
- Junk food and highly processed food
- Tomatoes (and its sauces), including ketchup
- Citrus fruits, such as oranges and grapefruits
- Spicy foods
- Sugary foods and drinks
- Dairy milk (choose vegan milk, such as soy or almond instead)
- Tea, coffee, soda (carbonated drinks) and alcohol
Food and Beverage to Consume
Now that you know what to steer away from, it is recommended that you also know what to gravitate towards! You need to consume foods that are relatively alkaline, which means following a plant based diet focused on fresh vegetables and fruits. It is advisable to start your morning with a great alkalizing drink: freshly squeezed lemon with water (either room temperature or lukewarm), that is also great for boosting your immune system (helps in fighting off viruses, as well as Covid-19). I make a point to drink a glass of this before my breakfast everyday. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day is extremely important too, especially now in the summer (around 2 liters per day is a good general guide to follow).
Make sure you are drinking hydrogen rich water that helps restore your body to a more alkaline state, which is optimal for good health. You also want to make sure your water is additive free and plastic free, as plastic bottled water has been proven to release microplastics into the water. We recommend the hydrogen rich Kangen Water, and you can read more about it here: https://thewellnessproject.me/the-benefits-of-kangen-water-go-a-long-way/.
So here are foods you want to have more of in order to try and alleviate acid reflux:
- Melons (especially cantaloupe and honeydew melons)
- Yoghurt (foods with natural probiotic properties)
- Green Vegetables (cucumbers, asparagus, spinach, kale, broccoli, cauliflower and Brussel sprouts are highly alkaline)
- Brown Rice (as this is a complex carbohydrate, it takes longer to digest than white rice making it a better carb option if you have reflux)
- Whole-grain bread
- Egg whites
Picture credit: https://tipsoye.com/foods-to-reduce-stomach-acid-naturally/foods-to-reduce-stomach-acid-naturally-1-stomach-acid-remedy/
In addition to eating the right foods, avoid eating meals late at night. This is because lying down right after a meal makes it easier for acid to travel upwards. If you know you are suffering from acid reflux, wait for (at least) four hours after your last meal before going to bed. Furthermore, avoid long gaps between meals (six hours or more), do not eat on-the-go, do not skip meals, and chew your food slowly (yes, eat mindfully). It has been recommended by various sciences, such as macrobiotics, to chew your food at least 50 times. As the famous saying goes, ‘drink your food and chew your water.’ Having good eating habits helps you maintain a healthy overall digestive system!
In addition to the right eating habits, avoid smoking (including exposure to secondhand smoke) and wearing tight clothes, as this puts pressure on the abdomen and may force acid and food in your stomach up into your esophagus. Maintaining a healthy weight is important too, as being overweight or obese increases abdominal pressure, making stomach acid leakage or blackflow more likely to take place, resulting in acid reflux.
Believe it or not stress makes you more susceptible to having acid reflux. Medical News Today has cited a 2018 study and suggested that the researchers had physical reasons for this. In summary, here is what they concluded from this study:
“Anxiety may reduce pressure in the lower esophageal sphincter, which is the band of muscle that keeps the stomach closed and prevents acid from leaking into the esophagus. Stress responses and anxiety may cause long lasting muscle tension. If this affects the muscles around the stomach, it could increase pressure in this organ and push the acid up. High anxiety levels may increase stomach acid production.”
No doubt we are living in stressful times globally and least not here in Lebanon with our on-going political and economic crisis, and the Covid-19 pandemic. Too much stress can lead to health problems, and chronic acid reflux is no exception. This is why acknowledging and dealing with stress is very important in order to stay healthy. Here are several ways to tackle stress naturally and maintain a healthy balance in our lives:
- Meditation – We spoke about this repeatedly at The Wellness Project and for good reason. (https://thewellnessproject.me/5-reasons-you-should-incorporate-meditation-into-your-self-care-routine/). Meditation has heaps of benefits and is an effective way to relieve stress that can cause acid reflux. By practicing it regularly, meditation can help you find a sense of inner peace and that makes it easier for you to cope with stress. You can also try these five meditation techniques we recently recommended for you https://thewellnessproject.me/if-the-world-is-making-you-lose-your-sht-try-these-meditations/
- Yoga – Practicing yoga is another way to relieve stress. It brings your mind and body into balance through a series of stretches and specific postures. While it helps you calm down, it also helps you get the exercise you need for overall fitness.
- Exercise – in addition to yoga, any other form of exercise is great, as it can help loosen up tight muscles as well as releasing natural feel good hormones known as endorphins. If you cannot hit the gym, exercise at home or take long walks in your neighborhood. Just be physically active regularly as much as you can!
- Be selfish – Okay, don’t take it the wrong way; I simply mean put your foot down and say ‘no’ if you feel reluctant to do something that makes you uncomfortable in any way. It is important to prioritize people and activities and not feel guilty to turn down things that stress you out. Remember, your well-being is the priority.
- Get Enough Sleep – Lack of sleep causes stress and reduces your immune system as a result. Make sure you get your eight hours of sleep per day. To help avoid heartburn symptoms you can also try to keep your head elevated while you snooze.
- Laugh – Yes, this is my favourite. Laughter is one of the best natural stress relievers. You can watch a funny movie or a stand-up comedy show. Or just get together with close friends where you can be yourself, say what you want and share funny stories together!
- Pet Therapy – For those of you who have pets, spending time with your pet has its health benefits. Pets can help calm and keep us busy in a good way. We wrote about the benefits of pets during quarantine recently (https://thewellnessproject.me/five-reasons-to-appreciate-pets-during-lockdown/). If you don’t have a pet, why not consider fostering or adopting one from an animal shelter? BETA (https://betalebanon.org) and
Animals Lebanon (https://www.animalslebanon.org) are always looking for people to provide their rescued animals with a suitable home. After all there are plenty of furry four legged creatures who need some TLC and are ready to give some back too!
Well, we hope you got some useful tips and information on how to alleviate or prevent acid reflux from occurring. Always remember to listen to your body, because everything you feel and do is a signal you can use to make decisions about your self-care. Sometimes your body is your best doctor, so listen to it carefully! Bye for now.
First picture credit: https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/uk/health/a29017753/heartburn/