Due to excessive consumption of processed foods and artificial ingredients, acid reflux and other related digestive disorders are becoming more and more common. Acid reflux can be described as a burning sensation in your chest. One can also experience difficulties when eating, or heavy chest pains that wakes you up in the middle of the night, which occurs when the contents of the stomach are trying to move back up the esophagus. If completely ignored, these symptoms could lead to poor digestive health, which ultimately can result in a myriad of chronic health risks.
Modern medicine and the commercial pharmaceutical industry offer us quick solutions in the form of prescription pills that promise instant relief. However, chemically-structured medication have their own side effects, that may add up to the potential risks the body is already susceptible to when suffering from acid reflux. Therefore, it is important to make necessary adjustments to your lifestyle and dietary choices, such as: reducing stress, getting a good night sleep, and cutting off certain foods altogether.
The Science Behind Acid Reflux
The stomach naturally produces acid as part of the process of digesting food. When you eat something, the food travels down from the esophagus to the stomach, after which, the muscle that controls the constrictions of the esophagus – the lower esophageal sphincter muscle, automatically closes and separates the two digestive parts.
There are multiple reasons that cause this muscle to open. One reason is, increased pressure in the stomach, which forces the lower esophageal muscle to open and push the stomach’s contents, including acid, back into the esophagus. Foods that alter the functionality of this muscle, either by relaxation or through cellular damage, also cause acid to escape from the stomach into the esophagus. The stomach acid that went returns back to the esophagus, causes the burning sensation.
Medically, the proper way to address acid reflux is to increase the quality of acid in the stomach, simply because the digestive system is able to process food effectively that way. Natural dietary supplements, such as digestive enzymes are alternative options you may use during the healing phase, to help the digestive system generate and maintain stomach acid. Please note, that it is always recommended to contact your local holistic healthcare practitioner to find out what is most suitable for your symptoms.
The Pill Problem
Pills are simple, easy, and convenient, as they quickly prevent the production of stomach acid and/or neutralize any excess. The problem, however, is that most prescribed medications are designed for limited or short-term use. Through gradual consumption, they can stress out the gastrointestinal tract, which may cause bowel movement disorders, such as constipation or diarrhea. It can be said that most prescription drugs fail to reduce enduring production of bodily acids in the digestive system.
Changes in Dietary Choices
Every research concerning acid reflux, generally, indicates the role of processed food in developing digestive disorders such as these. Just like conventional medication, processed foods are convenient and easy to get, making it equally simple for people to overindulge in these artificially prepared foods and forget about their digestive health. Despite the unique individual system, there are common triggers that may lead to acid reflux.
To achieve optimal digestive health, a natural remedy for acid reflux is required. Instead of intoxicating narcotics, consumption of organic produce, is still the most recommended healthy dietary path to gastrointestinal wellness. Similarly, intake of foods enriched with fiber, probiotics, and high-quality protein is also conducive to the body’s digestive tract. Apart from reducing acid reflux, choosing these foods also makes the body immune to health risks, such as complications associated with chronic diseases, obesity, and inflammation.
Here are some recommendations to heal your Acid Reflux:
● Fermented Products
Fermented products enable us to achieve a more balanced digestive system and fill our digestive system with beneficial bacterias. This can soothe the digestive tract and aid proper metabolism. Yogurt or kefir containing live and active cultures that have undergone a 24-hour fermentation process are among the most suggested (Koufman & Stern, 2012).
● Pickled Vegetables
Pickled or fermented vegetables, such as kimchi or sauerkraut, are also potent sources of probiotics and have the same balancing effects in stomach bacteria, as yogurt or kefir, which, help to optimize your digestion (Koufman & Stern, 2012).
● Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple Cider Vinegar is also conducive to acid reflux. Particularly, for cases wherein the acid reflux is caused by deficiencies, the acetic acid found in apple cider vinegar adds acid to the digestive tract and balances out the insufficiency (Cane, 2014).
Even before conventional medicine had its own sets of breakthroughs, the soothing properties of ginger have already been a proven treatment for gastrointestinal conditions (Koufman & Stern, 2012). The aforementioned effects extend to anti-inflammatory functions that can help combat symptoms of acid reflux. In fact, in Ayurveda, ginger is referred to as vishwabhesaj, “the universal medicine”. You can take ginger as a tea or incorporate it with your cooking. You can even eat it fresh.
● Green Leafy Vegetables
Countless research has already proven the nutritional value of vegetables and acid reflux is part of their broad, diverse beneficiaries. Green, Leafy Vegetables such as green beans, cabbage, asparagus, celery, and broccoli are known to soothe the esophagus’ lining because of their low acid content (Koufman & Stern, 2012).
● Fruits (Low in Acid)
Fruits are known to have high acid content, but regular consumption of the fruits with low acid content, such as: honeydew, bananas, cantaloupe, and melons can help prevent any reflux of acid (Koufman & Stern, 2012). Just be sure that the regular intake of these fruits is coupled with the complete elimination of caffeine, citrus, fried food, spicy food, and alcohol.
Foods to Stay Away From
Despite the broad choices given above, there are more types of food and beverages that cause an imbalance of digestive acids. Chocolate, caffeine, alcohol, fast food, meaty foods, along with pasteurized and processed cheese are among them. Here is a complete look at what could help to balance the digestive acids:
● Processed Food and Dairy Products
High-fat content in foods are known adversaries of acid reflux and processed food along with their fried, greasy counterparts are the first things to add to your list of foods to avoid. Likewise, check the label of dairy products like cheese and butter, as some of these contain saturated fats that aggravate acid reflux (Koufman & Stern, 2012).
● Spicy Food
Like their processed, fat-laden peers, food enhanced with chilies and peppers are known to irritate an inflamed esophagus and cause acid levels to rise (Koufman & Stern, 2012).
Meat is known to be some of the most fat-rich and acidic foods. Lean chicken, turkey, and fish may contain lower fat contents but its abundance of red meats such as beef, lamb, and pork are enablers of acid reflux (Koufman & Stern, 2012).
Over-consumption of alcohol is already bad enough, to begin with. Nevertheless, this is a tricky one, since there are people who have the tolerance and intestinal fortitude to take amounts of it in moderation (Koufman & Stern, 2012). That is because alcohol is a known muscle relaxant and the lower esophageal muscle (sphincter) is relaxed when drinking, thereby, allowing more acid to reach the stomach. If consumption is really inevitable, taking small amounts along with plenty of water helps preventing the stomach from acting up too quickly.
Caffeinated products, such as, coffee, soda, energy drinks, and certain teas contain acids that can further irritate an inflamed esophagus. Likewise, most sodas and energy drinks are carbonated, which means they contain air that usually stays in the stomach and adds pressure to the lower esophageal sphincter muscle (Koufman & Stern, 2012).
By its natural composition, cocoa is in itself rich in acid. Combining it with ingredients such as milk, cream, and sugar increases symptoms that lead to reflux (Koufman & Stern, 2012). If the sweet goodness is just too hard to pass, it would be helpful to mix it with dark chocolate in lieu of milk, sugar, or other variants of chocolate.
Since the advent of industrialization, the staple diet for most cultures has been dominated by whole grains. They have the power to instantly give a filling sensation that sends out the message of satisfied hunger, however, they are also known to have high acidic content. Basic grains like rice, pasta, wheat, rye, flour, and bread can be consumed in moderation provided the acidity-inducing chemicals that smother them have undergone proper soaking and sprouting processes (Koufman & Stern, 2012).
Natural Remedies and Supplements for Acid Reflux Symptoms
Beyond changes in dietary choices, preventing or curing acid reflux requires certain changes in your habits and body rhythms. In order to heal and balance your body, you could try to follow the following guidelines:
● Complete and Proper Rest
A full night’s sleep is definitely a good way to help your body balance its digestive acids and hormones. However, it is important to avoid going to sleep immediately after dinner, since this may trigger acid reflux symptoms. Similarly, it is important to avoid having bedtime or midnight snacks.
● Avoid Excessive Eating
Eating meals in smaller portions allows the right amount of food to be digested properly. Eating huge meals or excessive portions, puts additional pressure on the sphincter which, in return, causes acid rejection and indigestion. Likewise, chewing food carefully and completely before swallowing will allow the stomach to digest the food with more ease.
● Manage Stress
It is well known that stress can cause hormonal imbalances and lead to digestive problems, such as acid reflux. Therefore, it is recommended to follow a healthy diet, along with relaxing activities, such as, yoga. Ayurveda, may likewise provide additional insights on how to effectively prevent or counter any symptoms or ailments related to acid reflux.