What is GERD?
An acronym for gastroesophageal reflux disease, GERD is more widely known as “chronic heartburn.” One of the most common symptoms is a burning sensation when stomach acid makes its way back up through the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) into the esophagus. Prolonged heartburn will most likely lead to GERD, a chronic digestive disease.
Stomach acid ranges from a pH of 1-5, depending on whether or not a meal was recently consumed and what the meal consisted of. Highly acidic contents can wreak havoc on your esophagus if the two come into contact. While some people don’t experience symptoms of GERD, others suffer mostly from a burning discomfort in the upper chest. Instead of looking at the root cause, most people resort to Prilosec or Nexium, contributing to the billion dollar antacid pharmaceutical industry. Natural remedies are cheaper and can be just as effective!
Dietary and Lifestyle Modifications
- Decrease fat consumption – High fat and fried foods delay stomach emptying, increasing the risk of reflux.
- Avoid large meals – The pressure exerted on the stomach along with a relaxed LES could lead to reflux.
- Maintain a healthy weight – being overweight increases the risk of reflux.
- Avoid common culprits – such as coffee, chocolate, alcohol, citrus, carbonated beverages, spicy foods, high fat meats and dairy and fried foods, onions, garlic, and tomato products, as these have been shown to aggravate GERD. Some other foods may be your “trigger.” A little detective work will help you determine what other foods may need to be eliminated.
- Do not lie down shortly after eating – Wait 2-3 hours depending on meal quantity and type.
- Do not smoke.
- Avoid tight clothing around the waist.
Top 5 Foods for Heartburn Prevention and Relief
- Apple Cider Vinegar – While science has not supported this remedy, many people swear by it as one of the best natural remedies for acid reflux. Check with your doctor before giving it a try. It's thought to work by helping balance acid production in the stomach or by helping break down fats. Heartburn rears its ugly head after eating, sometimes up to two hours after finishing a meal. Suggested use of ACV to prevent heartburn is to take 2 Tbsp in 8 oz water, three times a day before meals. You may wish to start slowly with 1 tsp and work your way up. Make sure you buy organic, raw, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar (I like Bragg’s brand!)
- Aloe Vera – A go-to to help soothe a sunburn, it's also great at soothing your insides! Two to three ounces of aloe vera juice consumed 1-3 times a day, about 20 minutes before a meal may help treat and/or prevent acid reflux. Aloe is very cleansing, so be careful not to overdo it in order to avoid the potential side effects of loose stools.
- Oatmeal – Oatmeal’s soluble fiber produces a gel-like quality as it digests and could squander excess acid in the stomach to reduce or prevent reflux symptoms. Oatmeal also contains selenium, which has been shown to help protect the esophagus.
- Greens – Cruciferous veggies like broccoli and cauliflower, asparagus, green beans and other greens are all conducive to a heartburn-free diet. Included in this bunch is parsley, used as a medicinal herb to settle the stomach and aid digestion.
- Ginger – A known anti-inflammatory powerhouse, ginger has been widely used for gastrointestinal conditions. If you’re having a regular glass of cleansing warm water, lemon, and ginger each morning, you are prepping your digestive system to function at its peak.
If all else fails, supplements may be your answer. Discuss these options with your doctor.
- DGL (Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice)
- Calcium citrate is most soluble in powder form. Calcium tightens the LES valve.
- Digestive enzymes may help by decreasing distension of the stomach.