9 Natural Ways to Ease the Acid Reflux Burn
By Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN
Acid reflux… ouch! It’s that burning, upset stomach feeling that just won’t go away, and it usually comes at an inconvenient time. It’s one of the most common health issues and one that can plague anyone at any age; so if you’re someone who suffers from acid reflux you’re not alone! Sometimes acid reflux can be caused by a medical condition or medicine that you might be taking, but other times it can be prompted or contributed to by other lifestyle and food choices and habits. The good news for most of us is that there are some natural ways to prevent and remedy acid reflux that can be done in addition to or in place of a medical regimen, depending on the case.
To help ease and prevent acid reflux, here are 9 natural tips for you to try:
- Eat small and eat frequently: One of the greatest triggers for acid reflux in many cases can be eating large meals; this is because eating too much can cause a distended stomach, which can put pressure on the sphincter at the top of the stomach that can allow stomach acid to move up into the esophagus leading to acid reflux. Instead of having fewer and larger meals, try having smaller and more frequent meals, like breakfast, lunch, one or two snacks including a juice or a few nuts, followed by dinner. Eating smaller and more frequent meals can help to take some of the pressure (and size) off of breakfast, lunch, and dinner that can help keep acid reflux at bay. We have awesome recipes for you to enjoy.
- Drink water between meals: Water and fluids are so important (here are the many reasons why!), but instead of drinking during meals, try drinking water in larger quantities between meals to help prevent a full stomach. As previously mentioned a more distended stomach may put extra pressure on the sphincter at the top of the stomach, making it more likely that stomach acids may be able to flow back and forth between esophagus and stomach– thereby increasing the likelihood for acid reflux.
- Keep moving: This one is so important, and it’s something that most of us really need to tune into more than we already do. Almost anyone can experience acid reflux if they sit for too long after a meal, after all, our bodies were made to move! While not moving too intensely after workouts is key, moving a little bit (everyday activities like walking around the house) is important as it can help to promote proper digestion and help prevent reflux.
- Give it time before lying down: If you’re someone who typically eats dinner a bit later you might want to reconsider how quickly you go to bed. Lying down can more easily facilitate stomach acid to come back up into the esophagus, and as a side note (but an important one), it doesn’t help digestion or promote restful sleep either — two very important things! Try to wait at least one or two hours before lying down after eating dinner, it’s certainly helpful for most.
- Ease off of spicy foods: Spicy foods are certainly delicious and loaded with healthful nutrients, but for some, these foods can trigger acid reflux. Try milder versions of your favorite spicy foods in small amounts like salsa, and see if they are bothersome to you. Because acid reflux and its triggers are entirely individual, what may be a problem for one person may not be an issue for another. For milder flavor try basil, oregano and parsley.
- Back off the alcohol: Alcohol for many can be a major trigger for acid reflux and not to mention can also be a major source of extra calories. The reason that many of us with acid reflux experience more trouble with alcohol is because it relaxes the sphincter that leads to the stomach, which can contribute to acid reflux.
- Cut the fat: Fat can be a major problem for anyone who suffers from acid reflux whether it be healthful fat like olive oil and walnuts or from less healthful sources like fried food. Fat in moderate to high quantities in meals and snacks causes slower emptying of the stomach, which for some can worsen acid reflux. Eating healthful fat most often is a great choice, but it’s a lot about limiting quantity at meals to an amount that is comfortable for you (remember our needs are all different!).
- Look into your diet: Certain factors for some can contribute to acid reflux, like unidentified gluten and dairy sensitivities. This isn’t to say that everyone with acid reflux should avoid these two things, but it’s definitely something to look at (along with anything else you think may be causing sensitivities). Starting to notice what may be bothering you can be challenging, but an easy way to start to do this is by journaling. Journaling can help you keep track of what you’re eating and how you’re feeling afterward, which can be helpful when it comes to identifying possible foods that may be contributing.
- Use caution with these foods:
- Citrus: Citrus is acidic in itself, so for many it can promote acid reflux or feelings of sour stomach especially on an empty stomach. Instead of using something like lemon in hot water, try ginger. It’s important to note that lemon and other citrus may not cause issues for everyone, because it does actually have digestive properties in it, but for many can be an issue.
- Chocolate: Chocolate though delicious and loaded with healthful nutrients can be a major problem for some of us suffering from acid reflux. It contains caffeine and theobromine, both are stimulants, and may contribute to heartburn. Chocolate also contains a fair amount of fat and fat can delay digestion and therefore may contribute to heartburn.
- Tomatoes: Like many of these other delicious foods, tomatoes are loaded with nutrients like anti-cancer lycopene, but also very acidic and may promote acid reflux in anyone who has trouble with it. It’s best to avoid tomatoes and tomato sauce for most who suffer from acid reflux.
- Onions and garlic: Onions and garlic may cause issues for some, but like many of these foods may not cause any trouble at all for others. When raw, onions and garlic are usually more troublesome than when cooked, but like other foods on this list, trial these foods one at a time and keep a journal to record how you feel when eating them.
- Mint: Peppermint is certainly a stomach soother for many, but for anyone with acid reflux it actually may cause more issues than one may expect. Like many other foods, mint can relax the pyloric sphincter at the top of the stomach, which can allow stomach acids to flow freely into the esophagus. Avoid mint especially on an empty stomach if you have acid reflux and go for other herbs like basil and parsley.
The most important thing for you to do is to listen to your body. Listen to what works and what doesn’t work, and from that make the best plan you can to feel your absolute best.