All about Acid Reflux
Do you suffer from heartburn or burping after you eat? Has your doctor told you to go on an antacid, or are you currently taking one? Today we’re talking about acid reflux. We will cover what it is, signs and symptoms, causes, antacids, and lifestyle and food changes to combat reflux.
What is acid reflux?
Acid reflux is incredibly common in the United States, with at least 60 million American’s experiencing symptoms at least once a month. Acid reflux is essentially the dysfunction of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), responsible for opening and closing as food passes through from the esophagus into the stomach. During acid reflux, the LES doesn’t close all the way, enabling acid from the stomach to come up into the esophagus or beyond. This is problematic and results in undesirable digestive symptoms and, in more severe cases, can cause gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which manifests as more troublesome symptoms and complications.
Common Symptoms of acid reflux include:
- Heartburn / Indigestion
- Regurgitation (the sensation of acid backing up into your throat or mouth)
- Bitter taste in your mouth
- Dry Mouth
- Bad Breath
- Feeling hoarse
- Digestive Issues (burping, nausea after eating, gas, bloating)
- Abnormal feelings of fullness after eating
- Persistent Hiccups
The causes of acid reflux are widespread, varying from your diet to medications to underlying medical conditions. You are at an increased risk for acid reflux if you:
- Are pregnant
- Take certain medications (read them for side-effects) or supplements
- Suffer from LOW stomach acid (this might be contrary to what you’ve heard!)
- Eat a high-fat diet, drink caffeine, or drink alcohol
- Eat large meals and too close to bedtime
- Have dysbiosis (imbalance of bacteria in the gut)
- Have SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth)
- Are overweight
- Have a hiatal hernia
- Smoke Cigarettes
Complications and treatment of Acid Reflux
Not only is suffering from acid reflux uncomfortable, but it can be dangerous to your body long-term. If left untreated, acid reflux can progress to GERD whose medical complications can result in ulcers, esophagitis, barret’s esophagus, esophageal cancer, and more.
If you have acid reflux, your doctor will most likely be quick to prescribe you a medication. There are three categories of drugs to treat reflux: antiacids, histamine type 2 receptor antagonists (H2 blockers), and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs).
There is definitely a time and a place to take these medications, but the problem is they were developed for short-term use only and are now being abused and used as a long-term solution resulting in complications. The complications range from digestive distress to increased risk of mental illnesses, heart problems, liver damage, micronutrient deficiencies, stomach cancers, and other serious medical conditions.
My goal in working with clients is to slowly take them off these medications alongside a physician as they make lifestyle and diet-related changes so they can feel better long-term.
Diet modifications for Acid Reflux
Medications aren’t the only way to treat acid reflux; in fact, your diet and lifestyle play a big role and can be just as powerful.
My top tips when adjusting your diet for reflux are:
- Eat a lighter meal – a heavier meal is harder for your body to break downs and digests more slowly. Lightening it up may help with digestion
- Try cutting back on caffeine and alcohol ( I know it’s hard, but it’s worth it!)
- Cut back on dairy even eliminate it for a couple of weeks and see how you feel
- Reduce spicy, fried foods, and chocolate (these can be a real irritant!)
- Cut back on citrus fruits (they’re more acidic than others)
- Swap carbonated beverages for non-carbonated ones
- Avoid eating 1-2 hours before or after exercise
- Don’t eat too close to bedtime (the ideal timeframe is no closer than 3-4 hours before since that’s how long it takes your stomach to empty)
- Avoid lying down right after a meal
- Consider an HCL supplement (note: do not take this without the guidance of a health professional!)
While there are some foods you should cut back on, there are also a bunch I recommend that can help with reflux. Many of these foods are more alkaline (basic) and may help reduce your symptoms.
Foods that help with reflux:
- Whole grains (think: brown rice, quinoa
- Sweet Potatoes
- Winter Squash
- Apple Cider Vinegar and Lemons (this one is tricky, try it for yourself and see if it helps or hurts)
- Chamomile and ginger tea
Try incorporating more of these foods into your diet for a few days and see how you feel. Remember, once your acid reflux is healed, you can go back to eating many of the foods you couldn’t before without being symptomatic!
Just because acid reflux is common doesn’t mean that you should be suffering. Medications can be helpful in short term use for acid reflux, but the goal ultimately is to manage and reverse it through diet and lifestyle.
Suffering from acid reflux and need my help? Click here to work with me!