What Can I Do for Acid Reflux?
Acid reflux is one of the most common digestive disorders in the U.S., with an estimated 20-30% of American adults experiencing acid reflux symptoms on a recurring basis. The most common symptom of acid reflux is heartburn: a painful, burning feeling in the chest and/or throat. This happens when partially digested liquids or foods, mixed with stomach acid, get pushed up into the esophagus and cause irritation. In addition to affecting quality of life negatively, frequent heartburn can lead to chronic digestive disorders. If you experience heartburn on a regular basis, it’s time to ask your doctor, “What can I do for acid reflux?”
What Can I Do for Acid Reflux Symptoms?
While most people believe that acid reflux is caused by an excess of stomach acid, it is actually caused by low stomach acid. Common factors that cause low stomach acid include stress, bacterial infection, poor diet, nutritional deficiencies, and H. pylori infections (which are linked to stomach ulcers). Other factors that play a role in low stomach acid include hypothyroidism, pernicious anemia, and deficiencies in zinc, B12, magnesium, or chloride. Many people turn to antacids for heartburn relief, but antacids only treat the symptoms, not the root cause. It is important to talk to your doctor about your acid reflux so that they can identify and treat the underlying cause. As you work on addressing the root cause of your acid reflux, here are some natural ways to deal with the symptoms:
Reduce pressure on your stomach – Where the esophagus meets the stomach there is a ring-like muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). This muscle acts as a valve and prevents stomach contents from going up into the esophagus. When too much pressure is placed on the muscle, it can cause acidic stomach contents to squeeze through. Eating large meals and wearing tight clothing can cause excess pressure on the LES and increase heartburn symptoms.
Lose weight – Excess fat in the abdomen can also exert pressure on the LES and increase acid reflux. Numerous studies have found that losing weight helps decrease heartburn symptoms. Additionally, excess abdominal fat can cause the stomach to slip through the diaphragm into the middle compartment of the chest, causing a condition known as hiatus hernia, which can exacerbate acid reflux.
Chew gum – Chewing gum causes your body to produce more saliva and can help clear the esophagus of acid. While it doesn’t reduce the reflux itself, it can help alleviate symptoms.
Elevate the head of your bed – For many people, their reflux symptoms are worse at night. This can make it difficult to fall asleep or disrupt the quality of their sleep. Raising the head of your bed allows gravity to reduce heartburn symptoms. You can place blocks under the top bedposts or insert foam wedges between the mattress and boxspring to raise the bed between 6-8 inches.
Avoid foods that can cause heartburn – Common heartburn-inducing foods include coffee, raw onion, carbonated beverages, tomato products, citrus juice, chocolate, spicy or fried foods, and alcohol.
Don’t sleep on your right side – The esophagus enters your stomach on the right side. As a result, when you sleep on your right side, the lower esophageal sphincter is below the level of stomach acid and increases the risk of acid leaking through. Sleeping on your left side raises the sphincter above the level of stomach acid and helps reduce nighttime heartburn.
Relax – Stress and anxiety cause a host of negative physical effects, including heartburn. Reducing stress can help relieve some of your symptoms.
What Can I Do for Acid Reflux? Call Anchor Wellness Center
Dr. Minni Malhotra, MD, FAARM, ABAARM, is a Board Certified physician in Family Medicine as well as Board Certified with the American Board of Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine. Dr. Malhotra can identify and treat the underlying cause of your acid reflux, helping you improve your digestion and relieve your symptoms. Call and schedule an appointment today: (832) 246-8437.