Natural Ways to Overcome Reflux

A lady experiencing reflux.

Do you suffer from reflux? Let's try to understand it while giving you some natural ways to deal with it. (Image: via © Piyapong Thongcharoen)  

About 20 percent of the population experience reflux. So the likelihood that you experience or know someone with reflux is pretty high. Here are some of the things you need to know about reflux and what you can do to overcome it, naturally. 

Reflux is sometimes called GERD (gastrointestinal reflux disease), acid reflux, or heartburn. You may have one, two, all, or even none of the symptoms listed below. There is such a thing as silent reflux that doesn’t give you symptoms, but it does cause irritation. 

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The most common symptoms can include:

  • Acid reflux that you can feel coming up
  • A chronic dry cough
  • Clearing your throat, especially after meals
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Shortness of breath
  • A sour taste in your mouth
  • Frequent burping
  • Pain in your stomach

Low stomach acid is one of the more common causes of indigestion.

The most common reasons for it are:

  • Low levels of Vitamin B12 (important if you’re a vegetarian) 
  • Low levels of Zinc
  • SIBO (or Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth)
  • Emotional Stress: You can’t run away from a tiger and eat a meal at the same time. This is a big one and one of the most challenging causes of indigestion. It is still possible to heal if this is the cause, but you have to give it some time. 
Rocket can help overcome reflux.
Bitter foods such as rocket can stimulate the production of digestive juices, including bile, to help you digest and absorb fats. (Image via Pixabay)

Finding relief

These are some things to experiment with if you think you are dealing with indigestion.

  • Apple Cider Vinegar: Take 1 or 2 tsp right before or during a meal. If you feel like you are digesting your meals better then it is a good sign that your HCL (hydrochloric acid/ stomach acid) production is insufficient.
  • Herbal Bitters: You can try anything from Angostura bitters (the ones used to accent cocktails) to my favorite, Dr. Shade’s Bitters No.9. There are many brands available. The taste of extreme bitter herbs on your tongue can stimulate the production of HCL and digestive enzymes in your upper digestive tract. The dose depends on the brand, but try to get some right on your tongue and get a good sense of a very bitter flavor.
  • Betaine HCL: This supplement usually is combined with Pepsin. It is usually derived from the stomach of another animal, most often sourced from cows.  It is the most similar to your own HCL and you should again take it right before or during a meal.  The dose varies from person to person so follow the brand’s recommended dose to start. 

Watch this video to find out more:

7 tips to manage heartburn and reflux

  • Avoid large meals. Too much food and fluid in your stomach at one time can cause your stomach acids to move back up your esophagus. Instead of eating large portions, try to reduce your portion sizes at meals and eat more frequently if needed. For example, if you eat three large meals per day and experience heartburn or reflux after these, try reducing your portion sizes at each main meal and have snacks in between. Or if you often experience heartburn or reflux after lunch, try splitting your lunch in two, eating half earlier and half later on.
  • Eat slowly and chew your food well. Eating too quickly can cause you to swallow air with your food and not allow proper digestion, resulting in heartburn and reflux. Aim to slow your eating and chew your food well. 
  • Avoid lying down after eating. Avoid food and fluids 2-3 hours before bed. If you can’t do this, try elevating your head with an extra pillow when you go to bed.
  • Healthy weight loss if appropriate. Extra weight around the stomach region can push on the stomach causing food to move back up the esophagus. Healthy weight loss can thus help reduce symptoms, however, this may not always be appropriate, e.g. if you are pregnant. 
  • Avoid exercise straight after eating. Your body needs time to digest food before undertaking exercise. Allow at least 30-60minutes after a small meal or snack and 2-3hours after a larger meal before exercising. Note that exercise is still very beneficial for managing reflux. 
  • Reduce stress. Stress can worsen your heartburn and relax symptoms. Aim to eat in a calm environment (e.g. not when working) and engage in regular stress-reducing activities.   
  • Avoid tight-fitting clothing. This can put pressure on the stomach area (ladies, this includes tights!). Wear loose-fitting clothing, especially at meals. 
A group of women practicing Falun Gong meditation.
Meditation practices help lessen stress and can reduce heartburn symptoms. (Image: via Wirestock via Dreamstime)

Avoid your heartburn and reflux trigger foods. Certain foods can trigger heartburn and reflux in individuals. Reducing your intake or avoiding these foods can help manage your symptoms. 

Watch this video on the Best Foods For Reflux:

Some common heartburn and reflux trigger foods include: 

  • Fatty foods: Deep fried fatty foods, full-fat dairy, creamy sauces, oily foods, processed meats, fatty meats, battered foods, sweets made with fats and oils
  • Spicy foods: Chili, tomatoes, onions
  • High histamine foods like citrus fruits, vinegar, and other acidic fruits and fruit juices
  • Carbonated drinks: Soft drinks, soda water, etc.
  • Caffeine: Tea, coffee, energy drinks
  • Chewing gum
  • Alcohol
  • Mints and peppermint

Note that it is important to work out which foods affect you as everybody is different. You can work out your reflux trigger foods by keeping a food and symptom diary where you write down what you eat and when your symptoms occurred. 

Sheridan Genrich CGP is a naturopath and nutritionist who received her health science degree from Charles Sturt University, and also received the Dean’s Award for academic excellence. Sheridan mainly works with over-stretched professionals, entrepreneurs, and executives who struggle to be in their best health. Find her at Better Brain Health.

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