My friend Dave recently began experiencing heartburn on a daily basis. When it first started, the heartburn was so bad that Dave thought he was having a heart attack!
Not a farfetched belief, considering that heartburn-related chest pain is sometimes mistaken for the pain of heart disease.
In Daveâs case, the acid contents in his stomach had backed upâor refluxedâinto the esophagus and caused his heartburn.
Frequent episodes of acid reflux, or heartburn, can commonly lead to a condition known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Heartburn is the most common symptom of GERD.
What is Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)?
Major risk factors associated with recurrent heartburn, or GERD, include obesity, smoking, pregnancy, esophagus abnormalities, and hiatal hernia. Some medications can result in GERD symptoms by weakening the esophageal sphincter and slowing digestion. Medications that cause GERD include asthma medications, antidepressants, anticholinergic drugs, sedatives, tranquilizers, and estrogen replacements.
Symptoms of GERD
Dave is certainly not alone. It is estimated that 60% of the adult population experiences GERD each year. As mentioned, the main symptom of GERD is heartburn. Other common gastroesophageal reflux disease symptoms include:
- Bad breath or a sour taste in the mouth
- Pain of difficulty swallowing
- Inflammation of the gums
- Erosion of the tooth enamel
- Difficulty swallowing, also known as dysphagia
- Chronic sore throat, hoarse voice, or laryngitis
- Coughing or other respiratory problems
- Frequent vomiting and nausea
Keep in mind that GERD symptoms tend to worsen from lying down right after eating. After all, youâre giving the acid in your stomach even more of an opportunity to get into the esophagus.
GERD Diet, Foods to Eat and Avoid
What you eat can either increase or decrease your risk of developing GERD. The following is a simple chart that includes the most appropriate food you should eat and food you should avoid:
|Food Group||Foods to Enjoy||Foods to Avoid|
|Vegetables||All vegetables, especially eating okra||Creamy or fried vegetables; onions|
|Fruits||Bananas, melons, pears, peaches, berries, apples||Oranges, limes, lemons, grapefruit, pineapple, tomatoes, tomato-based foods like pizza, salsa, and pasta sauce|
|Meats||Chicken, turkey, fish||Sausage, fatty meat, bacon, chicken skin or fat, bacon fat, ham fat|
|Dairy||Kefir with probiotics||Cowâs milk, cream sauces, creamy salad dressings, sour cream, butter, cheese|
|Sweets and Desserts||Non-citrus based fruit salads||Chocolate, ice cream|
|Beverages||Water, vegetables and fruit juices (not citrus), non-mint and decaffeinated herbal teas such as chamomile||Alcohol, coffee, tea, tomato juice, mint teas, carbonated beverages|
|Soups||Bone broth made from beef or chicken bones||Processed soups, especially no creamy or milk-based soups|
|Herbs||Non-mint herbs such as chamomile, milk thistle, and garden angelica||Garlic, peppermint, spearmint, and mint family herbs|
|Processed foods||None are acceptable||French fries, onion rings, potato chips, gravies|
To decrease your risk of GERD symptoms, your diet shouldnât include spicy foods, fatty or fried foods, garlic, onions, alcohol, coffee and other caffeinated drinks, tomato juice, tomato-based foods (i.e. pizza or salsa) and sweets (i.e. chocolate or ice cream).
Late night eating and lying down after food consumption can also trigger GERD symptoms. It is also a good idea to eat smaller meals. Some people may see symptom improvement from an egg-free and gluten-free diet. Overall, a whole foods diet with vegetables and fruits should help reduce symptoms of GERD. Acceptable meats include chicken, turkey, and fish.
Fruits that should be consumed include bananas, melons, pears, peaches, berries, and apples; however, oranges, limes, lemons, grapefruit, and pineapple should be avoided. Most dairy products should be avoided, like cowâs milk, butter, cheese, and sour cream (although kefir can be included). Peppermint and spearmint are also on the list of herbs that worsen GERD symptoms.
Home Remedies and Lifestyle Changes to Treat GERD Symptoms
The most common go-to GERD treatment is antacids. The most popular brands that come to mind include âTumsâ, âMaaloxâ, and âRolaidsâ. The chronic use of these antacids, however, will make an already weak stomach even worse. Luckily, there are home remedies and lifestyle changes that can improve GERD symptoms.
Being overweight or obese will contribute to GERD symptoms; therefore, losing weight can help the condition. Extra pounds will put pressure on the abdomen and stomach, and cause acid to reflux into the esophagus. It is best to work slowly toward losing weight to reduce GERD. Studies have also found that breathing exercises can improve GERD symptoms.
2. Betaine HCl supplements
Heartburn or acid reflux is often treated with a supplement called betaine hydrochloric acid (HCl). Heartburn is also a sign of low stomach acid. When HCl production is low, proteins are not properly being digested. As a result, there is a buildup of digestive acids and partially digested food in the stomach. The only time betaine HCl is not recommended is when an ulcer is also present.
3. Slippery elm bark
Slippery elm root bark (Ulmus fulva) powder is a demulcent herbal remedy that has traditionally been used for treating ulcers and heartburn. Slippery elm promotes relief and healing of irritated esophageal or gastric mucosa. The mucilage in slippery elm will irritate the esophagus mucous membranes and stomach lining. One to two tablespoons of the powder mixed with water should be taken before bed and after meals.
4. Cabbage juice
Cabbage juice is another popular folk remedy for heartburn. It is thought that the high amounts of glutamine in cabbage juice can help reduce the symptoms of GERD. Since cabbage juice has a strong flavor it is best to combine it with other vegetable juices.
Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) is another demulcent tea that helps soothe inflamed mucous membranes. Meadowsweet herbal tea is created by steeping one to two teaspoons of dried meadowsweet in a cup of boiled water for 10 minutes. Drinking three cups daily will help protect the lining of the esophagus and stomach by reducing inflammation caused by stomach acid.
Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) is a common demulcent herb used for GERD. Deglycyrrhizinated licorice is recommended for long-term use in order to avoid the side-effects associated with a phytochemical in licorice called glycyrrhizin. Two to four deglycyrrhizinated licorice tablets are recommended before meals.
Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) is an anti-inflammatory herb that is used to treat GERD symptoms and improve the healing of an irritated esophageal mucosa. Chamomile is also known for its antispasmodic and sedative effects on the gastrointestinal tract. Steep one to three grams of dried chamomile flowers in a covered saucer cup. Drink the tea three to four times daily.
Marshmallow (Althea officinalis) is an effective mucilaginous herb used to treat GERD symptoms. For marshmallow tea, infuse five to six grams of the leaves or root throughout the day.
9. Anti-anxiety herbs
Anxiety is linked to GERD symptoms, according to a 2007 study published in the journal Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics. As a result, herbal experts also recommend anti-anxiety herbs such as valerian (Valeriana officinalis) and skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora).
10. Homeopathic remedies
Homeopathic remedies thought to relieve GERD symptoms include bryonia, arsenicum, carbo vegetabilis, pulsatilla, nux vomica, phosphorus, china, graphites, kali bichromium, lycopodium, sepia, argentum, and anacardium.
These remedies carry short-term benefits against heartburn and indigestion.
Other Natural Approaches to GERD
Other natural GERD treatment methods include acupuncture, relaxation training, chiropractic adjustment, probiotics, D-limonene extract, melatonin, vitamin D, comfrey, Irish moss, Iceland moss, aloe juice, and lobelia. It is also a good idea to help repair the gut with nutrients like zinc (carnosine), fish oils, ginger, turmeric, and gamma oryzanol.
To further reduce the frequency of heartburn related to GERD, avoid wearing tight-fitted clothes, quit smoking and elevate the head of your bed.
Read More :
- Heartburn Triggers: Common Foods That Cause Acid Reflux
- The Eight Heartburn Trigger Foods You Must Avoid
Sources for Todayâs Article:
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Eherer, A.J., et al., âPositive effect of abdominal breathing exercise on gastroesophageal reflux disease: a randomized, controlled study,â American Journal of Gastroenterology, 2012; 107(3): 372-378, doi: 10.1038/ajg.2011.420.EPub.
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