Easing Chronic Acid Reflux
I first started experiencing acid reflux or GERD symptoms exactly two years ago when I was diagnosed with Dysbiosis and IBS (a year prior to to my mild ulcerative colitis diagnosis). At first it was mild and only surfaced if I had eaten foods known to trigger it. It was only in December of 2016 when I lived in Phuket, which was very,very hot that it turned chronic. Today, it i very rare that I don't feel that subtle but, oh SO distracting, burn in my chest.
Why do we even get acid reflux in the first place?
I'm going to try to keep the boring biology, sciencey stuff to a minimum here (I say boring but who am I trying to kid, I LOVE this stuff :p). But basically, what's happening is this: Between your esophagus and stomach is a valve called the Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES), which opens to allow food (fyi, at this point, its actually called bolus) into your stomach. On 'normal' people, this value closes right after food enters your stomach.
However, for those of us with acid reflux, the LES doesn't close all the way or opens more often than it should allowing the acid from our stomachs to creep up into the esophagus.
If you experience acid reflux more than twice a week and if medications don't provide lasting relief, you have GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease) and may want to get it checked out. My advice? Seek out a naturopath or alternative medicine doctor. Western doctors tend to just prescribe Proton Pump Inhibitors (aka acid blockers) like Nexium to cover up the symptoms. What they don't tell you is that in the long-term, it will cause a lot more harm than good. Studies have proven a negative implication on our gut microbiota - a key to good health - and even increased risk for gastric cancer. Yep... and to think that a good majority of people in western countries take this every single morning. I refused to when I was prescribed.
Ayurveda & Acid Reflux
According to ayurveda, the oldest system of medicine stemmed from India, acid reflux is caused by excess Pitta - fire, heat - in the body. "Pitta is located in the stomach and is symbolized as a sharp, intense, hot and acidic energy."
Soothing Your Acid Reflux
The recommendations I'm about to list below are a mix of what has worked for many and what I, myself, use to ease the fiery feeling in my chest. It will also include a mix of modern, functional medicine and traditional Ayurvedic medicine. As with everything I - or any other health practitioner - will ever tell you; take it with a grain of salt. We're all different and our bodies react differently to different foods and stimuli. Use this as a guide to test out what works for YOU!
Foods To Avoid:
These foods trigger the burning sensation and can intensify it if it is there but only mild. Symptoms can surface as you eat it or may come later, as a result of over consumption.
Cooked Tomatoes (also raw if severe, try testing it out and seeing how you feel)
Citrus Fruits - lemons, grapefruit, orange. Lime is the best option.(Many other blogs/sites recommend lemon water to soothe acid reflux since lemon turns alkaline once ingested. For me, though, this was not the case at all. Experiment with yourself!)
Caffeine - especially coffee and chocolate because they're acidic, too
Vinegars - with the exception of ACV, we'll get to that soon
Onions & Garlic - these are extremely heating and aggravating in Ayurveda
Beets - this one is quite interesting but is an Ayurvedic recommendation. I didn't really believe it until I had the worsttttt heart burn last night. It was only when going over my Ayurvedic studies again for this post that I realised I had a lot of beets at dinner.
Fried Foods - I feel like this one is pretty obvious
Lifestyle Changes to Make:
The following recommendations are long-term measures you should take for optimal health and saying good-bye to your acid reflux symptoms.
Don't eat at least 2-3 hours before going to sleep. This will leave time for your food to leave your stomach and enter your Small Intestine, hence preventing acid reflux.
Sleep on your left side. When lying on your right or flat on your back, a poor functioning LES will allow for acid to travel up your esophagus, as shown in the photo above. For the ultimate, burn-free sleep, also add a slight incline.
Don't eat to full capacity, instead consume smaller meals.
Don't smoke - the nicotine in cigarettes relaxes our LES, leading to poor function and burn.
Eat big meals for lunch, only - between 10:00am-2:00pm, the sun is at it's highest, which strengthens your digestion (this was proven through modern science and Ayurveda calls this Pitta time). Also, try keep your dinners light.
Reduce Stress & Anger - Both of these emotions cause heat in our bodies. Have you noticed that your acid reflux is worse when you're upset? I certainly have...Also, try not to eat when angry or really stressed - if you must, make sure to eat slowly and chew your food.
Meditation, Yoga, and Deep Belly Breathing - This will stimulate your digestion and reduce stress, both of which will ease your heart burn symptoms.
Some Options for Immediate Soothing
The following are suggestions on what has worked for me. I've also included some recommendations that haven't worked for me at all but are known to provide relief for others.
(The ones with a * worked for me)
*200-500ml of Fresh Coconut Water
*Allow Vera Juice - fresh is best but iherb has a few great ones, too.
*Water Melon Juice - I love mixing this with cucumber and mint infused water, which are also known for easing acid reflux symptoms and tastes SO good! Watermelon Juice is definitely one of my go-to's.
Baked Fennel Seeds - this is a highly recommended Ayurvedic remedy as fennel seeds are super cooling. Chew a 1/4 tsp 3x a day. (I haven't tried this in the last few months so I can't * it now, but I used to swear by this method)
*100ml of Fresh Pomegranate Juice
*Digestive Enzymes with Meals - This is especially true for those really big meals. Taking enzyme supplements will help you digest your food better, which will reduce heartburn.
*Brewing Fresh Peppermint, coriander, and cardamom 'Tea' - for the life of me I can't tell you why these would work besides that their known to be cooling. But they've helped with my symptoms and supercharged my digestion!
Apple Cider Vinegar - It it said that taking diluted organic, raw, & unfiltered ACV in the mornings and before meals helps with acid reflux. This may be true for some but, for me, it burned like crazy! (pH related solution)
Lemon Juice - This is similar to ACV mentioned above. Try it and see how you feel.
Baking Soda - This is also a pH-related solution, which does work for me but only for about 20 minutes until it returns. To do this, mix 1/2 tsp baking soda in 1/4 cup of water.
Hope this blog post has shed some light on one of the most obnoxious phenomenons :p. And please let me know if you have any other questions or concerns by leaving a comment below or using my contact form.