9 Strategies to Reduce Acid Reflux Without Antacids
By JJ VIRGIN
According to The New York Times, as many as four out of 10 Americans experience symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (a.k.a. GERD). Prescriptions drugs to reduce stomach acid (which causes heartburn) are the third highest selling prescription drugs - and that's without even taking into account all the over-the-counter medications!
So, what can you do in your daily life to reduce the need for prescription and over-the counter acid reflux treatments?
Here are my top 9 strategies to manage acid reflux the natural way:
1. Become Lean
As if you need another reason to ditch those frustrating extra pounds. A 2005 study of 453 Veterans Affairs employees published in The American Journal of Gastroenterology found that being "overweight or obese are strong independent risk factor[s] of GERD symptoms." A combo of lean protein, healthy fats, leafy and cruciferous veggies, and slow-release high-fiber starches at every meal helps stabilize blood sugar and optimize fat-burning hormones.
2. Minimize or Eliminate Problem Foods
Some foods, like tomatoes, get labeled as acid-reflux-causing foods just because they are acidic. However, there are only a few foods that have been scientifically proven to trigger acid reflux. They are: mint, chocolate, wine, alcohol, deep fried foods and coffee. These foods might affect each person differently, so if quitting all of them cold-turkey is not an option for you, you could try eliminating one at a time and keep tabs on your symptoms. That way, you'll be able to pinpoint the culprit(s) for you. Yes, some of these are my favorites too, but for relief, try to at least temporarily eliminate them.
3. Drink Enough Water at the Correct Times
"Some researchers theorize heartburn is a sign of an internal water shortage, especially dehydration in the upper part of the GI tract," says Dr. Jonny Bowden in his book "The Most Effective Natural Cures on Earth." Here's the thing: too much water during meals can further dilute your stomach acid, further contributing to insufficient protein breakdown. Go easy on liquid during meals; otherwise, drink up!
4. Dump the Processed Carbs
Several studies find reducing or eliminating sugar and other high-carbohydrate foods can relieve GERD. One study in the journal Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine found carbohydrates might contribute more to GERD than coffee or fat, and that a low-carbohydrate diet improves GERD. A later study in Digestive Diseases and Sciences also concluded a very low-carbohydrate diet could ameliorate this condition and its symptoms.
5. Go Gluten-Free
A study in the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology found GERD symptoms were incredibly common among Celiac patients, and when they removed gluten they experienced "a rapid and persistent improvement in reflux symptoms." You're not off the hook if you don't have full-blown Celiac. According to Dr. James Braly, co-author of "Dangerous Grains: Why Gluten Cereal Grains May Be Hazardous To Your Health," about 30 percent of people of European ancestry carry predisposing genes to have some form of gluten sensitivity that isn't full-blown Celiac disease but creates many of the same symptoms including GERD.
6. Slow Down
A study in The American Journal of Gastroenterology found people who plow through their meals suffer more GERD. Easier said than done, but be mindful when you're eating. Slow down and enjoy your food. Remember it takes 20 minutes for your brain to the message you're full. Most people are on their second serving at that point. Plus, the added bonus is that you'll be less likely to overeat.
7. Take a Digestive Enzyme and Probiotic
Most people make less digestive enzymes and HCl as they grow older, and a supplemental comprehensive enzyme can improve digestion so protein and other foods more efficiently break down, making GERD and gut problems less likely to occur. Likewise, a professional-quality probiotic supplement can foster healthy intestinal microflora balance and improve digestion.
8. Get 7-9 Hours of Sleep
A study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found a viscous cycle ensues as a poor night's sleep increased GERD symptoms the next day, which in turn worsened sleep quality. You need to prepare for sleep. About an hour before bed, turn off electronics (your urgent email will still be there in the morning), take a hot bath with some chamomile tea and Epsom salts, and unwind to experience deeper, more consistent sleep. Check out these tips that will help you get your best sleep yet!
9. Control Stress Levels
You're probably all too knowing that chronic anxiety, worry and other stressful emotions can adversely impact gut conditions. A study in The American Journal of Gastroenterology found participants who experienced major stress had significant increased blood pressure, pulse rates, and GERD symptoms. Deep breathing, meditation, yoga, or maybe just a long walk around the block with your dog can relieve the anxiety and stress that contribute to GERD.
Celebrity Nutrition & Fitness expert JJ Virgin is author of NY Times bestseller The Virgin Diet and the bestselling Six Weeks to Sleeveless and Sexy. She was also co-host of TLC's Freaky Eaters. JJ frequently blogs for The Huffington Post, LIVESTRONG.COM, and other prominent media outlets. She created the 4 x 4 Burst Training Workout and regularly appears on TV shows like Rachel Ray and The Today Show to discuss topics such as fast fat loss, weight loss, and food sensitivities.