Acid reflux occurs when food and acid from the stomach flows up the esophagus. Normally, a circular sphincter muscle at the bottom of the esophagus opens to allow food into the stomach, and closes to prevent food and digestive acids from coming back up the esophagus. In acid reflux, this lower esophageal sphincter (LES) malfunctions and allows backflow. Acid reflux affects children and adults. Various interventions can improve acid reflux, including diet changes, lifestyle changes and antacids. One natural approach involves the therapeutic use of water.
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Treating Acute Symptoms
During acute symptoms, one can drink a few swallows of water to wash the acids down the esophagus back into the stomach. Do not drink too much water; this adds further volume to the contents of the stomach and can cause further reflux. You can also take some over-the-counter antacid tablets to neutralize the acids.
The Problem with Chronic Reflux
Doctors prescribe antacids for people with chronic acid reflux. Health care professionals do not usually ignore acid reflux symptoms. For one thing, the symptoms can cause considerable discomfort. Furthermore, long-term exposure of the esophagus to stomach acids can contribute to deterioration of the esophageal lining, a condition called Barrett’s esophagus. People with at least 3 centimeters of Barrett’s esophagus lining have up to a 125-fold risk of esophageal cancer, according to Mayo Clinic.
Problems with Antacids
Unfortunately, routine use of antacids also creates problems. Acids are necessary for the digestion of food. The daily use of antacids can reduce the absorption of nutrition from food. Additionally, stomach acids break down bad bacteria in the digestive tract, so the indiscriminant neutralization of acids can inadvertently increase your vulnerability to dangerous microorganisms and can strain the immune system. Optimum digestion and immune system functioning is achieved not through antacids, but by maintaining a healthy balance of acids and bases.
Water to the Rescue
Rather than antacids, one can use water to neutralize stomach acids and maintain a balance between acidity and alkalinity. The pH scale measures the acidity and alkalinity of a substance. The scale ranges from 0 to 14, with the midpoint of 7.0 representing neutral. A pH greater than 7 is alkaline, and less than 7 is acidic. Each point value above or below 7 is 10-fold more alkaline or acidic. Water is generally neutral, and so it can be ingested to dilute the acid contents of the stomach. Do not drink a lot of water all at once with your meal; that could simply float the food up past your malfunctioning LES. Instead, drink small amounts of water repeatedly throughout the day. Try to drink enough water each day to keep your urine a light shade of yellow. According to the Mayo Clinic, the Institute of Medicine suggests that men consume about 13 cups of total beverage a day and women consume about 9 cups.
Bottled Versus Tap
Some water may more effectively neutralize acids. Most bottled waters actually tend to be mildly acidic, according to Health Central. A review of the pH ratings of different brands of bottled water at pH Connection indicates that many bottled waters are significantly acidic. For example, Propel Fitness Water, processed with natural mineral water, has a pH of 3.37. On the other hand, some bottled water proves to be more alkaline, with pH values ranging from just above 7 all the way to 11. Alkaline water reduces the acidity of your stomach. The pH of your local tap water will vary by locale, though many water purification treatment plants tend to use bases during the purification process that render the water somewhat alkaline.