Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)—or the simpler “acid reflux”—affects half of all Americans. This is the condition in which food and other stomach contents back up into your esophagus on a regular basis—at least twice a week. The acids from the stomach cause irritation, inflammation, and scarring which can tighten the esophagus, making it even more irritated.
GERD symptoms include nausea, wheezing, hoarseness, and eroding tooth enamel caused by acid in the mouth during sleep. Having GERD increases your risk for esophageal cancer.
The incidence of GERD increases with age due to weakening of the esophageal sphincter and is more common in overweight people because of pressure on the esophagus. Diet also affects the sphincter: caffeine, nicotine, chocolate, and foods that are greasy, fatty, and spicy are huge irritants.
We can’t make ourselves younger but there are some simple things we can do to mitigate—or even alleviate—GERD symptoms.
1. Eliminate or sharply reduce the targeted culprits mentioned above from your diet. Eat foods that won’t irritate your sensitive esophagus.
2. If you are overweight, losing weight to be within a healthy range will help your body in every way, including effects of acid reflux.
3. Drink two ounces a day of unprocessed aloe vera juice.
4. Wait at least an hour after a meal before exercising. A leisurely constitutional excepted.
5. Eat a red delicious apple after meals that include irritating ingredients.
6. Take a tablespoon of baking soda in half a cup of warm water. It’s amazing how fast it brings relief.
7. Don’t wear tight clothing—it adds pressure.
8. The calcium in raw almonds can balance your acid level.
9. “Supplement with Saccharomyces boulardii, a probiotic strain specifically for the small intestine, to help optimize absorption of key vitamins for optimal digestive health,” advises Stella Metsovas, author of The 21 Day Digestive Health Detox.
10. Mint, ginger, fenugreek, and chamomile teas have been effective in easing acid reflux.
11. Start the day with a cup of warm water with fresh (organic) lemon juice 15 to 20 minutes before breakfast. This allows the body to balance the acid levels before introducing any food.
12. Greater saliva production resulting from chewing gum can reduce esophageal acid levels.
13. Drink 1 to 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar every day—it’s good in warm water with honey or instead of lemon in tea. The acid in the vinegar encourages the body to produce the necessary stomach acids for digestion. Acidic foods like sauerkraut and pickles do the same thing.
14. Slippery elm is effective in soothing sore throats—it also calms irritation in the digestive tract. This herb comes in different forms and you can choose which you prefer: lozenge, capsule, or powder.
15. Quit smoking. This is the best thing you can do for your body, period.
16. Don’t eat within three hours of bedtime and don’t lie down directly after eating.
17. Sleep with the head of your bed raised or on your left side. The esophagus comes into the top of the stomach on the right side; lying on your left relieves the pressure.
Knowing the causes can help you to ease discomfort. Before reaching for a pill, try these to keep acid reflux in check.