Millions of people suffer from acid reflux and heartburn.
The most frequently used treatment involves commercial medications, such as omeprazole. However, lifestyle modifications may be effective as well.
Simply changing your dietary habits or the way you sleep may significantly reduce your symptoms of heartburn and acid reflux, improving your quality of life.
What Is Acid Reflux and What Are the Symptoms?
Acid reflux is when stomach acid gets pushed up into the esophagus, which is the tube that carries food and drink from the mouth to the stomach.
Some reflux is totally normal and harmless, usually causing no symptoms. But when it happens too often, it burns the inside of the esophagus.
An estimated 14–20% of all adults in the US have reflux in some form or another.
The most common symptom of acid reflux is known as heartburn, which is a painful, burning feeling in the chest or throat.
Researchers estimate that around 7% of Americans suffer from heartburn daily .
Of those who regularly experience heartburn, 20–40% are diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which is the most serious form of acid reflux. GERD is the most common digestive disorder in the US .
In addition to heartburn, common symptoms of reflux include an acidic taste at the back of the mouth and difficulty swallowing. Other symptoms include a cough, asthma, tooth erosion and inflammation in the sinuses .
So here are 14 natural ways to reduce your acid reflux and heartburn, all backed by scientific research.
Where the esophagus opens into the stomach, there is a ring-like muscle known as the lower esophageal sphincter.
It acts as a valve and is supposed to prevent the acidic contents of the stomach from going up into the esophagus. It naturally opens when you swallow, belch or vomit. Otherwise, it should stay closed.
In people with acid reflux, this muscle is weakened or dysfunctional. Acid reflux can also occur when there is too much pressure on the muscle, causing acid to squeeze through the opening.
Unsurprisingly, most reflux symptoms take place after a meal. It also seems that larger meals may worsen reflux symptoms.
One step that will help minimize acid reflux is to avoid eating large meals.
2. Lose Weight
The diaphragm is a muscle located above your stomach.
In healthy people, the diaphragm naturally strengthens the lower esophageal sphincter.
As mentioned earlier, this muscle prevents excessive amounts of stomach acid from leaking up into the esophagus.
However, if you have too much belly fat, the pressure in your abdomen may become so high that the lower esophageal sphincter gets pushed upward, away from the diaphragm’s support. This condition is known as hiatus hernia.
Hiatus hernia is the main reason obese people and pregnant women are at an increased risk of reflux and heartburn.
Several observational studies show that extra pounds in the abdominal area increase the risk of reflux and GERD.
Controlled studies support this, showing that weight loss may relieve reflux symptoms.
Losing weight should be one of your priorities if you suffer from acid reflux.
3. Follow a Low-Carb Diet
Growing evidence suggests that low-carb diets may relieve acid reflux symptoms.
Scientists suspect that undigested carbs may be causing bacterial overgrowth and elevated pressure inside the abdomen. Some even speculate this may be one of the most common causes of acid reflux.
Studies indicate that bacterial overgrowth is caused by impaired carb digestion and absorption.
Having too many undigested carbs in your digestive system makes you gassy and bloated. It also tends to make you belch more often.
Supporting this idea, a few small studies indicate that low-carb diets improve reflux symptoms.
Additionally, an antibiotic treatment may significantly reduce acid reflux, possibly by decreasing the numbers of gas-producing bacteria.
In one study, researchers gave participants with GERD prebiotic fiber supplements that promoted the growth of gas-producing bacteria. The participants’ reflux symptoms worsened as a result .
4. Limit Your Alcohol Intake
Drinking alcohol may increase the severity of acid reflux and heartburn.
It aggravates symptoms by increasing stomach acid, relaxing the lower esophageal sphincter and impairing the ability of the esophagus to clear itself of acid.
Studies have shown that moderate alcohol intake may even cause reflux symptoms in healthy individuals (23, 24).
Controlled studies also show that drinking wine or beer increases reflux symptoms, compared to drinking plain water.