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3/10/2019 6:07:30 PM

3 natural remedies for acid reflux symptoms

Below you’ll find information related to natural remedies for managing acid reflux symptoms. In addition to lowering acid reflux symptoms, the same types of treatments can also usually be helpful for managing related issues, such as GERD symptoms.

Conventional Treatments for Acid Reflux Symptoms

The three main types of medicines to treat acid reflux symptoms or those caused by GERD are antacids, histamine type 2 receptor antagonists (H2 blockers) and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). Should these not work or more serious intervention is needed, doctors will sometimes recommend surgery to tighten the lower esophageal sphincter. Unfortunately, this surgery is not a cure and symptoms may return.

The major problem here is the insistence that excessive stomach acidity is the problem. Your stomach functions optimally when it is between 1.5 and 3.5 pH (an extremely acidic environment), and acid-blocking drugs can raise that pH somewhere around two points (a higher pH means a lower acid level). What’s the problem with that?

Well, for one, they don’t address the root problem and provide only temporary relief. When antacids make the stomach less acidic, more acid is automatically produced to bring the stomach back to its intended pH level. The body will continue this process every time a medicinal measure is taken to reduce acidity.

Hypochlorhydria, the clinical term for low stomach acid, is an under-researched and dangerous condition. Every time you take antacids, H2 blockers or PPIs, you are contributing more to this problem (which may be one reason you develop heartburn in the first place). Prolonged hypochlorhydria leads to chronic atrophic gastritis and is associated with side effects including vitamin B-12 deficiency, autoimmune conditions, asthma, diabetes, chronic fatigue and many other disorders.

Antacids

According to common (and faulty) assumptions about excessive acid levels causing a dangerously high level of acidity in the stomach, most practitioners recommend over-the-counter antacids as a first line of defense against heartburn and reflux. A medication such as TUMS® can give quick relief (within a matter of minutes) to a case of heartburn — but, like most conventional medicine, this is used to treat a symptom rather than an underlying disorder.

The side effects of antacids themselves list 20 issues related to repeated use:

Diarrhea

Constipation

Nausea

Vomiting

Feelings of discomfort

Loss of appetite

Mood/mental changes

Weakness

Calcium loss

Osteoporosis

Kidney stones

Wrist/ankle swelling

Bone pain

Discolored stool

Aluminum toxicity

Slow breathing

Frequent urination

Headaches

Muscle pain

Drug/supplement interactions

Histamine Type 2 Receptor Agonists (H2 Blockers)

Also available over the counter, H2 blockers work more slowly than antacids to reduce stomach acid and take longer to treat symptoms (60 to 90 minutes), but are intended to last for longer periods of time. These include Pepcid/Pepcid AC®, Axid®, Tagamet® and Zantac® and work by blocking a substance in the body that encourages acid production in the stomach.

By stopping the production of hydrochloric acid (HCl, which is your stomach’s natural acid), these medications also stop pepsin production, the digestive enzyme responsible for breaking down protein so it can be digested. This allows for undigested protein to make its way to your intestines, further increasing intra-abdominal pressure (a possible underlying cause of acid reflux/GERD).

Raising the pH of your stomach beyond what it was intended also increases your risk of infection, as the bacteria that would be killed by a healthy pH of 3 in the stomach are able to live when they should not.  Users run the risk of infection by common bacteria like listeria and salmonella, as well as being at a higher risk of developing pneumonia, tuberculosis, typhoid and dysentery.

H2 blockers have several drug interaction warnings and might cause the following side effects, especially when taken in large doses over time:

Headaches

Anxiety

Depression

Mental disturbances

Diarrhea

Dizziness

Rash

Headache

Impotence

Breast enlargement in men

Confusion

Hallucinations

Heart issues

Kidney problems

Upset stomach

Vomiting

Constipation

Cough

Liver damage

Stomach cancer (in people with untreated H. pylori infection)

Pneumonia (in hospitalized patients, the elderly and children)

Ulcer perforation and bleeding

Iron deficiency

Decreased folate absorption

Calcium deficiency

Decreased zinc absorption

Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs)

The most dangerous class of conventional acid reflux drugs are known as proton pump inhibitors. These medications (17 are on the market, at current count) control acid reflux symptoms by permanently blocking an enzyme that tells your stomach to produce acid, H+/K+ ATPase, found in the parietal walls of the stomach lining. Popular PPIs include Nexium®, Aciphex®, Prevacid® and Prilosec®.

Recent releases by the media have shown the reason for concern about taking PPIs, especially in the long-term. The FDA has released warnings about PPIs in the last several years regarding magnesium deficiency, increased risk of bone fractures and C. diff-related diarrhea.

Since they act as “super” versions of the above two classes of drugs in many ways, the same associated side effects are also commonly found in this class of medications. Indeed, it seems like PPIs might induce the very issues they seek to correct. There are also many other researched problems and side effects of PPIs, leading to the understanding of many that these medications should not be used for extended treatment.

C. difficile: This bacterial infection is a potential danger for those taking both H2 blockers and PPIs. Researchers at McGill University in Quebec found an increase of C. diff infection risk of two times for those taking H2 blockers and nearly three times for those on PPIs.

Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO): One study found an increase of SIBO at a rate of 50 percent in patients on PPIs, versus 6 percent in the control group.

Vitamin B12 deficiency: Patients on PPI drugs do not properly absorb many vitamins and minerals. Most notably is the discovery that vitamin B-12 is particularly problematic for these people. A deficiency in B12 can lead to chronic fatigue, muscle pain/weakness, memory and mood changes, heart palpitations and digestive issues, among other symptoms.

Stomach cancer: Because it increases secretion of the hormone gastrin, a PPI drug like Prilosec® can result in three to 10 times the amount of gastrin normally found in the human body. Hypergastrinimia (large concentrations of gastrin) is associated with higher rates of gastric cancer.

Ulcers: Duodenal (intestinal) and gastric ulcers may be another result of long-term PPI usage. Ninety percent of duodenal ulcers and 65 percent of gastric ulcers are caused by H. pylori, and one experiment found that H. pylori infection couldn’t happen without using acid-lowering drugs first to raise the pH of the stomach.

Inflammatory bowel conditions: PPIs can decrease extracellular levels of adenosine, which plays a big role in inflammatory processes within the digestive system. Because of this, it’s possible that digestive issues caused by inflammation, such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and IBS may be caused or exacerbated by PPI intake. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is also associated with SIBO, which I’ve already shown as a potential complication of acid reflux.

Leaky gut: Proton pump inhibitors affect the permeability of the gastric lining, which can in turn lead to leaky gut. This condition is associated with mood issues, autoimmune diseases and many other health problems.

Asthma: GERD and asthma are closely related — it’s estimated that about 80 percent of asthmatics suffer from GERD. The escape of acid into the esophagus causes a drop by tenfold in the ability to allow air into the lungs, resulting in a much higher level of reflux for asthma patients.

Arthritis: People taking NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like aspirin or acetaminophen to treat arthritis pain develop gastrointestinal issues like ulcers much more often than the average person. NSAIDs block a protective enzyme that is meant to protect the lining of the stomach. Ultimately, combining these medications can result in even faster degradation of the stomach lining and cause more ulcers. A Stanford study found that not only did the PPIs not decrease gastrointestinal symptoms, but they also actually resulted in double the number of hospitalizations from complications.

Death: A review conducted in St. Louis was released in July 2017 regarding a five-year observation of patients on H2 blockers and PPIs, finding that the long-term PPI users were at more risk of death. These results increased in significance based on the duration a person had been taking PPIs. 

3 natural remedies for acid reflux symptoms

1. Acid Reflux Diet

Virtually every research study done on GERD and acid reflux points to diet as a contributing factor. First and foremost, the symptoms of acid reflux and GERD must be treated by changes in your diet in order to avoid long-term complications and restore healthy digestive function. Don’t ignore your body trying to alert you to a problem in your digestive tract.

For good digestive health and overall health and wellness, it’s important to select unprocessed, organic foods free from GMOs as much as possible. Increasing fiber intake, supporting healthy bacteria in your gut with probiotic-rich foods and taking supplements if necessary can all help resolve symptoms.

Other steps include reducing grains (especially when refined) and sugar consumption, eating high-quality protein, and reducing intake of refined vegetable oils. All of these help protect the GI tract, balance hormonal function and help prevent many serious chronic diseases associated with poor digestive health.

Here are some foods that tend to make acid reflux worse and therefore should be avoided to minimize symptoms:

Alcohol

Carbonated beverages, sugary drinks or energy drinks

Artificial sweeteners

Fried foods

Vegetable oils, including canola oil

Spicy foods

Processed foods

Foods that can help improve acid reflux include fresh organic vegetables (especially leafy greens, squash, artichoke, asparagus and cucumbers); free-range chicken and grass-fed beef; probiotic foods like yogurt; bone broth; and healthy fats like coconut or olive oil. Apple cider vinegar, aloe vera, parsley, ginger and fennel are also helpful.

2. Supplements for Acid Reflux Symptoms

In addition to eating a healthy diet of foods that help to soothe the symptoms of acid reflux and GERD, some find improvements when adding natural supplements to their diets. These can include:

Digestive enzymes — Take one or two capsules of a high-quality digestive enzyme at the start of each meal. Digestive enzymes help foods fully digest and nutrients absorb properly.

Probiotics — Take 25–50 billion units of high-quality probiotics daily. Adding healthy bacteria helps balance the digestive tract and crowd out bad bacteria that can lead to indigestion, leaky gut and poor absorption of nutrients.

HCL with Pepsin — Take one 650 milligram pill prior to each meal. Add additional pills as necessary to keep uncomfortable symptoms at bay.

Chamomile, papaya or ginger herbal tea — Sip one cup of chamomile tea prior to bed sweetened with raw honey. Chamomile tea helps reduce inflammation in the digestive tract, supporting healthy functioning. You can also boil a one-inch piece of fresh ginger in 10 ounces of water for 10 minutes. In addition, papain, an enzyme in papaya, aids in digestion by breaking down proteins.

Magnesium complex supplement — I recommend taking 400 milligrams of a high-quality magnesium supplement twice per day.

Apple cider vinegar — Although no official studies have been conducted on the impact of apple cider vinegar on acid reflex and GERD, anecdotal evidence seems to support that it can be an incredible natural remedy for acid reflux.

3. Other Tips for Improving Digestive Health

Raise the head of the bed four to six inches. Use blocks to raise the bed, not just a pillow to keep your head propped up, which can help keep acid in the stomach.

Exercise and manage stress. A sedentary lifestyle and stress worsens symptoms of acid reflux and overall disrupt digestion. Try yoga, meditation, acupuncture, art or music therapy, or whatever helps you effectively manage stress.

Don’t overeat. Eat smaller meals to allow foods to properly digest, as large meals and overeating put extra pressure on the sphincter.

Give up smoking and drinking too much alcohol.

Don’t consume food three hours prior to bed. Allow your stomach to digest the foods from the meal, and sip an herbal tea instead.

Chew foods more thoroughly. Most people today don’t chew their food enough. Remember, digestion starts in the mouth./.

  ( Kathleen McCoy )
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