Have you ever experienced a burning pain (also known as heartburn) after eating or drinking certain food items? This is known as acid reflux, which is a common condition that occurs when stomach acid flows back up into the food pipe. It can affect people of all ages, and might be due to lifestyle factors or other causes that can’t always be prevented. So, are there ways to reduce (and treat) acid reflux? Read on to learn more!
What is the Main Cause of Acid Reflux?
There are two main digestive juices in the human body that assist in the function of the immune system along with the breakdown of proteins into enzymes — hydrochloric acid (HCl) and pepsin. These two digestive juices are located in the stomach and when they are found in the wrong places, this may lead to heartburn, chest pain, coughing, and regurgitation.
Acid reflux occurs because pepsin digests tissues in the body rather than the food you just ate. You can put yourself at risk for this condition when you:
- Eat too fast
- Drink too much liquid with meals
- Eat too much food in one sitting
- Wear tight clothes that put pressure on the digestive organs
- Lack magnesium intake
- Eat right before bed
- Consume certain types of food or medicine
A few other drivers of acid reflux that should be taken into consideration include physiological factors such as insufficient stomach acid, a hiatal hernia, and H. pylori bacterial growth.
How to Naturally Reduce Acid Reflux
The process of chewing and swallowing food is one of the most important components to a healthy digestive tract. In fact, studies have shown that individuals should chew their food approximately 20-30 times before swallowing, essentially until it’s almost in liquid form. Simple as it may sound, many Americans fail to do so because we tend to eat very quickly and chew our food only a couple of times before swallowing. This can put more tension on the digestive system and stomach because the food is too large for our bodies to properly digest.
In addition to food consumption, you should reduce large quantities of liquid intake while eating meals. This may cause burping and bloating to occur, which then can lead to acid reflux. Even though water is critical for proper digestion, drinking water and any other liquids should be done in between meals. When consuming foods and beverages, try to avoid eating food 2-3 hours before going to sleep so your body can digest it properly. There are also certain types of foods (i.e. caffeinated beverages, spicy foods, citrus fruits, tomatoes, alcohol, gluten, etc.) and even some medications that may cause acid reflux; thus, it’s crucial to understand what your body is specifically sensitive towards in order to reduce acid reflux. Investigating to find the root cause of symptoms is always our primary goal.
Treating Acid Reflux with Medication
As previously mentioned, there are numerous ways to naturally help prevent acid reflux, but there are also acid-suppressing medications like Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs) that are commonly used in conventional medicine. However, the long-term use of these medications can have negative effects. In general, long-term use of any antacid can be dangerous for the body, but PPIs in particular can impair absorption of critical protein and minerals. This impairment may lead to more threatening diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, depression, osteoporosis, and arthritis. Be sure to consult with a healthcare professional to make sure that any kind of acid reflux medication is right for you!
For other health and wellness content, check out these other blogs: