The burning sensation and other unpleasant symptoms associated with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) usually can be effectively managed through drug therapy. However, home remedies also play a role in healing. You may be able to keep symptoms at bay by adjusting your diet and using herbal treatments under the supervision of your doctor.
Home remedies for acid reflux begin with lifestyle changes that prevent the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) from weakening. The LES is a ring-shaped muscle located at the base of your esophagus that acts as a barrier between your esophagus and stomach. When the muscle weakens, the valve-like action becomes impaired and opens. This allows stomach acids to travel back up the esophagus.
You can take steps to keep your LES strong and to allow gravity to help stomach acids remain in your stomach. Each of these home remedies is non-invasive and requires minimal equipment and just a little planning ahead.
- Stop smoking: nicotine relaxes the LES.
- Eliminate alcohol: alcoholic beverages can irritate your stomach and weaken the LES.
- Adjust your bedtime: wait two to three hours after a meal before lying down.
- Elevate the head of your bed: put 6-inch blocks under the head of your bed to aid gravity.
- Chew gum: the Journal of Dental Research reports that chewing gum can reduce the frequency of heartburn in some people. Choose non-peppermint flavors for best results.
- Exercise: a gentle workout can help you relax and lose weight if needed. Stress and obesity are both linked to GERD. Exercise at least two hours after a meal to prevent acid reflux from occurring.
Ask your doctor for referrals for medication or support groups to help you quit smoking or drinking.
Adjusting your diet is perhaps the single most important home remedy to relieve the symptoms of GERD. Certain foods are known triggers for acid reflux and others may bother you but not other people.
Common food triggers include:
- citrus fruits and juices
- tomatoes, marinara sauce, and tomato juice
- fried or greasy foods
- fatty foods
- onions and garlic
- carbonated soft drinks and water
- caffeinated beverages (even decaf coffee)
Keep a food journal to record what you eat and when, and any accompanying GERD symptoms such as heartburn, difficult swallowing, chest pain, or sore throat. Your journal can help you pinpoint specific triggers and may be useful in determining appropriate mealtimes. Eating smaller meals throughout the day can curb symptoms. Large meals put excess pressure on your stomach, which can weaken your lower esophageal sphincter.
You can also treat acid reflux by adding certain foods to your diet. Antioxidant-rich fruits, such as blackberries, blueberries, and cherries may ease your symptoms. Foods containing vitamin B-6 may be beneficial as well. For example:
- whole grains
Herbal remedies are a type of home remedy classified by the medical community as complementary or alternative medicine. Alternative remedies often have some scientific evidence supporting their use, but require more research. A number of herbal extracts and other forms of complementary medicine or traditional medicine are found to relieve symptoms of acid reflux.
Ginger root is a traditional medicinal agent that has been used in Asia for centuries. The herb is available as a liquid extract, in tablet form, or as a dried powder to be made into tea. Ginger is primarily used to treat nausea, a symptom that is consistent with GERD in some people.
Orange Peel Extract
D-limonene is an ingredient in orange peel extract and other citrus oils. Although the acid content in citrus fruits can aggravate GERD, the Alternative Medicine Review reports that D-limonene has been shown to relieve symptoms in 86 to 89 percent of adults suffering from GERD.
Although peppermint oil and flavorings cause the LES to relax, coated tablets may help some patients. People who suffer from reflux related to peptic ulcers (open sores in the lining of the stomach) may show a reduction in symptoms through two to three doses of enteric-coated peppermint tablets.
Baking soda, or its scientific name, “sodium bicarbonate,” is an acid neutralizer. A mixture of baking soda and water can be used to neutralize stomach acids when acid indigestion is a concern. Mix a teaspoon of baking soda into 8 ounces of warm water and drink the beverage slowly.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Vinegars of all kinds—particularly cider vinegar—are often suggested as home remedies for GERD. However, scientific evidence in this area is lacking, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). Although there are no published reports signifying that vinegar reduces acid reflux symptoms, anecdotal evidence exists. Discuss apple cider vinegar as a home remedy for GERD with your physician before starting any new treatment plan.
Sometimes, a more medical approach is needed to prevent complications stemming from GERD. Talk to your doctor about severe or prolonged symptoms to determine the best treatment for your condition.