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Occasional heartburn (acid reflux) can happen to anyone.
If you experience acid reflux more than twice per week, you may have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). In this case, heartburn is just one of many symptoms, along with coughing and chest pain.
GERD is typically treated with over-the-counter (OTC) medications, such as antacids, and lifestyle or dietary measures. In severe cases, prescription medications may be needed to prevent damage to the esophagus.
While medication is the most common form of GERD treatment, there are some home remedies you can try to reduce instances of acid reflux. Talk with a gastroenterologist about the following options.
While heartburn can happen to anyone, GERD seems to be most prevalent in adults who are overweight or obese.
Excess weight — especially in the abdominal area — puts more pressure on the stomach. As a result, you’re at an increased risk of stomach acids working back into the esophagus and causing heartburn.
Manage your weight with a balanced diet and regular exercise. Speak with your doctor if losing weight may be an option for helping GERD symptoms.
There are certain known trigger foods and drinks that can increase your risk for acid reflux. With GERD, you should be especially wary of items that can lead to symptoms. Try avoiding the following foods and beverages:
- tomato sauce and other tomato-based products
- high fat foods, such as fast food products and greasy foods
- fried foods
- citrus fruit juices
By limiting or avoiding these triggers, you may experience fewer symptoms. You may also want to keep a food journal to help identify problem foods.
You can shop online for a food journal.
Eating smaller meals puts less pressure on the stomach, which can prevent the backflow of stomach acids. By eating smaller amounts of food more frequently, you can reduce heartburn and eat fewer calories overall.
It’s also important to avoid lying down after eating. Doing so can trigger heartburn.
No one magic food can treat acid reflux. Still, in addition to avoiding trigger foods, a few other dietary changes can help.
First, the American Academy of Family Physicians recommends low fat, high protein meals. Reducing dietary fat intake can decrease your symptoms while getting enough protein and fiber will keep you full and prevent overeating.
Try incorporating some foods into your diet to help your acid reflux. After each meal, you may even consider chewing non-mint gum. This can help increase saliva and keep acid out of the esophagus.
If you smoke and have heartburn or GERD, quitting smoking can help your condition.
Smoking damages the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which is responsible for preventing stomach acids from backing up. When the muscles of the LES are weakened from smoking, you may experience more frequent heartburn episodes.
Secondhand smoke can also be problematic if you have acid reflux or GERD.
The following herbs have been used for GERD:
These are available in supplement and tincture form, as well as teas.
The downside to these herbs is that there aren’t enough studies to prove they can treat GERD. Furthermore, they might interfere with medications you may take — check with a doctor before use.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t monitor herbs and supplements.
However, personal testimonials report that herbs can be a natural and effective way to reduce the symptoms of GERD. Be sure to purchase herbs from a reputable source.
You should feel free to wear what you want — though tight clothing may worsen GERD symptoms.
Wearing clothes that are too tight can increase acid reflux episodes. This is especially the case with tight bottoms and belts: Both place unnecessary pressure on the abdomen, thereby contributing to heartburn risk. If you notice heartburn symptoms, try incorporating looser clothing into your wardrobe.
GERD itself can be very stressful. Since esophageal muscles play a large role in keeping stomach acids down where they belong, it may help to learn techniques that can relax both your body and mind.
Yoga has enormous benefits by promoting mind-body awareness. If you’re not a yogi, you can try quiet meditation and deep breathing for a few minutes several times a day to tame your stress levels.
Home remedies can help alleviate the occasional heartburn episode, as well as some cases of GERD. When prolonged, untreated acid reflux occurs, you have a higher risk of esophageal damage. This can include ulcers, a narrowed esophagus, and even esophageal cancer.
These remedies alone may not work for acid reflux and GERD. Talk with a gastroenterologist about how some of these remedies may complement a medical treatment plan.