What Causes Acid Reflux and Can You Control it Naturally?

What Causes Acid Reflux and Can You Control it Naturally?

Does your throat suddenly feel like it’s on fire? Do you occasionally feel a rush of acid coming up your GI tract, especially after a heavy meal or when you lie down soon after eating? Do you have heartburn, bloating, or feel a pain in your chest or a taste of acid in the back of your mouth?

If you don’t already know it, you might be suffering from acid reflux, a condition where the contents of the stomach back up into the esophagus. Symptoms like these usually have people running to a gastroenterologist for a diagnosis. That’s a good thing, to identify what’s happening. But did you know you can also control or prevent those acid flows naturally with certain foods and drinks?

 

A Lesson in Digestion

First, let’s talk about how our body digests food and how the digestion process can go haywire.

The general consensus of medical researchers is that with acid reflux something is causing a little muscle in the lower part of the esophagus to stay open when it’s not supposed to. The lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is a little valve that, when closed, prevents food that’s been drenched in stomach acid to back up into the esophagus. The esophagus connects our stomach to our mouth. The LES muscle pushes our food toward the stomach in rhythmic waves.

Once in the stomach, that food is drenched in stomach acid to start the digestion process. That acid-treated food is prevented from moving back into the esophagus by the LES muscle located at the junction of the esophagus and stomach. It works like a pressure valve.

When our LES is working properly, digested food stays in the stomach and gets further processed and is then eliminated when you move your bowels. When our LES isn’t working correctly, that acidic food mush flows back into the esophagus causing burning, chest pain, or other discomforts. The danger is that when this “refluxing” happens too often it can cause inflammation and damage to the lining of our esophagus.

 

What You Should Know About Acid Reflux

It’s important to understand that acid reflux is not necessarily caused by excessive acid production in your stomach; rather, it’s a symptom more commonly related to one of these conditions:

  • Your stomach becomes temporarily distended because you ate too much, creating pressure in your abdomen, causing your LES to malfunction. Eat smaller meals – eat more frequently and small meals.
  • Having too little or too much acid in your stomach (Unfortunately, members of the health community disagree on which it is).
  • Hiatal hernia. An opening in the diaphragm that causes the upper part of the stomach to move up to the chest.
  • Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), an infection causing a chronic low-level inflammation of the stomach lining that can result in an ulcer and acid reflux symptoms. H. pylori bacteria is a common bacteria, some health experts say affects as much as half the world’s population.
  • Drug side effects. Certain prescription and over-the-counter medications can weaken the LES. Some drugs with this potential are asthma treatments, high blood pressure and osteoporosis medications, antihistamines, pain relievers, and some antidepressants.
  • Nicotine can cause the LES to relax.

 

Controlling With Balance

The way you can have a hand in controlling heartburn and acid reflux is by eating whole, unprocessed vegetables, and other high-quality organic foods. Foods can help or disturb the balance in your gut. The idea is to create gastric balance and function.

  • Add beneficial bacteria. Make sure there are enough beneficial bacteria in your diet to get rid of H. pylori – the bad bacteria. One way is to eat fermented vegetables like sauerkraut, kefir, or kombucha, or yogurt (with live cultures). This will help balance the microorganisms that live in your gut and the rest of your digestive tract.
  • Question certain meds. Ask your health practitioner or pharmacist to review all the medications and supplements you’re taking to see if one or more of them is causing acid reflux and can be stopped or replaced with alternatives.
  • Avoid laying down right after eating or taking your medication.
  • Drink ginger tea. Ginger blocks acid and suppresses the helicobacter pylori bacteria. Use fresh ginger root, not powdered.
  • Drink slippery elm tea. In powdered bark form, slippery elm coats and soothes the mouth, throat, stomach, and intestines, and contains antioxidants that can help inflammatory bowel conditions. It also stimulates nerve endings in your gastrointestinal tract, increasing mucus secretion which protects your gastrointestinal tract against ulcers and excess acidity.
  • Take vitamin D. The sunshine vitamin optimizes the production of about 200 antimicrobial peptides that will help your body get rid of many infections. In lieu of the vitamin, spend more time in the sun.
  • Eat Foods rich in glutamine. A research study found that gastrointestinal damage caused by H. pylori can be addressed with glutamine, an amino acid found in many foods, including beef, chicken, fish, eggs, dairy products, and some fruits and vegetables. L-glutamine, a supplement, is also a way to get more glutamine in your system.
  • Drink apple cider vinegar. It improves the acid content in your stomach. Take 1 tbsp. in a glass of water. If you don’t like the taste, add a little lemon and fruit juice (100%, no sugar added).
  • Eat foods rich in folate or folic acid (vitamin B9). Eat folate-rich whole foods such as liver, asparagus, spinach, okra, and beans.
  • Eat gut-friendly foods like bone broth, green leafy vegetables, cucumbers, squash, coconut water, salmon (wild-caught), and almonds.

 

Foods and Drinks to Avoid

Foods to avoid or cut back on: alcohol, coffee, carbonated beverages, chocolate, dairy, citrus and fruit juices, spicy foods, corn, sodium, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, highly processed grains, vegetable oils, processed grains, sugar, and artificial sweeteners.

Many low-quality processed foods contain sugar, which throws off your body’s ability to optimize your pH. This can put your body into a state of “acidosis”, which means your body is making too much acid. When your body makes too much acid many body functions go awry, kicking off problems with insulin levels, respiration, kidney functioning, and immune disorders, to name a few.

Avoid unbalanced drinking water. Opt for natural filtered, distilled or pH balanced water; not too acidic and not too alkaline. Go for a pH somewhere between 6 and 8. Too much alkalinity can reduce the necessary amount of acid your stomach needs to properly digest food and because alkaline water is antibacterial, it can disrupt the balance of your body’s beneficial gut bacteria. On the other side of the scale, if you drink water low in acidity you run the risk of acidosis.