Natural remedies easing symptoms of GERD

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Natural remedies easing symptoms of GERD

If you think that regurgitation of gastric acid or experiencing sour taste in your mouth is simply symptoms of heartburn, think again.  It likely is a more serious form of heartburn called gastroesophageal reflux disease or simply known as GERD.

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease, in the United States, approximately 20% of Americans have GERD.  Other symptoms associated with it include difficult or painful swallowing, chest pain, a chronic cough, bad breath or a feeling like something is stuck in your throat.  Anyone having these symptoms that occurs more than twice a week likely has GERD but only a physician can definitively determine for sure. 

Both heartburn and GERD are caused by stomach acid refluxing up into the esophagus which can cause damage to the surface lining of the esophagus since it is not protected by mucus.  GERD is caused by a weak lower esophageal sphincter or one that relaxes when it shouldn’t.  This sphincter, a ring of muscle, ordinarily acts as a valve between the esophagus and the stomach, opening to let through the food and liquids you swallow.

Signs of GERD should not be ignored since if left untreated, it can lead to serious complications.  Damage to the esophagus can scar and narrow it, making swallowing difficult, and the inflammation can cause bleeding or ulcers.  GERD can also be a precursor to a condition called Barrett’s esophagus which in can lead to esophageal cancer.

Even though there are certain medications, both over-the-counter and prescription that can be used to treat GERD, recent studies have shown that long-term use of medications for heartburn and GERD can block absorption of essential nutrients and increase bone-fracture risk.  Both the mineral calcium and vitamin B12 have been found to have reduced absorption when using such drugs.  Other nutrients whose absorption that might be reduced by such medications include folate, beta-carotene, vitamin C, magnesium, iron and zinc. 

Below are several natural remedies that can ease symptoms of GERD.  If symptoms are not relieved or become worse, always seek medical advice from your healthcare professional:

·       Baking Soda: A teaspoon of baking soda (a base substance) neutralizes stomach acid so that even if it comes up, you won’t feel that burning sensation. Mix 1 teaspoon of baking soda with 8 ounces of water and drink all of it. Repeat as needed, but don’t exceed seven doses in one day. Avoid using this GERD home remedy for more than a week, due to its high salt content and other side effects like swelling or nausea.

·       Chew Gum: People experiencing GERD can get some relief by chewing sugar-free gum for 30 minutes after they eat, according to a study conducted by the Journal of Dental Research. Chewing a piece of gum stimulates the salivary glands, which increases saliva. The saliva helps wash away any acid. Chew one piece after you eat and note the difference.

·       Don’t Lie Down After Eating: When you eat a meal and then lie flat, the contents of your stomach can more easily be pushed back up, as it puts pressure on your esophageal sphincter. If you’re upright, however, gravity works in your favor, helping to keep food down. It’s best to eat three to four hours before you know you’ll be lying down to allow time for your food to fully digest. Help capitalize on this GERD home remedy solution by lying slightly elevated in your bed with a pillow wedged under you.

·       Eat Fruit: And not just any fruit—bananas have natural antacid properties that counteract acid reflux. Eat a fully ripened banana each day to reduce the discomfort of acid coming back up. Another great fruit to try is an apple. To prevent discomfort at night, slice up an apple and enjoy it a few hours before bedtime. Other fruits that can reduce instances of GERD are honeydew, cantaloupe and watermelon. Be sure to avoid fruits with high acidic content such as oranges, grapefruit and pineapple.

·       Ginger Tea: Ginger tea is great for many stomach ailments, from the common stomachache to nausea to chronic acid reflux. For full flavor, simmer slices of ginger root in water for 30 minutes. For maximum benefit, drink the tea before a meal to maximize the impact of this GERD home remedy.

·       Mustard: Mustard is full of minerals and contains vinegar, a weak acid. It also contains alkaline, which neutralizes the acid that comes up due to GERD. Try taking 1 teaspoon of straight mustard when you feel a bout of heartburn coming on, or if you’re already experiencing symptoms.

·       Chamomile Tea: To balance the acidity levels in your stomach, drink a cup of chamomile tea 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime. Chamomile also reduces stress levels, which can contribute to heartburn. Instant chamomile tea is available for purchase, or you can make your own fresh. Simply boil water, stir in chamomile petals and let them simmer for about 45 seconds. Strain them out and pour the tea into a mug, adding honey or lemon as preferred.

Here are other tips to try reducing symptoms of GERD: 

·      Certain foods can lower the sphincter pressure between the stomach and esophagus making it easier for acid to reflux back up – these foods include high-fat foods, alcohol, peppermint, onions, carbonated beverages and chocolate. Other foods may stimulate the already irritated nerve endings in the lining of the esophagus and may need to be avoided such as citrus and spicy dishes 

·      Common beverages such as coffee (both caffeinated and decaffeinated), tea, cola, tomato juice, and orange juice may also aggravate symptoms 

·      Eat more frequent, lighter meals and snacks.  Large quantities of food make it more challenging taking time to be digested.

·      Lose weight.  Cutting calories from unhealthy sources such as starches and added sugars can reduce the risk of GERD.

·      Drink a small glass of water after meals.  This can help dilute and wash down any refluxing stomach acids.

·      Avoid carbonated beverages, especially with meals.  Carbonation can bloat the abdomen, pressing on the stomach and pushing stomach acids upward. 

·      Eat more fiber rich foods.  One study found that people whose diets were high in fiber were less likely to have heartburn and GERD symptoms.

·      Smokers should extinguish their habit.  The chemicals in cigarette smoke may relax the esophageal sphincter and allow reflux of digestive acids. 

·      Avoid tight-fitting waistbands and clothes that squeeze your middle.