How to get rid of acid reflux at home?
Indian cuisine is popular for its spicy, savoury essence. A wide variety of spices and herbs are combined together in a radical mix to bring such flavourful and diverse delicacies. While these foods are highly appetising, they also raise your risk of experiencing acid reflux.
According to the Indian Society of Gastroenterology, nearly 7.6% to 30% of the Indian population suffers from chronic acid reflux. Despite the high prevalence, it is a highly treatable and preventable condition.
In this article, with insights from Dr Anukalp Prakash, leading gastroenterologist in Gurgaon, we will explore various ways you can relieve acid reflux without any medication. But first, let’s learn what acid reflux is all about.
What is acid reflux?
Acid reflux is a common digestive disease in which the acid from your stomach moves backward into the esophagus.
Your stomach and esophagus are connected by a small spiral muscle valve called the lower esophageal sphincter. Acid reflux happens when this valve does not close properly allowing the acidic particles in your stomach to flow in the esophagus.
Acid reflux symptoms include:
- Sore throat
- Bitterness in the back of the throat
- Sourness in the mouth
What causes acid reflux?
There are a variety of factors that contribute to what causes acid reflux. The primary cause includes consumption of certain trigger foods or wrong patterns associated with the process of digestion. Common reasons include:
- Hiatal hernia
- Eating large meals
- Lying down directly after eating
- Obesity or being overweight
- Eating snacks before bedtime
- Bending over after eating a heavy meal
- Certain food items such as citrus fruits, tomato, chocolate, mint, garlic, onions and spicy or fatty foods
- Drinking alcohol, carbonated or caffeinated drinks
- Smoking cigarettes
How to get rid of acid reflux?
Acid reflux can impact your health and quality of life. It causes several discomforts that can disrupt your everyday activities.
Nonetheless, it is possible to relieve or avoid acid reflux at home without any clinical intervention. Here are some expert-approved ways you can relieve acid reflux at home:
Eat slowly and smaller meals – Eating large portions of foods more frequently can increase the pressure on your lower esophageal sphincter (the muscle that connects your stomach to your esophagus). High quantity of food can cause more pressure leading to a dysfunctional lower esophageal sphincter, thus, causing acid reflux. You should eat smaller portions of meals at a slow pace.
Avoid trigger foods and drinks – Similar to your unique taste buds and preferences, certain foods can act as triggers for acid reflux. You should keep a track of such triggers and avoid their intake to prevent acid reflux symptoms. There are certain common foods which can cause digestive health issues. If you suffer from acid reflux, you should avoid mint, fatty foods, spicy foods, citrus fruits, tomatoes, onions, garlic, coffee, tea, chocolate and alcohol.
Chew gum – Chewing gum can help in increasing your saliva production. Extra saliva can further help in clearing your esophagus and pushing the acid back into your stomach. You should preferably chew sugar-free gum after eating meals.
Make changes to your diet – Besides avoiding your trigger foods, you would need to make certain dietary changes. An acid reflux diet should include high-fibre, low-carb and low-fat foods. Consumption of more carbs can increase the growth of bacteria in your stomach, thus, increasing pressure and leading to acid reflux. While high-fibre foods can aid your digestion process and make you feel full.
Sleep on your left side – Your esophagus is connected from the right side of your abdomen. Thus, sleeping on the right side can cause stomach acid to entirely cover the lower esophageal sphincter leading to acid reflux. It is, therefore, suggested that you should sleep on your left side.
Elevate the head of your bed – A vast majority of people experience acid reflux symptoms particularly at night. Gastroenterologists suggest that you should incline your head slightly higher than the abdomen. It can help you reduce the symptoms of acid reflux and prevent nighttime awakenings.
Do not go to sleep directly after eating – Lying down immediately after you eat can disrupt the process of digestion leading to acid reflux symptoms. You should eat dinner at least 3 hours before bedtime.
Opt for herbal tea – Herbal teas are known for their diverse health benefits including their ability to aid digestion. Chamomile tea, licorice tea, green tea and fennel tea are some common herbal teas you can choose from. However, you should avoid drinking peppermint or spearmint tea as mint can trigger acid reflux.
Avoid vigorous exercise – Strenuous physical activities that involve a lot of movements or bending should be avoided as it can induce acid reflux. It is suggested that you only take a stroll after meals to support your digestive system.
Lose weight – If you are obese or overweight, your chances of suffering from acid reflux increase significantly. It is because extra fat in your abdominal area pushes your lower esophageal sphincter. It is advised that you should achieve and maintain a healthy, moderate body weight to avoid acid reflux.
Avoid smoking – Smoking causes your lower esophageal sphincter to loosen and become more relaxed. As your lower esophageal sphincter becomes loose, it can allow more stomach acid to enter your esophagus.
Wear loose clothing – Body hugging or tight clothes such as belts can increase the pressure on your lower esophageal sphincter causing acid reflux. You should wear slightly loose, comfortable clothing.
Acid reflux diet
You can plan your acid reflux diet now that you know what type of foods you should eat and avoid. Some common items you can add to your acid reflux diet include:
- Whole-wheat cereals and pasta
- Brown rice
- Baked potatoes
- Olive oil
Acid reflux treatment
The above-given dietary and lifestyle changes as well behaviours is your answer on how to get rid of acid reflux. However, if your symptoms do not subside with these home remedies, you should consult a gastroenterologist to seek treatment.
Acid reflux treatment involves the use of certain medication along with these measures. Your doctor will help design a personalised treatment protocol for you as per your unique health needs, symptoms and diet preferences.
Acid reflux vs GERD vs heartburn
Acid reflux, GERD and heartburn are often used interchangeably by patients. However, all three have different meanings.
Acid reflux, as discussed above, is a condition in which stomach acid flows back into the esophagus.
GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease) is the chronic form of acid reflux. It is diagnosed when acid reflux happens very frequently (more than twice in a week).
Heartburn, on the other hand, is a symptom of acid reflux and GERD. Heartburn is described as pain in the chest due to digestive problems.
The concluding note
Acid reflux is a common complaint among most Indians. It is also among the most preventable conditions. With routine use of above mentioned lifestyle tips, you can prevent and ease the symptoms of acid reflux.
For more information or personalised guidance on acid reflux, consult Dr Anukalp Prakash, Department of Gastroenterology at the CK Birla Hospital.
Ques: How do I know if I am having acid reflux?
Ans: Acid reflux symptoms include heartburn, bitterness and soreness in your mouth and throat, nausea, dry cough and discomfort.
Ques: Does drinking water help acid reflux?
Ans: Yes, drinking water can help in diluting the acid and ease symptoms of acid reflux.
Ques: How long does acid reflux take to heal?
Ans: Healing from acid reflux depends on the severity of your symptoms and your overall health. Most people get comfort within a few days.