By Ash Stevens
It used to be that heartburn happened when you were pregnant or ate a spicy pizza. But now, it’s happening to people of all ages with all sorts of antagonizers. And it’s not just heartburn anymore. These days, people are dealing with acid reflux. Sometimes it even evolves into chronic acid reflux (aka GERD or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease). But even though they go by different names and come with different symptoms, they all share a similar cause; stomach acid. And there just happen to be some natural remedies that can help with that.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Sipping on vinegar sounds backwards given its acidity, but it may be the best remedy you’ll ever buy. Back when, it was believed that heartburn and reflux were caused by an excess of stomach acid, but lab tests show that there’s actually low stomach acid. That’s a problem, because a lack of acid means a lack in digestion. It’s theorized that poor digestion of carbs can increase pressure in the abdomen, thus causing stomach acid to rise up into the throat. It’s said that ACV stimulates digestive juices and enhances stomach acid by way of its acids, enzymes, and prebiotics.Look online and you’ll see that people swear by this natural remedy.
It may seem more aggravating than helpful, but ginger’s spicy kick may be exactly what you need. Remember that talk about carbs causing abdominal pressure? Well, testing done on GERD sufferers show a serious link to small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). According to microbiologist Dr. Norm Robillard, this link can be explained by intestinal bacteria producing gases that put pressure on the LES (with poorly digested carbs being the fuel of the digestive fire). This theory hasn’t been proven, but the connection between acid reflux and bacterial overgrowth makes for a strong case. That’s where a kick of ginger can help. Ginger is a famous carminative (it fights flatulence), plus it doubles as natural antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and digestive aid. So it may be able to help reduce heartburn and acid reflux by fighting off unfriendly bacteria, easing digestion, and reducing microbial gases. It’s best used fresh in food or tea, but it can be used dried or powdered too.
As with any disease, subbing junk food for health food plays a huge role in solving the problems. Figuring out what kind of diet works best will take trial-and-error, but there’s one food that really can’t let you down: cabbage. According to health experts like Mercola and Elissa Goodman, cabbage juice stimulates production of stomach acid. To top it off, it packs an enzyme that helps to soothe and heal problematic stomach inflammation. The benefits go even further when cabbage is fermented into sauerkraut, by loading up the belly with probiotics that are crucial for digestion. In addition, sauerkraut’s friendly lacto-bacteria can help crowd out undesirable microbes (like, say, potential reflux-causing H. pylori). And you can make your very own with nothing more than sea salt, water, and spices.
If you enjoy tea, you can ward off acid reflux with herbs. There is a category of herbs known as demulcents which are rich in mucilage. As the name suggests, mucilage is smooth and slimy. This is good news, because a steaming cup of mucilage will soothe and coat the throat and stomach. Slippery Elm has the strongest connection with reflux and heartburn, but marshmallow root and licorice root are other tasty and helpful options. They’re also very safe, although you should still run them by your doctor or an herbalist to learn more. For example, licorice is very safe, but blood pressure concerns warrant licorice in moderation (or a DGL licorice supplement instead).
Relax? A doctor’s note for pills seems more reasonable than a prescription for daily doses of yoga — but it’s a must. That’s because stress causes muscle tension and releases “fight or flight” hormones. And while that’s really quite helpful if you bump into a mountain lion, daily stress is not a good thing. A study from 2012 showed a strong connection between stress and acid reflux, so there’s good cause to kick back a little. Low impact exercise like walking is a great way to pump out feel-good hormones to relieve stress. Yoga and pilates are the most famous of relaxing exercise options, but you may want to steer clear of downward positions that could trigger reflux.
Ash Stevens is a gardener, a writer, and a fan of all things green. Her love for health and sustainability began with her journey into motherhood, and it’s grown exponentially ever since. She’s passionate about living a healthy lifestyle through gardening, cooking, and spending time outdoors. If she isn’t writing or reading up on exciting green trends, she’s probably playing Connect Four or swimming in the river with the kids. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter.