Most of us may experience occasional indigestion that leads to acid reflux after eating spicy or greasy foods. It's an uncomfortable and sometimes painful condition when your stomach acid and even food crawl back up your esophagus. However, if you experience heartburn several or more times per week, you may be experiencing a form of chronic acid reflux called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Although many people tend to use medications to treat acid reflux and heartburn, not to mention it may lead to side effects and long-term dependency, many lifestyle changes can also help you reduce symptoms and improve your quality of life. Here are some natural ways to reduce your acid reflux and heartburn:
1. Limit your daily coffee or tea intake
Studies have found that coffee temporarily relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter, which results in an increased risk of acid reflux1. Some evidence also suggests caffeine as a possible cause. Similarly to coffee, caffeine relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter, which can lead to reflux2. Therefore, it is recommended to choose low-caffeine or decaffeinated beverages.
2. Maintain a moderate weight
Research has shown that obesity or being overweight is an important risk factor for the development of GERD3. The diaphragm, a muscle located above your stomach, strengthens the lower esophageal sphincter. Thus, preventing excessive amounts of stomach acid from leaking up into the esophagus. However, when you are obese or overweight, excess belly fat may cause the pressure in your abdomen to become so high that the lower esophageal sphincter gets pushed upward, away from the diaphragm’s support. This condition which is also known as hiatal hernia, is considered the leading cause of GERD. Therefore, achieving and maintaining a moderate body weight can help reduce acid reflux in the long term. However, do make sure you are using the right weight loss methods.
3. Stop smoking if you smoke
Nicotine reduces the amount of saliva produced, increases gastric acid secretion and acts as a relaxant to smooth muscle. Since the lower esophageal sphincter is composed of smooth muscle, the intake of nicotine from smoking can cause the muscle to relax and function improperly. Therefore, smokers or those who have been exposed to second-hand smoke for a long time are more likely to suffer from gastroesophageal reflux than the general population.
4. Eat smaller, more frequent meals
The lower esophageal sphincter acts as a valve that prevents stomach acid from the stomach from entering the esophagus. It typically stays closed but may open when you swallow, belch, or vomit. Unsurprisingly, most reflux symptoms occur after meals and it also seems that eating just one to two large meals per day may worsen reflux symptoms. Therefore, eating smaller and more frequent meals may help reduce symptoms of acid reflux4.
5. Have your dinner earlier
People with acid reflux are often advised by healthcare professionals to avoid eating within 3 hours before bedtime. Reason being that lying down after meals can make digestion more difficult and may worsen GERD symptoms. According to one review, eating a late-night meal increased acid exposure when lying down by 5%, compared with eating earlier in the evening5.
6. Adjust your sleep position
Several studies have found that sleeping on your right side may worsen reflux symptoms at night6. Although the reason may not be clear, it could be explained by anatomy. The esophagus enters the right side of the stomach. This means that the lower esophageal sphincter sits above the level of stomach acid when you sleep on your left side. The opposite is true, when you lie on your right side, stomach acid covers the lower esophageal sphincter, increasing the risk of reflux. Although sleeping on the left side the entire night may not always be possible, it could help make you more comfortable as you fall asleep.
You may like to consider this natural solution if you experience frequent bouts of acid reflux or symptoms associated with gastric discomfort:
LABO Nutrition GastriCELL (sachets and capsules)
Developed by Tokai University School of Medicine, Japan, GASTRICELL is formulated with a novel strain of heat-treated Lactic Acid Bacteria — patented L. johnsonii No. 1088, and fortified with Bifidobacterium longum and oligosaccharide. Unlike most non-prescription medications or prescription drugs that may not completely resolve gastric concerns, GASTRICELL is scientifically proven to target symptoms caused by overactive gastric acid secretion, harmful bacteria and stomach abrasion and irritation at the root cause, to provide long-term soothing effects. GastriCELL helps relieve recurrent gastric symptoms at root cause naturally, maintain a healthy level of gastric acid and break the cycle of drug dependency. It is now available in both sachets and capsule form.