Acid Reflux! How to put out the fire!..or the cough..or the nausea.

Heartburn, acid reflux, GERD…What is the cause? What is happening inside us when this occurs? What have we done to create the environment to ignite the flame inside?

Acid reflux can present itself to you in many forms such as a burning sensation or pain anywhere from the stomach to the throat, a chronic sore throat, a persistent cough, nausea or a sensation of a lump in the throat.

The importance of acid!

Acid is produced in our stomachs and it has a purpose; to digest proteins and to activate digestive enzymes that break down our food so that we can absorb nutrients. Stomach acid also kills harmful bacteria in our stomach that may cause infections in the body. We do not want to decrease the acid in the stomach because our stomach should be a ph of 1.5-3.5 or in order function ideally.

What is happening inside our body when we feel symptoms of acid reflux?

Usually the lower esophageal sphincter (which consists of muscle tissue) has loosened and acid is getting past this sphincter into the esophagus. The esophagus is not prepared to handle acid. It does not have cells that secrete mucus and bicarbonate (an alkaline substance) like the stomach does to protect itself from acid.

What caused the damage?

Our lower esophageal sphincter may get damaged when we eat large meals, lie down within 2 hours after eating, take medication such as ibuprofen or naproxen which decrease the mucus production in the stomach, eat too fast so that our body doesn’t have time to prepare for digestion, consume acidic foods such as coffee, or carbonated beverages which cause acid to move up into the esophagus and cause distention of the stomach which damages the sphincter.

What can we do?

Acid reflux is caused by lifestyle…I said it. We can prevent it and even more we can heal our damaged cells in the esophagus!

Drink a minimum of 8 glasses of water per day. This gives your body what it needs to produce adequate levels of mucus to protect the stomach lining. (caffeine-free herbal teas count as water as well as water with lemon or lime).

Have your last bite 2-3 hours before your bedtime.

Stop coffee, tea and carbonated beverages. If you find it hard to quit then go down to 1/2 cup per day before noon time.

Eat smaller portions and instead eat 5 smaller meals per day.

Decrease acidic foods such as tomatoes, vinegars to once per week and in the first few weeks eliminate them all together to let your body heal.

Eliminate or decrease wheat, dairy and sugar for a few weeks as well to improve overall digestion which will decrease bloating taking some pressure off the overworked lower esophageal sphincter.

After a few weeks you will be feeling better and your body will thank you for it in many ways- not just by producing less pain in the upper GI! Give it a try you owe it to your digestion!