Are there certain foods that cause that burning sensation in your chest? Do you feel that just looking at some foods is enough to make you feel the consequences?
If you struggle from acid reflux, GERD, or heartburn a couple of times a month, you're not alone! About 44% of the United States suffers from heartburn, and 1 in 4 people have acid reflux! After heart disease and diabetes, acid reflux is the next most common reason for prescription medication. Instead of struggling with this issue time and time again, let's get to why you are experiencing this so that we can treat this health annoyance at its roots.
What Exactly is Acid Reflux?
Acid reflux is when there is a backflow of stomach acid into your esophagus (the organ that connects your throat to your stomach). When people experience reflux or heartburn more than two times a week, it may be considered GERD, which is the more severe form of reflux.
Do You Have Acid Reflux?
Acid reflux may be the reason you are experiencing any of these symptoms:
- Burning sensation in your chest (Heartburn)
- Regurgitation of food
- Difficulty swallowing
- Chest pain
These symptoms may also worsen when you are lying down.
What Causes Acid Reflux?
The cause of acid reflux may differ from person to person. Since there are many factors that contribute to this issue, it's essential to be aware of when you usually start to experience the symptoms. Do you start feeling it after you eat certain foods (possibly that spicy Thai food...), at a certain time of the day like at bedtime, or during days that you are feeling overwhelmed and stressed out? Let's take a look at some factors that could be associated with your acid reflux.
Specific foods in your diet may set off your symptoms. For many people, the following foods are a very common cause of their reflux.
- Fried food
- Spicy food
- Processed foods
- Tomato-based foods
When you are chronically stressed, your body produces more cortisol (aka a stress hormone). Cortisol is known to slow or halt digestion so your body can focus on dealing with the more stressful stimuli. Since you won't be processing and digesting foods efficiently, that food you just ate won't be broken down, increasing the likelihood that it could travel upwards.
You also can lose magnesium when you are stressed. Magnesium is critical to help your body relax, especially your digestive system. When you are stressed, your digestive system is not working as optimally as it should, causing the food you eat to go back up instead of down.
Yeast or Bacteria Overgrowth
If you have harmful bacteria or yeast living inside your gut, it may ferment and cause upward pressure, causing your reflux symptoms. Sugary foods and processed foods are especially bad for your gut because they contribute to increasing that bad bacteria overgrowth.
Integrative Approach to Acid Reflux
The solution to ending your reflux isn't taking acid-blocking drugs, which just cover up those symptoms. These medications come with adverse side effects. They can block mineral absorption, causing mineral deficiencies, cause bloating or cause bad bacteria to grow in your stomach. These symptoms are your body's way of telling you that something isn't right. Finding the original cause of acid reflux is the solution to fix it. While there are many good conventional doctors that look for the root cause, a majority of them just cover up the symptoms.
An integrative approach, on the other hand, looks at each patient's individualized lifestyle choices to see how lifestyle factors are influencing their health. By tweaking certain aspects like diet, exercise, stress management, etc., many health concerns can be treated safely and noninvasively.
Lifestyle Changes to Help Manage Reflux
Simple changes in your daily life can help tremendously in managing your reflux. Here are some quick tips you may want to try.
- Avoid trigger foods that contain gluten, dairy, caffeine, alcohol, etc.
- Reduce the amount of processed foods you consume and increase more whole foods
- Don't eat right before bed, give yourself time to digest your dinner or bedtime snack
- Reduce your stress so that your body is able to focus on digestion. You can start incorporating the practice of yoga, meditation, and/or breathwork to your routine.
Supplementation For Acid Reflux
In addition to the lifestyle changes mentioned above, taking certain supplements may help a great deal in managing your reflux symptoms.
Betaine is a chemical that is found naturally in foods such as beets and spinach. The acid form, Betaine HCl, has been shown to support healthy digestion and lower gastric pH.
As we age, our stomach acid decreases along with critical enzymes that are required for digestion. Restoring these digestive enzymes can help reset our digestion, helping our food to breakdown so it doesn't travel back up the esophagus.
Deglycyrrhized licorice (DGL) has been shown to relieve minor GI discomfort like indigestion. This is usually taken once per day or additional times throughout the day as needed with flare-ups.
Marshmallow Root, Aloe Vera, and Slippery Elm
These all contain soothing properties for the GI tract and can help with managing reflux. They can also help promote normal inflammatory balance in the stomach, which can support healthy digestion and absorption.
This includes calcium, magnesium, and potassium to help give patients high levels of vitamin C without upsetting the GI tract. Buffered C can be used during reflux flare-ups.
This has been shown to protect the gastrointestinal mucosa from reactive oxygen species (ROS), causing oxidative damage.
Can Acid Reflux be Treated via Telehealth?
If you still don't see results after trying some of these tips, seeing an integrative healthcare provider may be a great option for you to get to the bottom of your acid reflux. They can conduct certain testing to check for food sensitivities causing your reflux, abnormal bugs like parasites, overactive harmful bacteria, along with other tests.
Reshma Patel, PA-C, founder of Ananda Integrative Medicine, in Brentwood, Los Angeles, is an integrative provider who offers in-person services as well as telehealth services. With over 17 years of experience in urgent care, she knows what works best for patients. If you are struggling with acid reflux and you are tired of dealing with it on a regular basis, Reshma can give you guidance on where to start. She will work with you to assess your lifestyle behaviors, give you recommendations on specific supplements, and can order lab testing if necessary.
Schedule a virtual appointment so you can say goodbye to your reflux all while staying in the comfort of your own home.
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