Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or acid reflux for short, is injury to the esophagus that develops from chronic exposure of the esophagus to acid coming up from the stomach (reflux).
In contrast, heartburn is the symptom of acid in the esophagus, characterized by a burning discomfort behind the breastbone (sternum).
GERD problems include esophagitis (reflux esophagitis) - inflammatory changes in the esophageal lining (mucosa), strictures, difficulty swallowing (dysphagia) and chronic chest pain.
Atypical or unusual symptoms of GERD may include cough, hoarseness, changes of the voice, and sinusitis.
Complications of GERD include stricture formation, Barrett's esophagus, esophageal ulcers and possibly even esophageal cancer.
Gastroesophageal reflux is the return of the stomach's contents back up into the esophagus. In children, this reflux may be aspirated (sucked into the lungs) causing repeated bouts of pneumonia or asthma.
In normal digestion, the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) opens to allow food to pass into the stomach and closes to prevent food and stomach juices from flowing back into the esophagus.
Gastroesophageal reflux occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter is weak or relaxes allowing the stomach contents to flow up into the esophagus. The degree of the reflux depends on the LES as well as the type and amount of fluid brought up from the stomach.
Please Note: Gastritis may have some of the same symptoms as GERD, but, physiologically, gastritis is an entirely different problem. Gastritis is related to irritation in the stomach, while GERD is related to irritation in the esophagus. Treatment for gastritis and GERD are also often very similar but will vary depending on the specific root cause(s) and the problems caused by your diabetes.
Most people believe that GERD is due to excess stomach acid, so they take antacids to neutralize stomach acids. However, GERD is actually due to not having enough acid.
When there is not enough acid, foods don’t get properly digested so they sit in the stomach and ferment, producing gas that causes pressure to build up.
In addition, the stomach churns violently to make better use of its limited acid, which, in-turn, induces pressure and causes back flows of the existing acid.
This pressure pushes open the sphincter valve and some stomach acid spills back out into the esophagus, causing burns as the esophagus tissues are not meant to handle this acid. This burning in the esophagus is what GERD sufferers experience, like burning sensations, pain, pressure and much discomfort on the chest.
To further complicate matters, antacids seem to work because they render the acid being spewed by the churning stomach into the esophagus as less potent, and therefore less painful.
But, the effects of taking antacids snowballs, preventing proper digestion, and eventually causing the very excess acid problem for which the treatments had originally been meant to stop!
The good news is that there are many natural remedies that can eliminate the discomfort from acid reflux without the need for expensive and dangerous over-the-counter medications or surgery.
Concerning gastritis, the two major causes are 1) a bacterium named Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori); and 2) nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). However, there are many other causes such as other infectious agents, autoimmune problems, diseases like Crohn's disease, sarcoidosis, celiac disease, thyroid disease, Vitamin B12 deficiency, isolated granulomatosis gastritis, and the use of other drugs such as aspirin, Prednisone, and chemotherapy. And, since gastritis is negatively impacted by diabetes just like GERD, proper blood glucose control with no or minimum use of medications is essential.
FYI: Vitamin B12 deficiency results when the gastrointestinal tract does not properly absorb vitamin B12, most likely due to chronic inflammation (gastritis). Therefore, the conditions that cause gastritis are the same as those that cause vitamin B12 deficiency: celiac disease (gluten sensitivity), Crohn’s disease, recent stomach surgery, recent infection, poor nutrition, thyroid disease, or pernicious anemia, a form of anemia that occurs when the stomach lacks a naturally-occurring substance called intrinsic factor needed to properly digest vitamin B12.
Foods to Avoid with GERD
If you suffer from heartburn or acid reflux, there are certain foods that you should avoid that can hinder the proper function of the stomach valve. These foods include the following:
- Foods that are high in acid, including orange juice, tomato juice, tomatoes and lemons
- Fried, fatty foods
- Spicy foods
- Coffee (caffeine)
- Cow's milk (mucous-forming)
- Fast foods, processed foods
- Chicken nuggets
- Chocolate, candy, mint
- Ice cream
- Raw onions, garlic
- Carbonated beverage
The sphincter muscle sometimes receives mixed messages from your stomach due to these foods: it will sometimes sense the acid in the esophagus and open thinking you are in the process of eating.
Sometimes when performing activities during a highly acidic meal your stomach valve will open voluntarily, when in fact, you have finished your meal and what it is sensing is the acid working its way back up to the esophagus.
Foods to Eat with GERD
If you want to reduce your problems with heartburn and strengthen your sphincter muscle you should be eating foods such as the following:
- Green, leafy vegetables, e.g. spinach, celery, cucumber, cabbage, broccoli
- Parsley, fennel
- Fresh apples or bananas
- Aloe vera
- Ginger, Turmeric
- Unsalted almonds, unsalted soda biscuits
- Egg whites
- Chicken, turkey (organic)
- Seafood, fish (not fried)
- Rice (brown or white)
This is just a short list of foods that will help to reduce your risk of heartburn and keep that sphincter muscle working properly. Keep in mind that foods that contain living enzymes are crucial in eliminating and preventing acid reflux.
Natural Remedies for GERD
Some of the many natural remedies for acid reflux include dietary changes, juicing, supplementation, detox, exercise, and medications.
The following natural remedies help to address 3 key nutritional strategies when dealing with GERD and other similar gastrointestinal ailments:
1. Avoid foods and beverages that can damage both your gut and your immune system, e.g. alcohol, black tea, coffee, corn, dairy, energy drinks, fast foods, gluten, grains, milk, pastries, potatoes, processed foods, soda, diet soda, soy, sweets, trans fats, wheat, etc.
2. Eat plant-based nutritious foods that help to reverse the damage caused by GERD or gastritis in order to heal the gastrointestinal system and increase Vitamin B12 absorption, e.g. green, leafy vegetables, bright-colored vegetables; herbs such as ginger, turmeric and oregano; organic apple cider vinegar, cranberry juice; pineapple (bromelain), organic or homemade yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir, probiotics.
Also, eat foods high in vitamin A, such as liver, carrots, greens, spinach, asparagus, sweet potatoes, peaches, apricots, and unprocessed cod liver oil. Vitamin A is essential for the healthy function of mucous membranes and tissue repair.
FYI: Many of these foods also help with blood glucose control.
3. Eat foods that help to kill harmful bacteria such as H. pylori, e.g. broccoli, garlic, oregano, turmeric, etc.
Note: A nutrient in broccoli called sulforaphane has been proven effective by medical research to kill H. pylori bacteria in the stomach lining.
Key wellness strategies include: nutritional, detox, supplementation, lifestyle, and exercise regimen.
Change your diet to alkaline plant-based: Begin eating more alkaline-forming foods such as vegetables and some fruits.
Alkaline-forming foods such as green, leafy vegetables help cool and soothe the pain of heartburn. The alkalinity neutralize the acidic environment, cleanse, repair, heal and nourish.
Organic root vegetables such as carrot, lotus root, jicama and potato are very mild and calming to the digestive system and wounds/ulcers in the tract. Fennel and kohlrabi have antiseptic properties that help improve the digestive system and the other green vegetables are alkaline and soothing as well.
Banana, papaya and avocado are all alkaline foods that have similar creamy texture that is soothing to the already sensitive surface of the intestinal tract. The healing properties heal on its way down and also neutralize the acidic environment to reduce pain.
Avoid acid-forming forms: Avoid most, if not all, acid-forming foods such as processed foods, spicy foods, fried foods, and sugars because these foods tend to exacerbate acid reflux and create an imbalance in the bacterial balance in the stomach and intestinal tract. You should also avoid most dairy products, especially cow's milk, because it's mucous-forming and difficult to digest.
Keep a food diary: One of the best things that you can do is to keep a food diary of everything you eat and drink. If you're diabetic, you should be already be keeping track of your meals. By recording what you eat and how you feel, it will make it easier for you to evaluate what foods may be triggering the problem.
Eat smaller meals: Meals should include that contain fresh organic vegetables and some whole fruits. Take your time when you eat and do not swallow too much food -- chew slowly and thoroughly. Digestion begins in the mouth, but not if you gulp down the food! Taking in a smaller amount of food at a time will help reduce the pressure on your digestive tract and will prevent the acid from your stomach to back up into your lower esophageal sphincter.
Eating complex carbs: Consume foods rich in complex carbohydrates such as broccoli, okra, organic brown rice, whole grain pasta and sourdough breads help to control excess stomach acid. They are also easy on the stomach. However, high fat meals and excess animal meat must be avoided because they linger in the stomach longer and cause the stomach to produce more acid to digest them.
Don't overeat: Overeating also accelerates acid production in the stomach.
Use raw juicing: Drink a glass of fresh raw green juice 30 minutes before meals. This will allow nutrients to get into your body's cells a lot faster and easier.Fresh natural juices feed the cells directly with vitamins, minerals, and enzymes to help the body heal itself.
Use specific vegetables for juicing: When juicing to relieve GERD, include some of the following: carrots, cabbage, apples, celery, watermelon, fennel, ginger, parsley, and bananas (for smoothies).
Detox diet: Following a detoxification diet, drinking about 4 16-oz. glasses of filtered water daily along with high doses of quality probiotics and using a plant-based enzyme supplement goes a long way toward restoring normal stomach function for most people. Normally, you should try to drink enough water each day to keep your urine a light yellow shade. However, when you suffer from acid reflux, more water may be necessary to dilute the acid and normalize the pH in your stomach.
Perform a full body cleanse: Start with a colon cleanse, then move on to doing a liver detox, and then doing either a harmful organism cleanse or chemical and heavy metal cleanse.
Don't rely on taking a bunch of pills -- use two or three, based on your specific needs. And, make sure that the supplements are quality supplements from a reputable company. If possible, try to avoid synthetic supplements, which can be problematic.
Take digestive enzymes: Another condition that can trigger excess production of acid occurs when your pancreas is not secreting enough digestive enzymes to break down your food, some small particles may get pass the stomach, and send a signal to your brain indicating that your stomach needs to produce more acid. Enzymes are found in abundance in raw food but the act of cooking food over 116° Fahrenheit destroys these health promoting enzymes. Only living and raw foods are high in nutrient values and the enzyme levels crucial to combat acid reflux. There are many good enzyme supplements available, i.e. VeganZyme.
Take probiotics: Taking a probiotics supplement such as Latero-Flora will help to restore the beneficial bacteria and a healthy mucosal lining in the gut.
Increase your Vitamin D: Increasing Vitamin D levels will optimize production of 200 antimicrobial peptides that aid in eradicating any infection in your body, including in the esophagus. Vitamin D is free and in abundance through appropriate levels of sun exposure. If this is not possible, eat foods high in Vitamin D (i.e. wild salmon, organic eggs) and take a high-quality Vitamin D supplement, preferably unprocessed cod liver oil.
Balance your hydrochloric acid levels: Increasing the natural production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach is the first step at preventing acid reflux symptoms.
Use (real)sea salt: Replace your table salt with a high-quality sea salt, such as Himalayan Crystal Salt. This salt contains real sodium, magnesium potassium and dozens of other trace minerals that the body needs.
Add chlorella/spirulina: In order to obtain more B vitamins, add 1-2 tsp. chlorella and/or spirulina to your beverage or water in the morning.
Take a betaine supplement: Take a beet-derived Betaine HCL supplement before meals. This is extremely effective at preventing acid reflux symptoms.
Don't lie down after eating: After eating, it is helpful to stay in an erect position for 45 minutes. And when lying down, the head must be elevated six to eight inches.
Lose some weight: Extra weight presses on the abdomen pushing the stomach upward and aggravating acid reflux. Overweight individuals should work to lose pounds and then maintain a healthy weight. A good strategy for weight loss should work slowly, causing 1-2 pounds to be lost each week.
Review your medications. There are a number of medications that can increase your risk of GERD, either by relaxing the LES, interfering with the digestive process, or further irritating an already inflamed esophagus. These medications include:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs
- Calcium channel blockers (often used to treat high blood pressure)
- Certain asthma medications, including beta-agonists like albuterol
- Anticholinergics, medications used to treat conditions such as seasonal allergies and glaucoma
- Bisphosphonates, used to boost bone density
- Sedatives and painkillers
- Some antibiotics
- Iron tablets
If you are taking any of these medications, talk to your doctor about switching to another drug that does not have the same effect on the upper digestive tract. However, never stop taking a prescribed medication without first consulting your doctor.
Clothing: Avoid wearing tight clothes while losing weight. They press on the abdomen and lower esophageal sphincter muscle increasing reflux. Follow a balanced diet such as the Death to Diabetes diet.
Relaxation: Use relaxation techniques to calm an individual’s anxiety and stress. This may also reduce acid reflux. Different relaxation techniques such as guided imagery or progressive muscle relaxation are taught by trained instructors as part of exercise classes or through other resources.
Sleep: Make sure that you sleep on the left side, or with your upper body raised. Sleeping on the left side keeps gravity working for you, keeping your stomach below your esophagus. Also, relief is often found by raising the head of the bed to 30 degrees, raising the upper body with pillows, or sleeping sitting up. The upper body must be raised, not just the head; pillows that only raise the head do little for heartburn and put strain on the neck.
Body Positioning: Avoid inappropriate body positions or applying any pressure around your abdominal area after meals. After eating, refrain from doing stuffs that can trigger acid reflux including lying down, bending and stooping. You should also loosen your belt to avoid pressure on you abdomen after eating. If your belt is tightly fastened around your waist when you're full, there will be a huge tendency for it to build pressure around your abdominal area which can cause stomach acids to flow back into the lower esophageal sphincter.
Exercise to tighten stomach valve: Before trying the following exercises, you must address the following risk factors: (1) maintain a healthy weight; (2) quit smoking; and, (3) lower your intake of spicy foods.
Once you have addressed those risk factors, use the following exercise to improve your sphincter muscle health:
In the standing position- take in a deep breath through your nose and try to hold it for 5 seconds then exhale through your mouth very slowly. Repeat this exercise several times a day. Not only will it help your heartburn, it will decrease added anxiety that is a base cause of heartburn and acid reflux.
Note: Exercising frequently is always helpful for staying healthy. Increasing the amount of cardio exercise you do will help improve your overall health -- just make sure you check with your doctor first.
Eleven (11) Natural Remedies for GERD
If you still experience acid reflux symptoms after making major lifestyle changes, then, try one of the following quick home remedies for instant relief.
Raw Organic Apple Cider Vinegar: Take one tablespoon of raw organic apple cider vinegar mixed in a small glass (about 4 ounces) of purified water before each meal. This will help calm the stomach and help with digestion. This remedy also works for acute episodes of acid reflux. A good product is Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar.
Baking Soda: Bicarbonate is a wonder product though some doctors recommend that this not be used if you have high blood pressure or if you are on sodium restricted diets. It’s best to get advice first. Mix a spoonful in a glass of water, stir and drink before it stops fizzing.
Organic Aloe Vera Juice: Aloe vera juice is commonly used to treat upset stomach, diarrhea and inflammation associated with bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis. Aloe vera juice aids in digestion, and is another great remedy for acid reflux. Try drinking 1 ounce of the brand ‘R Pur Aloe’ mixed in 2 ounces of water when acid reflux symptoms begin.
Ginger: In a 2007 study published in the journal Molecular Research and Food Nutrition, researchers compared the anti-ulcer and anti-Helicobacter plyori (a bacteria linked to ulcers) properties of ginger and conventional acid-blockers like Lansoprazole, or Prevacid.
Remarkably, ginger performed six to eight times better than the drugs. Rather than interfering with or removing stomach acid barrier (and thereby deactivating proteolytic enzymes and increasing risk of infection), ginger inhibits acid reflux and contains potent proteolytic enzymes.
Herbal Teas: Herbal tea is known for its soothing effect when it comes to GERD. Some known teas that provide good relief for acid reflux are chamomile tea, fennel tea, and the bitter chicory root tea. You can boil any of these teas for a few minutes, let it stand until it is moderately warm enough to drink. It is best to sip these teas and not gulp it to avoid pressuring your esophageal muscles.
Glutamine: This amino acid naturally occurs in the human body. Glutamine can be found in many dietary sources such as milk, eggs, fish, parsley, spinach and more. Glutamine is an anti-inflammatory that reduces intestinal inflammation with acid reflux.
Cinnamon: Use cinnamon to treat your acid reflux. Cinnamons are not only known for its antiseptic effects to treat colds and flu, but it is also a potent agent that neutralizes acidity. You can use cinnamon by adding it as a topping on your bread. Toast a raisin bread, butter it up, and sprinkle cinnamon on top of it. When eating the bread, try to chew it well before swallowing to allow your stomach to digest it effectively.
Cinnamon is not only known for its antiseptic effects to treat colds and flu, but it is also a potent agent that neutralizes acidity. You can use cinnamon by adding it to your herbal tea, green smoothie or a piece of toast.
Garlic, Wormwood Herb: Seventy-five percent of people with gastric problems test positive for Helicobacter pylori, the only bacteria stomach acid can’t kill. The wormwood herb: Artemisia asiatica and garlic have compounds which optimize bowel flora and kill this pathogenic organism. It's important to remember that the garlic must be fresh. You need to chew the garlic or crush it using a spoon before swallowing it, if you are not going to put it in your juice. If you swallow the cloves intact you will not convert the allicin in the garlic to its active ingredient.
Note: If you can't stand the taste of garlic, then, try aged raw garlic supplements, but, the raw garlic is more effective.
Herbal Licorice: Licorice root helps coat the stomach with a protective gel. This popular herbal root has been used for centuries. Most health food stores will have this in a tea or tincture form.
Other herbal remedies that lessen the effects of acid reflux include slippery elm, chamomile and marshmallow. All these have provided relief when taken regularly in liquid, capsule form, or as tea. But, don't forget that many herbal products can interact with other medications.
Grapefruit Skin: Make sure that you are using the skin of an organic grapefruit. Finely scrape the skin of an organic grapefruit with a grater, spread them evenly on a spacious flat dish, and leave them there to dry. The skins will appear wrinkly when they are completely dry and by then you can store them in a properly sealed container. When your acid reflux sets in, you can chew and eat these dried grapefruit skins to help relieve your stomach. Eat a few of these skins at a time until you feel relieved.
Almonds: Chew and eat some almonds in the morning or after every meal.
Note: Make sure to check with your physician first before trying any of the natural remedies mentioned here. It is possible that some of the natural treatments may not work for you.
In order to help you with your GERD, we recommend the following books from the author:
Note: For information about gastroparesis problems, go to the Gastroparesis and Natural Treatments web page.
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