What is acid reflux/heartburn?
This occurs when strong stomach acid leaks back up into the esophagus. The esophagus is the tube which carries food from your mouth to your stomach. When you swallow, a circular band of muscle around the bottom of the esophagus relaxes to allow food and liquid to enter into the stomach. Normally, this muscle valve, called the lower esophageal sphincter, is closed and keeps the digestive acid and food inside the stomach. However, when the valve opens and hydrochloric acid from the stomach comes forward and comes in contact with the esophagus, this causes that burning sensation in the chest and throat known as acid reflux or heartburn.
What causes this? Overeating; consuming alcohol on an empty stomach; eating foods high in fat; excess or deficient stomach acid; and eating too quickly and not chewing properly.
What can I do about it?
Before resorting to prescription drugs, there are a number of ways to deal with this challenge, including improving what and how you eat.
Try adding some raw apple cider vinegar to your diet: Raw apple cider vinegar is a wonderful digestive tonic. Add a tablespoon to room temperature water (ad d a little raw honey if you need to make it tastier) and sip 15 minutes prior to meals. You can also add it to your salad dressings instead of balsamic or red wine vinegar. I really like Bragg's. This company also makes a couple great salad dressings, including 'healthy viniagrette' and 'sesame and ginger.'
Umeboshi plums are known as the 'Japanese Alka-Seltzer' - they can be found in the Asian section of the grocery store. Eden brand makes both whole and pureed version of the plums. It's a wonderful condiment to add to your savory dishes.
Avoid heavily spiced foods, junk food, fried foods, caffeine, alcohol, processed chocolate and carbonated drinks. Also stay away from full-fat cheeses and wheat-based foods which increase stomach gas and bloating.
Eat small, regular meals and avoid overeating. Eat small bites and avoid taking in excess air when eating by chewing your food well! If you leave your stomach empty for long periods of time, the secretion of digestive enzymes slows down which triggers the acid reflux.
Eat fruit by itself, away from meals.
Don't drink liquids with meals and stay away from very cold liquids.
Antacids may seem like a good choice to neutralize the stomach acid, but over the long term, they end up causing the stomach to overproduce acid.
Move around! Exercise is the best way to keep the digestive tract healthy as wells as move around excess gas.
Try slippery elm, peppermint and chamomile teas to calm the stomach. Fennel tea has an antigas and antispasmodic properties - makes it especially helpful for gas and bloating.
Drink a couple of ounces of aloe vera juice before meals; you can also supplement with betaine hydrochloric acid.