If you’ve ever had to deal with the misery that is excessive stomach acid, you know all too well how painful it can be. Whether you’re awakened at night or you suffer an attack at work, you’ll be desperate for at least some temporary relief. But what if you could find a more permanent solution? Here are a couple of conventional treatments – as well as one you might not have previously considered – that could help solve your heartburn problem for good.
What’s the Difference Between Acid Reflux and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)?
You’ve probably heard the terms acid reflux and gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, so often that you probably think they’re interchangeable. And while there are a lot of similarities between the conditions, there are some important differences as well. Acid reflux occurs when stomach acid flows backward into the esophagus, which is the long tube that connects the throat with the stomach. You’ll usually experience a sour taste near the back of your mouth or heartburn, a burning feeling in the chest.
Acid reflux can sometimes progress to GERD, which is, in a nutshell, a more serious type of reflux. While the most common symptom is frequent heartburn, GERD sufferers can also experience regurgitation, wheezing, chest pain and difficulty swallowing. Symptoms are usually worse at night, when lying down in bed. If you have acid reflux more than two times a week, or you suffer inflammation of the esophagus, there is a very good chance that you’ll be diagnosed with GERD.
Options to Help You Deal With Acid Reflux
You might be able to find long-term relief from your acid reflux symptoms – and do your esophagus a big favor in the process – by making some lifestyle changes. These include quitting smoking and staying away from spicy and fatty foods.
1. Change Your Eating Habits
When it comes to lifestyle changes, perhaps one of the most important and immediate changes you can make to help alleviate acid reflux is your eating habits. Changing the way you eat could help reduce the chances you’ll have to deal with heartburn. When you overeat, you put a lot of pressure on your stomach.
Eating a big meal can lead to an overflow of stomach acid which then backs up into the esophagus. This is especially the case when you eat food that stimulates stomach acid, such as fried or high-fat foods. A lot of people eat a great deal before bedtime, and this is one of the leading contributors to nighttime heartburn attacks. Many people do this because they don’t eat enough during the day.
Overeating = Heartburn
According to one study, overeating not only leads to obesity, but also a higher risk for heartburn. It showed that overweight or obese people were two to three times more likely to experience heartburn symptoms. A woman of normal weight, according to the study, who gains 10-15 pounds could be 40 percent more likely to have to deal with frequent heartburn.1
One of the things you should consider in order to avoid this problem is to try and space out your meals through the day. Make sure you have a filling breakfast and lunch – without overdoing it, obviously – and then mix in a healthy snack between lunch and dinner. If you normally eat two or three big meals, try eating between four and six smaller meals, taking in more calories earlier in the day. That could help lower the chances that you’ll have to deal with heartburn during the night.
Another possible contributor to the increased stomach acid production that leads to heartburn is stress. This problem isn’t just something that’s in your head – it’s a physical trigger of hormones that affect your entire body. Whether you experience a series of small, stressful events or you go through a major event, that can increase the frequency, as well as intensity, of your heartburn attacks.
In one study, researchers found that people suffering from esophagus-related acid reflux commonly experience a great deal of stress. The higher the level of stress, the more severe their heartburn attacks typically were.2 Emotional stress can cause the levels of certain hormones, such as serotonin, to fluctuate. Neurotransmitters that run between the brain and digestive system react to these changes, and that can lead to an increase of acid production in the stomach – which, in turn, leads to heartburn.
Finding the Root Problem
So what can you do about it? Unfortunately, stress is simply a fact of life for most of us. But one thing you can possibly to do reduce the amount of stress you experience is to take a good look at the main causes of your stress. Are you having a difficult time with a relationship? Is your problem work-related? Are you getting enough sleep? You might be burning yourself out at work, which could lead to fatigue – another contributor to excess stomach acid.
Thankfully, there are a lot of things you can do in order to lower your stress levels. These include exercise, acupuncture, massage, deep-breathing techniques, and meditation. Your doctor may be able to help you work up a stress-busting solution that will work best for your particular needs.
3. Consider Apple Cider Vinegar
One potential heartburn treatment you might not have given a lot of thought to is apple cider vinegar. Ingredients not only include crushed apples, but also yeast and bacteria, which help the liquid ferment. When it’s first made, apple cider vinegar is very close to hard cider, in that it has a relatively high alcohol content. But as the liquid undergoes fermentation, the alcohol eventually converts to vinegar.
One of the more interesting aspects of apple cider vinegar, which is usually cloudy and has a brownish color, is a substance known as the “mother.” This is a substance that you’ll see at the bottom of a bottle of the organic version of the product. It actually looks similar to a cobweb. Since the non-organic version undergoes pasteurization, the mother is taken out. The mother is believed to be rich in proteins and enzymes, so it is generally accepted that organic apple cider vinegar is the better choice for people suffering from heartburn.3
Studies About ACV
Is apple cider vinegar a perfect remedy for heartburn? There’s not a lot of scientific evidence to back this up, though one study does suggest raw apple cider vinegar could help provide heartburn relief.4 However, more research is needed before the scientific community will consider the product as a true treatment option.
Taken in small amounts, apple cider vinegar is thought to be safe for most people. However, it’s very important that you dilute it in water before taking it. Drinking ACV without a straw could be damaging to tooth enamel. There is also a possibility that the product could interact negatively with certain medications, so you will need to speak with your doctor before taking it.
Talking to Your Doctor About Heartburn
While occasional heartburn is typically considered to be an annoyance rather than a major medical problem, if you consistently suffer with acid reflux, you should speak with your doctor as soon as possible. There are times that lifestyle changes and natural alternatives simply won’t fix the issue, and a more intensive plan of action will be needed. This could include a type of surgery known as fundoplication, where the upper portion of the stomach is wrapped around the lower portion of the esophagus. This procedure is designed to strengthen the sphincter of the esophagus and prevent the backward flow of stomach acid.
Hopefully, you won’t ever have to deal with the severe consequences that can sometimes be associated with heartburn. But if you do have occasional acid reflux, make some changes in your eating habits, work hard to reduce stress whenever possible, and consider trying apple cider vinegar. These options might provide relief – but if they don’t talk to a medical professional about options that will finally eliminate the problem for good.
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