Acid-blocking drugs are widely promoted in magazine, radio, and television advertisements as the cure for heartburn and acid reflux. But these medications only provide short-term relief and ultimately lead to additional digestive woes. Instead, I recommend these simple, cheap, and much more effective natural remedies for heartburn and acid reflux problems.
Fix Your Hiatal Hernia
Along with your heartburn and acid reflux problems, do you experience the feeling that you’re full to the top after eating only a few bites? Do you also often burp your food and stomach acid back up after a meal? And do all your symptoms seem to get worse when you sit down or lie on your back? Well, you may have a hiatal hernia.
There is a big dome-shaped muscle called the diaphragm that separates the organs in the top part of your chest from the stomach and the other digestive organs in the bottom half. In the back part of the diaphragm, there’s a button-sized hole that allows the esophagus to go from the throat to the stomach. Sometimes this hole gets enlarged for one reason or another, and if it does, the stomach can worm its way up into the hole—a condition known as a hiatal hernia.
If the stomach is stuck up in the hole of the diaphragm, then the first order of business is to get it out. I have my patients with this problem do this exercise:
1. Drink about a glass of either room temperature or slightly warm water when you get out of bed first thing in the morning. (No coffee, no tea, no juice, no cold water—just warm water.)
2. While standing, bring your arms straight out from your sides and bend your elbows so your hands are touching your chest.
3. Stand up on your toes as high as possible and drop. You should get a pretty good jolt. Drop down like this 10 times in a row.
4. Then, while standing with your arms up, pant short quick breaths for about 15 seconds. That’s it.
If you have a hiatal hernia, you need to do this exercise every day—not just until everything feels normal. It will also strengthen the area and make the hiatal hernia less likely to come back—which may well put an end to your acid reflux problems.
Ginger root powder can be more effective for acid reflux problems than any over-the-counter or prescription medication available. For optimal acid reflux treatment, I suggest using a teaspoon of the freshly grated root each day. (Most supermarkets produce sections carry fresh ginger root, so if you don’t see it, be sure to ask.) If that’s not possible or you find it inconvenient, then try taking 1,000 mg of the powder in either capsule or in bulk powder form (approximately ¼ teaspoon).
Reduce Salt Use
Researchers in Norway discovered that individuals who routinely added salt to their meals had almost twice the risk of experiencing acid reflux problems. Reducing your salt intake is a simple solution. If the food seems too bland, then try substituting other herbs, spices, and natural vinegar. I like the all-purpose, all-natural seasoning powder called Spike that is sold in most health food stores.
When acid starts to reflux, try chewing on some gum. Chewing gum has been shown to increase the volume of saliva by almost 140 percent. Saliva contains a long list of compounds that provide protection for the esophagus. These include proteins, mucin, prostaglandin E2, and epidermal growth factor. These protectants help explain the effectiveness of using chewing gum as an acid reflux treatment.
The natural solution for ulcers, deglycyrrhizinated licorice root (DGL), can also be an effective acid reflux treatment. The suggested dose of DGL is two tablets, chewed about 20 minutes before meals, three times a day, or it can be taken shortly before bedtime if you suffer mostly from nighttime acid reflux. Use only chewable DGL—it must be mixed with saliva in order to be effective. Enzymatic Therapy makes a chewable DGL product called—you guessed it—DGL. This is available at most health food stores and a number of online retailers.
Hundreds of clinical studies have shown that probiotics can prevent and treat hundreds of common ailments, including acid reflux problems. Probiotics are live micro-organisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, provide a health benefit to the host by engaging and neutralizing toxic compounds.
While commercial supplements are the first thought that comes to mind when you mention probiotics, naturally fermented, “live” foods have been around since the beginning of humankind. Fermented vegetables, fermented milk products (clabber, yogurt, cheese, buttermilk), kefir, fermented soy products (natto, miso, tempeh, soy sauce, fermented tofu), and even naturally fermented, unpasteurized beers are some of the most complete probiotics available. I highly recommend you include foods like these regularly in your diet since they can help correct acid reflux problems.
My favorite fermented food (besides unpasteurized beer, of course) is homemade sauerkraut. I keep a fresh batch going almost constantly, and some already made in the fridge at all times. It provides one of the widest varieties of beneficial bacteria that are known to protect against all kinds of digestive troubles including acid reflux problems.
It appears that an extract from citrus peel known as d-limonene can provide a protective coating for both the stomach and esophagus. At this point, nobody’s really sure how this happens. But the evidence is clear that it does, which means d-limonene can help in treating acid reflux. In one trial, subjects took one gram of d-limonene every other day for 20 days, on an empty stomach (that is, half an hour before eating or an hour afterward). A third of them experienced relief from their heartburn after a single capsule, and within two weeks 90 percent had relief. After a single course of treatment, relief lasted for up to six months.