What is acid reflux?
Acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), happens when stomach acid and food or fluids come back up into your esophagus. It can be an occasional problem, or you can have repeated symptoms in the form of a chronic condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Acid reflux is a digestive disorder that affects many people, from infants to older adults. You can get GERD at any age. It happens when the muscle at the bottom of your esophagus, called the lower esophageal sphincter, allows stomach contents to move upward.
Feeling heartburn is quite common. You may notice it after eating an especially big meal. About 20 out of 100 people in Western countries experience heartburn or acid reflux in their life. But if you have constant or severe heartburn and acid reflux, you may have GERD.
Acid reflux can be painful and may be triggered by certain situations. While it often feels like heartburn, other symptoms include:
- An unpleasant sour taste in your mouth
- Recurring cough or hiccups
- Hoarse voice
- Bad breath
- Bloating and feeling sick
These symptoms can become worse if you lie down or bend over after eating. While anyone can have acid reflux, certain conditions make it more likely that you’ll experience it:
7 home remedies for acid reflux
Avoid certain food and drinks
You can still eat a lot of your favorite foods if you have acid reflux. However, there are certain things that are more likely to induce acid reflux than others. Some foods and drinks you should avoid include:
You don’t have to give these foods up completely, but it’s a good idea to see if eating less of them improves your reflux.
Eat smaller meals
You may experience acid reflux more frequently after larger meals when the stomach is full. Smaller meals spaced throughout your day can help minimize your chances of having acid reflux.
Take it slow after eating
After you eat, try to remain in a seated position or go for a walk. Lying down after eating can send acid up into your esophagus. Try to finish eating at least 3 hours before going to bed.
Find the right sleeping position
The best sleeping position to reduce acid reflux is having your head 6 to 8 inches higher than your feet. Stacked pillows usually don’t provide enough support, so try using a foam wedge to prop up your upper body instead.
Make lifestyle changes
Your doctor may suggest that you try to lose weight to relieve your acid reflux. Increased weight can weaken your lower esophageal sphincter which allows acid into your esophagus. Nicotine can also relax the lower esophageal sphincter. If you smoke, it may be time to kick the habit.
Check your medications
Eat the right foods
- High fiber foods like oatmeal, brown rice, sweet potatoes, carrots, beets, and green vegetables make you feel more full and help keep your meals small.
- Alkaline foods like bananas, melons, cauliflower, fennel, and nuts have a higher pH and can help offset strong stomach acid.
- Watery foods like celery, cucumber, lettuce, watermelon, broth-based soups, and herbal tea can help dilute your stomach acid.
Risks and outlook
Acid reflux or GERD may be a lifelong condition that you have to manage. If your symptoms don’t improve with home remedies and lifestyle changes, you may need to see a doctor.
Your gastroenterologist will make a diagnosis and determine a treatment plan. You may have to take an acid reducer to relieve your heartburn and pain.
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Harvard Health Publishing: "9 ways to reduce acid reflux without medication."
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National Health Service: "Heartburn and acid reflux."
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: "Acid Reflux (GER & GERD) in Adults."
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Top 7 Home Remedies That Can Help Relieve Acid Reflux Related Articles
GERD (Acid Reflux, Heartburn)GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) is a condition in which the acidified liquid contents of the stomach backs up into the esophagus. The symptoms of uncomplicated GERD are:
- regurgitation, and
GERD and GER (Acid Reflux) in Infants and ChildrenGERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) is the upward movement of stomach content, including acid, into the esophagus and sometimes into or out of the mouth. Common symptoms of GERD in children include colic, feeding problems, poor growth, frequent vomiting or coughing, heartburn, regurgitation, recurrent wheezing, pneumonia, choking, or gagging. Treatment may involve elevating the child's bed, keeping the child upright after eating, limiting foods that seem to make the reflux worse, encouraging your child to exercise, and serving several small meals a day.
Heartburn Causes, Symptoms and RemediesHeartburn is a symptom of acid reflux that causes chest pain when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus. Heartburn symptoms may mimic chest pain that occurs during a heart attack. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) may produce other symptoms.
Heartburn vs. Acid Reflux (Differences and Similarities)
Heartburn and acid reflux are not the same thing. Heartburn is actually a symptom of acid reflux. Heartburn gets its name because it feels like a burning sensation around the heart. Another symptom that occurs with heartburn is a bitter or sour taste in the mouth, usually when you eat or lye down. Heartburn affects more than 60 million people in the US at least once a month. Acid reflux, or GERD, occurs when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus, which irritates it. Heartburn is just one symptom of acid reflux. Other symptoms of acid reflux include:
- Nausea after eating
- A feeling of fullness during or after eating
- Abdominal bloating
- Upset stomach
- Reflux laryngitis
- A tightness in the throat
- Problems swallowing
- In some people, vomiting
Causes of acid reflux and heartburn include:
- Being obese
- Slouching (poor posture)
- Medications like calcium channel blockers, theophylline, nitrates, and antihistamines
- Foods and drinks like caffeine, citrus fruits and vegetables, alcohol, and chocolate
- Increase in stomach acid
- Eating a heavy meal
- Eating before bed
The treatment for heartburn and acid reflux is to treat the underlying cause, for example, GERD, with over-the-counter (OTC) medicine, prescription medicine, natural remedies, and lifestyle changes like a eating a healthy, less fatty, spicy diet, not eating big meals, not eating before bed, and getting regular exercise to improve your posture.
Sometimes a heart attack can mimic heartburn and acid reflux because they feel very similar. If you have symptoms of chest pain, tightness in the chest, heartburn, acid reflux, jaw, tooth, or head pain; shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, sweating, discomfort in the upper middle of the abdomen, arm or upper back pain, or the general feeling of being ill, go to the nearest Emergency Department immediately because these are the symptoms of a heart attack.
American College of Gastroenterology. "Acid Reflux." 2017.
familydoctor.org. "Heartburn." Updated: Mar 2014.
National Library of Medicine; PubMed Health. "Heartburn and GERD: Treatment options for GERD." Updated: Nov 18, 2015.
How Can I Relieve Acid Reflux?Acid reflux refers to the condition in which the stomach contents move up into the food pipe (esophagus). When the acidic stomach contents leak frequently, more than twice a week over several weeks, into the esophagus, the condition is called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Treatment of acid reflux includes lifestyle and home remedies (eating small meals, not eating before bed, avoiding coffee and tea, etc.), medications, and surgery.
How Does Acid Reflux Make You Feel? 10 Common SymptomsAcid reflux can cause you to feel pain in your chest and a sour taste in your mouth. Find out more about acid reflux and 10 common symptoms that people with the condition often experience.
Protonix IV (pantoprazole sodium)Protonix IV (pantoprazole sodium) is a prescription medicine called a Proton Pump Inhibitor (PPI) used to treat the symptoms of Erosive Esophagitis associated with GERD, short-term treatment of GERD, and Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome. Protonix IV may be used alone or with other medications. Side effects of Protonix IV include unusually fast, slow or irregular heartbeat, persistent muscle spasms, seizures, persistent diarrhea, abdominal pain or cramping, fever, blood or mucus in your stool, rash, itching, swelling of the face, tongue and throat, severe dizziness, trouble breathing, and changes in the amount of urine.