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Treat Reflux Naturally

First up, let's talk about what reflux actually is.

Reflux is a condition characterised by the backward flow of stomach acid into the esophagus (our food pipe). It usually occurs when our lower esophageal sphincter (LES); a muscular valve that separates the esophagus from the stomach, fails to close or relax properly. It causes irritation and inflammation and may or may not result in:

  • Heartburn. Discomfort or pain in the chest after eating.

  • A sour taste. Thanks to that regurgitation of stomach acids.

  • A lump in the throat. Difficulty or pain when swallowing.

The terms 'reflux' and 'heartburn' are often used interchangeably, but they're not synonymous. Reflux is the broader term encompassing acidity and the reflux of stomach contents into the esophagus, while heartburn specifically describes the burning sensation in the chest.

I mention this because heartburn can also happen when we have insufficient digestive juices and thus food isn't properly broken down in the stomach. This means undigested food rises and causes a similar sensation. 

Then we have Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) which is a chronic and more severe form of reflux, characterized by frequent episodes of reflux (at least twice a week for several weeks) and potential complications such as esophagitis or Barrett's esophagus. 

What Causes Reflux?

  • Stress and anxiety. This can interfere with proper release of digestive juices. If the body is in fight or flight mode there will be a delay in digestion which can result in food remaining in the stomach for longer periods, increasing the likelihood of reflux. 

  • Poor diet & Lifestyle. Overindulge in fatty, refined and sugary foods will disrupt the delicate balance of digestion. Throw in a sedentary lifestyle, use of alcohol, smoking or drugs and you can expect indigestion, reflux and the onset of GERD.

  • Carbonated beverages. These can relax the LES or irritate the esophagus.

  • Smoking. Smoking cigarette, marijuana or vape can weakens the LES and increases acid production in the stomach.

  • High fat mass. People with bigger bellies may experience increased pressure on the stomach and LES, causing to dysfunction.

  • Pregnancy. Hormonal changes and increased pressure on the abdomen during pregnancy can weaken the LES.

  • Medications. Some medications, such as calcium channel blockers, nitrates, antihistamines, and certain asthma medications, can relax the LES or increase acid production.

  • Hiatal hernia: A hiatal hernia occurs when part of the stomach protrudes through the diaphragm into the chest cavity, which can disrupt the normal function of the LES.

  • Laying down after eating. Lying down reduces the effect of gravity, making it easier for stomach contents to move upward into the esophagus.

Reflux Medications - Yay or Nay

Proton pump inhibitors, or PPIs, are medications that inhibit stomach acid production to reduce reflux symptoms and promote tissue healing. They include drugs like Nexium® and Motilium® and while effective, it needs to be noted that they're ‘band-aid' solutions. That means if the root cause of reflux remains unaddressed, it can lead to further complications such as ulcers, inflammatory bowel conditions, malnutrition, skin problems, stress disorders, and liver disease.

These drugs are only meant to be prescribed short-term. Long-term use can cause major side effects. Remember, uncomfortable symptoms are a sign from your body that something is up, and needs to be addressed.

What Is The Best Diet For Reflux?

Stomach acid should not be in the esophagus, and it can burn and damage our delicate tissues, causing more problems the longer and more frequently it goes on. This is why it's so important to address the cause and treat your symptoms asap.

  • Avoid overeating. Smaller meals will prevent severe symptoms while you heal your digestion.

  • Avoid acidic food. Citrus, tomatoes, dairy, sugar, refined grains, spicy foods, fatty foods, chocolate, onions, garlic, peppermint, caffeine, alcohol, processed and refined foods. 

  • Skip additives. Read labels and avoid preservatives, emulsifiers, colouring agents, flavour enhancers, thickeners, sweeteners, flavour enhancers like MSG and E numbers.

  • Eat more alkaline foods. Green vegies, legumes, nuts, seeds, sprouts, seaweed, chlorella, spirulina, chlorophyll, wheatgrass.

  • Have a vegetable juice daily. Try a combo of celery, cucumber, parsley, spinach, apple.

Lifestyle Changes to Relieve Reflux & Heartburn

  • Get sufficient sleep. Avoid meals at least 3 hours before bedtime and adopt a good sleep hygiene practice: reading before sleep, ensuring your room is dark etc.

  • Elevate the head of your bed. Elevating the head of your bed by 15 to 20 cm can help prevent nighttime reflux by using gravity to keep stomach acid from flowing back into the esophagus.

  • Avoid lying down after eating. Better yet go for a short walk within 30 minutes of eating bigger meals.

  • Do things that chill you out. Breathwork is wonderful for reflux and is known to minimize reflux episodes.

  • Practice mindful eating. Take the time to sit down to eat so you can be in tune with your hunger and fullness cues. Avoid eating on the run and chew your food well.

Natural Medicine For Reflux

  • Mucilaginous foods. These are gel-like gelatinous foods like soaked chia or flaxseed, porridge, seaweed, okra, aloe vera, fennel seeds and marshmallow root. These heal the mucous membranes of the oesophagus and the stomach promoting healing.

  • Slippery elm powder. A teaspoon of this ground root can be mashed into a banana or popped into some yoghurt. It's very healing and eases symptoms of reflux.

  • Aloevera. The anti-inflammatory, soothing and mucilaginous properties of aloe make it perfect for healing and preventing reflux and heartburn. Opt for 100% aloe juice or use fresh from the plant in a smoothie. But, be sure to pre-soak the aloe flesh in water for ½ hour then rinse to remove the yellow latex as it contains a substance called aloin that can irritate the skin.

  • Introduce herbal teas. Licorice root, fennel, marshmallow root tea and chamomile are helpful.

  • Include our Kiyah Digestease. This is a non-negotiable for anyone suffering with reflux as it heals the mucous membranes and restores integrity to the digestive tract.

  • Bicarbonate soda. If you're having a bad flare, pop 1 to 2½ teaspoonfuls in a glass of cold water after your meal. This is a symptomatic treatment and isn't healing the underlying cause but can certainly come in handy!

Need more support? Book our Heal Your Gut Package or connect for a free 10 minute chat, here.


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