Well over 15 million Americans take proton pump inhibitors, also known as PPIs, which treat acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Unfortunately, many people are unaware that these little pills can cause serious trouble when taken for a long time.
Use of PPIs for an extended period of time can cause kidney disease, certain cancers, heart attacks, bone fractures, and more. Fortunately, there are natural treatment strategies to help manage GERD symptoms and even make them go away altogether.
In today’s post, our functional medicine providers at Seed and Soil Wellness dive into lifestyle changes that can effectively combat your chronic heartburn.
What is GERD?
To understand how to heal from GERD, we first need to understand what it is. Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD for short, is the result of chronic acid reflux. Each time you swallow, the muscle at the bottom of your esophagus relaxes, allowing food and liquid to move into your stomach.
The food moves into the stomach, and the sphincter closes behind it. If there is dysfunction in how this muscle opens or closes, acids from your stomach can flow back into your esophagus, causing a burning sensation and other uncomfortable symptoms.
While it’s normal to experience acid reflux occasionally, such as after eating a big, spicy meal, it becomes a problem when this is occurring on a weekly basis.
Symptoms of GERD include:
A burning sensation in your chest, normally after eating or at night
Regurgitation of food or sour liquid
Sensing a lump in your throat
New or worsening asthma
Functionally Treating GERD
PPIs present a host of side effects, sometimes even worsening GERD, so it’s important to get this problem under control with natural methods. In most cases, there are many steps you can take to heal that pretty much all revolve around maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Looking for the root cause of the problem is the most effective way to find the proper treatment. Start by looking at your diet, daily activities, sleep habits, and stress levels. When you find the “holes” in your health, it becomes a lot easier to heal.
Helping Your GERD Symptoms
Let’s look at some key ways to manage your symptoms:
1. Lose Weight
Obesity is a significant factor contributing to GERD because extra fat places pressure on your abdomen and pushes gastric juices upstream. Plus, chances are if you are overweight, something isn’t adding up right, whether that’s your diet, your hormones, or your lifestyle. Imbalances in any of those areas of your life can contribute to GERD.
If you are struggling to lose weight, work with Dr. Damon at Seed and Soil Wellness to find the root of your problem and take back control of your health.
2. Avoid Trigger Foods
Certain foods are known to worsen GERD, especially if they are eaten in large amounts. Cut back on the following foods, and only eat them in small amounts when you treat yourself.
Acidic foods, such as tomatoes and citrus
Coffee or caffeinated beverages
In general, make an effort to eat smaller meals. This will reduce the pressure on the Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES), lowering your chances of GERD.
3. Keep Your Head & Chest Elevated When Lying Down
By raising the head of your bed at least six inches, gravity can help keep gastric acid in your stomach. Wedge-shaped pillows can be a comfortable and effective way to achieve this. Immediately after eating, you should wait at least three hours before lying down.
For many reasons, it’s important to not eat too close to when you go to bed. For people suffering from GERD, make sure to give your body the proper amount of time to digest before sleeping. Midnight snack? We don’t know her.
4. Wear Loose and Comfortable Clothes
Tight clothing or belts will constrict your stomach, placing pressure on your abdomen and pushing up gastric juices. It is best to let your belly relax and hang out. This is not only better for your GERD but will also help with any musculoskeletal issues such as hypertonicity in the pelvic floor. Trust us – it feels amazing to let it hang loose!
5. Quit Smoking
You probably don’t need us to tell you this, but if you are a smoker, quitting is the best thing you can do for your health. Nicotine has been shown in studies to relax the LES muscles as well as prevent your saliva from clearing acid from the esophagus – yikes!
6. Check Out Your Medications
Several medications can exacerbate or even cause GERD in one of many ways, whether relaxing the LES, interfering with digestion, or irritating the esophagus. Be wary if you take any of the following:
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs
Calcium channel blockers (for high blood pressure)
Asthma medications like albuterol
Anticholinergics, which treat seasonal allergies and glaucoma
Bisphosphonates for bone density
Sedatives and painkillers
If you are experiencing GERD and take any of these medications, visit Dr. Damon at Seed and Soil Wellness to discuss alternative options. He may even be able to help you off medication altogether! However, don’t stop taking any prescribed medication until you’ve discussed it with a doctor.
Drink Ginger Tea
Ginger is a wonderful plant medicine for reducing symptoms such as:
Ginger has been shown in studies to ease pressure on the sphincter and emptying the stomach of acid. Additionally, ginger tea can provide a soothing sensation to reduce anxiety and stress, which can contribute to acid reflux.
While You’re Here > Heal Your Leaky Gut
Keep it Down with Seed & Soil
Dealing with acid reflux of any kind can be incredibly uncomfortable and especially frustrating if you can’t find the source of your discomfort. At Seed and Soil Wellness, we highly recommend starting with the above lifestyle changes before you find yourself dependent on PPIs. After all, these may only worsen your issues.
If these changes do not help your GERD within a few weeks, it’s time to visit a functional medicine practitioner. You may be combatting an underlying issue that requires additional modalities and supplementation.
Don’t worry, Dr. Damon will give you the tools to keep the acids down so you can get back to living your best life. Schedule your consultation today!