Know someone that experiences Acid Reflux or GERD? Chances are good that you do. Approximately 60 million adults in the US experience acid reflux and/or GERD.
What is acid reflux? Common symptoms of acid reflux can include but not necessarily limited to: chest pain, trouble swallowing, a burning that’s worse when laying down, a feeling of fullness even after only a small amount of food, burping, gas, a bitter taste in the mouth, hoarseness, coughing, sore throat, nausea, food coming back up into your mouth, or extra saliva. (This does not mean these symptoms are not a sign of some other health issue and checking with your doctor for health issues is always a good idea.) You’ve probably been told to take an acid suppressant to relieve your pain. Your Proton Pump Inhibitor (PPI) and Tums do help temporarily. But is it really too much acid that is causing the pain?
No, in nearly ALL cases it is not the problem. There are two valves that control the entry and exit of food in your stomach. There is the esophageal sphincter that opens when you swallow to allow food to pass into the stomach. After you stop eating this valve closes to prevent food from coming back up, at least it’s supposed to do that. Then there is the pyloric valve that allows food to exit the stomach and enter the intestines. This valve also needs to be working at the proper time.
When you eat you NEED high stomach acid to break down proteins and to kill off pathogens that take up residence in your stomach when your stomach acid is too low. There can be many reasons to cause the esophageal sphincter to open at the wrong times, that’s a post all in and of itself. The point is that we need stomach acid, it’s important to have. Without the proper levels, we are not able to break down and utilize magnesium, iron, calcium, or zinc. These are four really important minerals our body cannot do without. Yet if you are suppressing your stomach acid you are NOT getting all of these minerals even if you take a supplement.
When you are experiencing acid reflux, it’s not that there is too much acid, it’s that the acid has found its way to the wrong place. The valve has opened at the wrong time and allowed the acid to move up into your esophagus. And that is painful! Stomach acid is hydrochloric acid (HCI). That’s one of the strongest acids there are. If you were to spill it on your skin it would burn you. HCI activates pepsin which starts to break down the proteins in our food. But pepsin will also try to break down the proteins in our esophagus if it’s allowed to travel up with the HCI… ouch. But, thank goodness, our bodies are designed perfectly and our stomach is lined to prevent the acid from harming us. However, your esophagus is not lined to protect you from the acid because the acid isn’t supposed to go there.
So when you are experiencing stomach acid pain… it’s because the acid is in the wrong place.
So what are some of the ways to help your stomach acid to happily stay where it’s supposed to be? There are several ways, in fact, I have helped clients relieve their acid reflux without medications just by doing the following:
When you eat, eat sitting down. Take your time. Actually take a moment to still your mind prior to eating. Don’t rush your meal, if you’re in a hurry, pass on food and learn to schedule a meal time that allows you to relax, it’s that important.
Chew your food until it’s a slurry in your mouth. We start the digestive process of carbs in our mouth. If we don’t chew properly then we force our stomach to do a lot of extra work. Chew, taste, swallow, relax.
Don’t drink a lot of water with your meal. You can still drink water but don’t fill your stomach up with water, it dilutes the stomach acid and prevents it from doing its job to the fullest. Overdrinking at meal time can cause a lot of burping afterward as well as that gassy feeling. That gassy feeling can blow open the valve and here comes the burn.
Don’t overeat. Our bodies send a signal to stop eating when we’re full but that signal can take up to 20 minutes to reach us. Eating quickly causes us to overeat because we missed the memo! Take your time so you don’t overeat. Overeating causes acid reflux because your stomach is so full there is no room for it to work on digestion.
Don’t wear tight clothing that binds your stomach, it can actually push your organs upward, and with that push….up the esophagus we go.
And the catch 22, low magnesium can cause spasms in your muscles. That would include the esophageal sphincter muscle spasming and allowing acid to travel upward. And lowering your stomach acid causes low magnesium. It’s a vicious circle.
Bedtime is often when people experience symptoms. When we go to bed we relax, which includes relaxing our muscles. And if we haven’t given ourselves time to digest our food then our food has a greater chance of traveling up when we are laying down. So please give yourself 2-3 hours to digest your meal prior to going to bed. That means don’t eat 2-3 hours before bedtime.
Meditate. We have what is called the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). The SNS is activated when we are in “fight or flight” mode. Even if it’s from the stress of our computer job, if we are stressed, our bodies think we are running for our lives from a sabertooth tiger. Our body wants to survive so it shuts down or greatly reduces digestion. That includes anything along the GI tract (think constipation). It doesn’t have time to focus on digesting when it’s trying to give everything it has to run away. It needs to push the adrenaline not HCI. I mean, really, if you’re about to die who cares if the food is digested, right?
PNS is when your body is at rest. It’s not stressed, life is good, food is good, smiling is good, it’s happy. It’s a great time to digest.
So meditation is a great way to relax and digest your food.
And lastly, some medications can cause reflux. If you are on medications and the above suggestions don’t help, talk to your doctor about any medications you might be on, they may be able to change your meds to something that is better suited for your unique body.
These are just some of the ways to reduce or eliminate the painful burning and discomfort of acid reflux. For more in-depth information please go to the contact me page on my website.