If you’ve ever experieced heartburn and indigestion, you have likely experienced acid reflux as well. Acid reflux typically occurs due to some foods not digesting as they should. In all of our bodies, a ring-like muscle that acts as a valve is found at the top of our stomach and is known as the Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES). This valve is supposed to close as food enters our digestive system, and when it doesn’t, stomach acid that’s supposed to help digest our food makes its way back up through our throats via the esophagus. This is what we call acid reflux.
Symptoms and Causes of Acid Reflux and GERD
The biggest symptom of acid reflux is a burning sensation, known as heartburn. Acid reflux is also often accompanied by indigestion, bloating, burping, and nausea. Some people may experience it occasionally, while others may have full fledge GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). Causes of GERD can include: consistently eating too much at meal times, lying in bed and eating late at night before going to sleep, eating too much fat at meals, and/or consuming too many acidic foods such as: canned tomatoes, milk, excessive amounts of coffee, processed foods, and carbonated drinks. Being overweight, smoking, drinking alcohol, being pregnant, and consistently taking OTC drugs can also contribute to GERD development. Some people may also find that poor food combining (such as eating acidic fruits after meals or eating lots of fruit and fat at one time) can cause heartburn and acid reflux too. Because foods digest at different rates in the body, indigestion can often occur which can trigger acid reflux from stomach acid washing back up into the esophagus.
How to Find Relief from Reflux:
If you suffer acid reflux on a regular basis or have GERD, the first thing you should do is eat while sitting down and relaxed, and be sure not to eat right before bed so your body has time to digest your food properly. Its also advisable that if you smoke, drink alcohol, consume too much caffeine, or take OTC drugs too often, then you should stop as soon as possible. If you suffer occasional acid reflux and do not have GERD, or you’re pregnant and are experiencing acid reflux as a symptom of pregnancy, then adhering to the lifestyle changes mentioned above and trying some simple food swaps can both help.
For occasional acid reflux, here are 5 dietary swaps you can make that will help you find relief:
1. Swap Soda and Coffee for Water or Herbal Tea
Carbonated drinks and caffeine can both cause acidity in the stomach or lead to indigestion, so opt for more water when you can. Water naturally aids digestion and alkalizes the stomach unlike sodas, energy drinks and other caffeinated beverages. Ginger tea or chamomile tea are also great options since they both alleviate indigestion. Peppermint can lead to acid reflux for some people, so be sure to avoid that if you’re sensitive to mint.
2. Swap Chocolate for Carob Powder
Chocolate is a dream come true for most of us, but it is a common trigger of acid reflux because it’s both acidic and high in fat. If you eat chocolate occasionally and don’t have a problem, then by all means, keep enjoying it! However if you consume it and notice you have acid reflux shortly after, you might consider some less acidic options, such as alkalized cocoa (Dutch-processed cocoa) or carob powder. Alkalized means the cocoa is now alkaline versus acidic, which actually produces a delightfully rich flavor in your dishes and doesn’t pose as much of a problem for acid reflux like higher fat and more acidic varieties of chocolate. It’s also easier on the stomach than regular cacao or cocoa powder. If you want to completely avoid chocolate, go for carob powder. Carob powder is made from the carob pod and is not related to chocolate but has similar flavors that can be used anywhere cocoa or cacao powder is used. These options might help solve your chocolate cravings without triggering acid reflux as a result.
3. Swap Tomato Soups for Fresh Vegetable Soups Made Without Tomatoes
Though raw tomatoes are an alkaline choice once they digest, even some people can’t tolerate their natural acidity. Instead of tomato-based soups, go with fresh vegetable soup you make at home yourself, or just eat more green vegetables in your diet which will help counter acidity naturally.
4. Swap Fried Food for Baked Food
Fried food is incredibly high in fat that doesn’t just cause acid reflux, but also contributes to weight gain and obesity. Swap fried food for baked foods instead. While that might not sound exciting, you can actually make yummy baked foods that taste like fried foods. Coat some sweet potato wedges or some sliced zucchini with some ground flax to make healthy fries and bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes – 1 hour for your own healthy French fries. Or, bake up some tempeh topped with herbs and spices instead of opting for chicken wings at the local fast food joint or restaurant.
5. Swap High Fat Dairy Products for Plant-Based Options
Dairy products are known to cause heartburn, indigestion, and acid reflux too. This is partly because they’re so high in fat, but even low-fat and fat-free options are acidic and hard to digest. Go with plant-based options like almond milk, coconut yogurt or soy yogurt that are lower in unhealthy fats and much better options.
More Tips to Help Find Relief:
You should also avoid meat, eggs, most processed foods high in fat, and make it a point to include better options such as: raw leafy greens and green vegetables, sweet potatoes, figs, oatmeal, ginger, aloe vera, ripe bananas, herbs aside from mint, and fats such as avocado, pumpkin seeds and and raw almonds which are rich in omega 3 fatty acids that reduce inflammation and are more alkaline than animal fats or processed fats. See this list of more alkaline foods you can choose from for even more benefits.
If you still suffer from acid reflux after watching your diet and lifestyle habits, be sure to see a specialist who can have some tests run and to suggest other possible options. While you should try to modify your diet and eating habits first, you also shouldn’t ignore the need to see a specialist to rule out other causes that could lead to something more serious.
Do you have any reflux relief tips to share that have worked for you?
Lead Image Source: Cheezy Kale Salad