If you’re struggling with the discomfort and pain of acid reflux, you’re not alone. An estimated 20 percent of adults suffer daily or weekly with reflux or heartburn, a number that has risen sharply over the past decade (1). Fortunately, you don’t have to turn to drugs to find lasting relief.
A groundbreaking new study in JAMA Otolaryngology discovered that eating the right food can be more effective than medications for acid reflux.
This is big news because most over-the-counter and prescribed remedies only provide a temporary reprieve from symptoms; may have disturbing side effects when used over time; and some have been found to contain a carcinogen, leading retailers to pull them off shelves.
There are a number of proven ways to ease the discomfort of acid reflux…
According to the study in JAMA Otolaryngology, one group took PPIs (proton pump inhibitors) for acid reflux while the second group followed a Mediterranean-style diet (2). The food-based group had better outcomes.
A Mediterranean diet consists of mostly veggies, fruits, (unheated) olive oil, nuts, seeds, legumes, and some fish.
Not only does a plant-based diet provide symptom relief from acid reflux, but these nutrient-rich foods nourish every cell and system in your body, from heart health to glowing skin.
If you struggle to fit in more plants at each meal, start small by switching out a grain or carb for a green veggie. Or consider making smoothies with an organic green juice powder so you get a large amount of nutrition at once.
Contrary to popular belief, acid reflux may not be related to the overproduction of stomach acid. Research indicates a variety of complex causes including increased intra-abdominal pressure, excess carbohydrate consumption, and bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) (3).
When people take antacids or other medications to lower stomach acid, the pH of the stomach goes up, and production of the digestive enzyme pepsin goes down. This means your ability to digest proteins is reduced.
Improve your digestion by chewing foods slowly. You can also supplement with digestive enzymes (taken with or before a meal) so that foods can be fully broken down and properly absorbed.
Anyone who’s experienced the pain of heartburn knows some foods seem guaranteed to hurt long after you’ve eaten. If you have frequent heartburn, try to reduce your intake of these common triggers (and see which ones provide relief for you):
If cutting back on caffeine seems like a scary thought, seek out natural ways to sustain your energy levels. These include green tea and proteolytic enzymes, which fight fatigue by optimizing oxygen flow and can be taken day or night.
One of the contributing factors for acid reflux is believed to be the overgrowth of bad bacteria in the gut (SIBO).
What can create an overgrowth of bad bacteria? Antibiotic use, pesticides in food, artificial sweeteners and ultra-processed foods are the main reasons.
Help restore the health of your gut with probiotic-rich foods including yogurt and kefir, and fermented foods such as kimchi and sauerkraut.
You can also supplement with a high-quality probiotic that comes with specific strains beneficial for gut health.
Adding in more good bacteria helps to crowd out the bad bacteria, can help strengthen the lining of the gut, and improve digestion.
There are also simple lifestyle steps to reduce your risk of reflux. These small adjustments can add up to a big difference:
This is where some people will question, “Why would I want to change my lifestyle when I can just take a pill every day!” It may be easier, but it’s far from the better option. And here’s why…
Like any pharmaceutical drugs, proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) have many side effects. They provide temporary relief by blocking the acid production in your stomach. However, stomach acid is essential for a healthy digestive system.
And research shows a real cause for concern for this class of drug when it is used long-term, with the FDA issuing warnings for how they can lower magnesium levels, increase the risk of bone fractures (4) and increase the risk of C. difficile, a devastating bacterial infection.
But it doesn’t end there. A large body of evidence has found that PPIs can:
So, taking one pill a day may be simple but it comes with real risks. Whereas making small changes to your lifestyle can have lasting benefits.