You’re seriously regretting that mimosa you had at brunch. Sure, it was delicious—but, the orange juice also triggered some serious acid reflux, and the resulting heartburn is almost unbearable.
Acid reflux (which you’ll also hear referred to as gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD) happens when your stomach acid flows backward into your esophagus, which is the tube that connects your mouth to your stomach.
While this might feel like some sort of karmic punishment or evil revenge carried out by your digestive system, there are actually several factors that contribute to your acid reflux.
Yes, food is a big one. But, there’s also something happening anatomically: When your lower esophageal sphincter (that’s the valve between your esophagus and the upper part of your stomach) becomes weakened or relaxes when it shouldn’t, that stomach acid is able to head the wrong way and flow back into your esophagus.
Sounds pleasant, right? When this happens, you experience all sorts of symptoms you’re probably far too familiar with, including a burning sensation (yep, heartburn), chest pain, and difficulty swallowing.
Here’s the question you really want answered: What the heck can you do about it—besides hop into a time machine and say “no” to that mimosa? Also that coffee? Oh, and that cheesy omelette?
Well, there are several natural home remedies you can use to deal with your acid reflux.
Have you heard that prevention is the best medicine? In an ideal world, you’d implement some lifestyle modifications to prevent the onset of your acid reflux symptoms altogether. Here are some changes that you can make to avoid being burdened with heartburn in the first place.
Acid reflux all starts with knowing what foods and drinks trigger your symptoms—and then avoiding them.
These triggers can vary from person to person, but as the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases points out, things like spicy or fatty foods, chocolate, coffee, tomato products, and alcohol generally cause acid production in your stomach to be kicked into overdrive, which exacerbates your symptoms.
Keep a simple food diary so that you can identify what causes or worsens your acid reflux, and then cut those foods out of your average diet.
Speaking of diets, lowering your carb intake can be helpful. A study conducted by the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology and the Center for Esophageal Diseases and Swallowing at the University of North Carolina concluded that a diet that’s very low in carbohydrates can significantly improve acid reflux and its symptoms.
So, as tough as it might seem to pass on that bottomless bread basket at dinner, you’ll probably be glad you did.
Rather than indulging in a giant feast, The Cleveland Clinic states that smaller and more frequent meals are better for those who suffer from acid reflux. Large meals increase your stomach pressure, which adds a lot of strain to your already-weak lower esophageal sphincter.
Claims that probiotics—friendly bacteria that help keep your stomach healthy—relieve all kinds of digestive issues are all over the internet, but do they really help with acid reflux? Well, there haven’t been a ton of studies into the effect of probiotics on acid reflux, but early research suggests they can help keep your symptoms from flaring up as often. Scientists aren’t sure why, but they think probiotics might help empty your stomach faster and decrease inflammation in your esophagus.
So how can you get more of these good bacteria into your gut? Probiotics can be found in dairy-based drinks like kefir and foods like yogurt. If dairy is an acid reflux trigger for you, you can try a probiotic supplement instead.
Be sure to have a talk with your doctor before trying probiotics if you have a serious health condition, especially if it weakens your immune system. Also note that probiotics can cause mild side effects, like gas and bloating.
You might love your bedtime snack, but it’s not doing your acid reflux any favors. Why? There are some physics at play here.
When you eat during the day, you remain upright following that meal. In contrast, when you eat right before climbing under the covers, you lay down and lose the benefits that gravity offers—which means it’s way easier for stomach acid to make its way into your esophagus.
Research from the University of Colorado warns that it takes four to five hours for the total contents of your stomach to be emptied, so if you want the best results, stop eating a few hours before bed.
If you’re overweight, we certainly can’t blame you if you’re sick of all of the advice that downplays just how hard it is to slim down. These types of lifestyle changes definitely aren’t easy, but if you’re struggling with awful acid reflux, the results can be well worth the effort.
The Cleveland Clinic explains that too much excess weight increases stomach pressure, which again, makes it that much tougher for your lower esophageal sphincter to do its job and keep your stomach acid where it belongs.
We don’t need to tell you that smoking is bad for you—that’s obvious at this point. But, were you aware that it may be actually contributing to your acid reflux misery too?
Research from the Department of Medicine at Northwestern University Medical School discovered that cigarette smoking not only reduces the pressure of your lower esophageal sphincter (apparently nicotine causes that sphincter to relax), but also directly provokes acid reflux.
We’ll admit that this one seems a little strange, but science proves that chewing some sugar-free gum for a half hour after eating a meal can significantly reduce your reflux.
How does this work? It increases your swallowing frequency, which improves the clearance rate of reflux and acid within your esophagus.
You might not think that acid reflux is a huge wardrobe critic, but as it turns out, how you dress really can make a difference in terms of your symptoms.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends loose-fitting clothing for acid reflux sufferers, as items that are too tight around the abdomen place added pressure on your digestive tract.
The above suggestions are helpful—but they don’t do you much good if you’re already dealing with intense heartburn, that sour taste in your mouth, and all those other not-so-delightful symptoms that make you regret what you just ate.
If that’s the case, you’re looking for some immediate solutions that can reduce the severity of your symptoms. Fortunately, there are some home remedies that can help provide some much-needed relief.
Much like there are foods and beverages that trigger acid reflux, there are also plenty that can alleviate your symptoms.
Things like ginger tea, apples, bananas, apple cider vinegar, papaya, honey, fennel, licorice, yogurt, oatmeal, and even marshmallows have been proven to be anti-inflammatory and possess natural antacid properties.
Want even more ideas? Or even specific recipes? We put together a meal plan guide to help you figure out what to eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and all those snacking moments that come in between.
Aloe vera juice has a big reputation for relieving acid reflux symptoms, thanks to its anti-inflammatory and digestion-boosting effects. A 2015 study even showed that drinking the juice daily could prevent GERD symptoms as well as medication does.
But don’t run to the store just yet. If you take laxatives, diuretics, or diabetes medication, you shouldn’t drink aloe vera juice due to potential interactions. In addition, it’s also not recommended for pregnant women.
And if you are headed to the store, be sure to get decolorized and purified aloe vera juice—the non-decolorized juice can cause diarrhea.
Are you a side sleeper? Picky about which side you catch some rest on? It might be time to start being a little more selective.
One study published by The Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology concluded that sleeping on your right side can worsen your acid reflux by not only prolonging your symptoms but also reducing your overall acid clearance.
The researchers aren’t exactly sure why this happens, but it might be worth switching to your left side to see if you experience some improvement.
While we’re on the subject of sleep, elevating the head of your bed through bed risers (which you can either buy or go the DIY route with a brick) or a wedge-shaped pillow can reduce some of your heartburn misery.
Remember when we talked about the role gravity plays in keeping your stomach acid where it belongs? The same concept applies here. Sleeping with your head a little higher makes it that much tougher for that acid to flow backward into your esophagus.
For many people, acid reflux treatment requires a combination of medications (prescription, over-the-counter, or both) and natural home remedies like the ones we’ve outlined here.
So, how can you figure out the best treatment plan for you? Start by tracking your diet and habits to identify any triggers (like that mimosa that seemed worth it at the time).
Not only will doing so help you hopefully prevent some of your symptoms, but it also equips you with data that will be valuable when speaking with your doctor or another health care professional about your acid reflux.
The information provided in this article is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely upon the content provided in this article for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.