Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease or GERD


Gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD is a condition which aids the backward flow (reflux) of acid and food content from the stomach into the esophagus, the tube that links the mouth to the stomach. When food is ingested, it passes through esophagus into your stomach. A muscular valve called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) closes after the food passes through esophagus, preventing food or acid to move back up. Gastroesophageal reflux takes place when the LES relaxes improperly, permitting acid from the stomach to flow backward into esophagus.

This reflux can give rise to a burning sensation or pain in the stomach and chest region accompanied by a host of other symptoms such as bloating, belching, sore throats, snoring, difficulty breathing and ulcers. As per statistics approximately 25 million American adults have acid reflux or a severe form of heartburn. And all of them encounter the problem on a daily basis. Over 60 million people suffer from heartburn once in a month. And though simple overeating can be the reason, there are numerous foods that only aggravate the condition and make it worse.

Heartburn should not be taken lightly as in addition to the unbearable pain, the acid constantly irritates the esophagus leading to lasting damage and increased risk of esophageal cancer. In a few cases, the disorder occurs due to a faulty valve between the stomach and the esophagus. But it is only aggravated by diet.

Natural Remedies to Treat GERD

Acid reflux is not only irritating but is often points to an unhealthy habit or lifestyle. By targeting and treating the causes of it, overall health can be achieved. Instead of relying on costly and potentially harmful medication to treat acid reflux, these simple tips can prove wonders.

Eat Smaller Meals - Rather than swallowing three big meals a day, try to eat five smaller meals throughout the day. But ensure that these are well-defined combinations of meals and snacks. When a person eats great magnitudes in small spans of time, the esophageal sphincter is overwhelmed and burdens the stomach, which can exacerbate acid reflux.

Add Spice to Food – The excellent and remedial additions to a great number of recipes are the herbs like licorice root, slippery elm and turmeric which have cancer-beating properties.  Researchers consider that ingesting herbs aid in coating the lining of the esophagus thereby shielding it from acid. Deglycyrrhizinated licorice particularly has shown great characteristics as a soother of gastrointestinal ulcers and is also normally used for the treatment of pain associated with acid reflux.

Improve Posture - Improving body’s posture can actually help to a great extent. Usually people tend to recline immediately after eating dinner which can greatly contribute to acid reflux. It is essential to keep the back straight after a meal which keeps the food and acid in the stomach where it belongs.

Avoid Smoking - Everyone knows the harmful effects of smoking, however one of the less serious effects is acid reflux, as nicotine relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter.

Maintain Healthy Weight - Another way to treat acid reflux is to shed those extra pounds from body. Obesity or even being a few pounds overweight increases the danger of acid reflux. In 2007, researchers established a positive relationship between body mass index (BMI) and GERD. In addition to reduce acid reflux, losing weight can lower levels of C-reactive protein which is an indicator of inflammation, which is the key cause of most chronic diseases such as diabetes and cancer.

Alkaline producing foods prevent GERD

Eating various alkaline-forming foods can aid in reducing over-acidity and soothe the stomach, alleviating pain and other superfluous symptoms. Additionally, foods that contribute to an alkaline-forming state in the system also help in preventing acidosis which is a grave bodily condition that is the origin of all disease.

High-potassium foods - Foods containing high amounts of potassium may aid in preventing or resolving acid reflux. Some of the excellent sources of potassium are bananas, honey, lemons, apple cider vinegar, cantaloupe and sweet potatoes. Apple cider vinegar (ACV) specifically is believed to serve as an effective cure for acid reflux by many people. It is best to mix one to two tablespoons of ACV with a glass of water and drink it all right away. Always use organic vinegar.

Lemon juice to some extent is a milder drink than the ACV and works in a same manner.  It counterbalances stomach acids and decrease heartburn and acid reflux. Squeeze the juice of half lemon into a glass of filtered water and drink it at once. Warm water is more effective however avoid warming it in a microwave oven.

Ancient grains - Certain ancient grains or tiny grains are high in potassium which make them a suitable food to incorporate in a diet that targets acid reflux. Tiny grains such as millet, quinoa and amaranth are good alternatives to processed, white flour products that have lack nutrients and fiber. Tiny grains are also a good substitute for people who are gluten tolerant since all these three grains are gluten free, nutty and scrumptious.

Baking soda - Baking soda can help alleviate the burning pains of acid reflux rapidly, although it is not considered as good food on its own. It is extremely alkaline and can not only neutralize stomach acids rapidly, but will alkalize the complete system, thereby reducing acidosis systemically. Add half teaspoon of baking soda to a glass of water and drink immediately. Since it is contains salt, it can raise the blood pressure. In case a person takes medicines for hypertension, it is adviced to speak to a health care professional before using baking soda for acid reflux.

Raw foods - Bulk of raw vegetables and fruits are alkaline in nature and are easy to digest. Cooking these foods on hot flame reduces their alkalinity, making them acidic to some extent. Raw fruits and vegetables include lots of enzymes to support digestion. Pick the freshest and spot-free items from the grocery store. It is believed that the sweeter the fruit, the more alkaline it becomes. Therefore, ripened bananas are good for the digestive tract than those that are still yellow or green.

Foods to Avoid - List of foods to be avoided in GERD are chocolate, caffeine, soda, alcohol, citrus fruits, tomatoes, spicy foods, fried and other high fat foods, meat and dairy.

Herbs useful in GERD 

Marshmallow - Marshmallow may be a useful herb for treatment of GERD. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, marshmallow or Althea officinalis has been used for more than 2000 years as a food as well as a medicine. It has been found effective in treating many health conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, common cold, cough, inflammatory bowel diseases, stomach ulcers and indigestion. Marshmallow is an antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory which is helpful in relieving mucus membrane irritation in gastrointestinal tract, respiratory tract and urinary tract. Marshmallow may aid in reducing inflammation linked with acid reflux. It is suggested to talk to a Naturopath doctor about possible side effects and proper dosage, before taking marshmallow to treat GERD.

Slippery Elm - Slippery elm or Ulmus rubra or Indian elm has been known to be effective in treatment of numerous health conditions such as GERD, gastrointestinal disorders, skin ulcers, cancers, fevers and inflammation. It is derived from the inner bark of the tree. The main constituent in slippery elm is mucilage, which has the ability to sooth and heal mucus membranes and guard irritated or inflamed mucosa. According to Tilgner, slippery elm also acts as a demulcent, diuretic and anti-inflammatory. When taken in dry form, it should always be taken with water. It is suggested to talk to a Naturopath doctor about possible side effects, potential drug interactions and proper dosage, before taking slippery elm to treat GERD.

Turmeric - Turmeric or Curcuma longa is a shrub associated to ginger and it flourishes throughout India, other parts of Asia and Africa. Turmeric is recognized for its warm, bitter taste and golden color. Tilgner notes that turmeric is an anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, anti-fungal, carminative, digestive enzyme stimulant and hypotensive. Turmeric aids in the normal flow of digestion, protects the digestive tract and reduces digestive tract irritation and inflammation. It is suggested to talk to a Naturopath doctor about possible side effects and proper dosage, before taking turmeric to treat GERD.

Licorice Root - Licorice root or Glycyrrhiza glabra aids in relieving the symptoms of heartburn and acid reflux associated with GERD, if it is combined with other herbs. One may get temporary relief from cramping, vomiting and nausea. MedlinePlus notes that german chamomile, clown's mustard plant, angelica, caraway, lemon balm, milk thistle and peppermint leaf are combined with licorice root and taken in a dose of 1 mL three times a day. The peppermint and chamomile used in this combination are two herbs that are often used for indigestion.