Natural Remedies to Treat Reflux
Imagine this. You go out to an amazing Italian dinner full of pasta, breadsticks, marinara and red wine. You eat and drink more than you should, but don’t give it a second thought as you are having a great time; laughing and conversing with friends/family. You pay the check (hopefully give your waiter/waitress a nice tip!) and say your goodbyes. You come home and see its almost 11:00pm; this is way past your bedtime. You get ready for bed to lay down for a restful night of sleep then…..it hits you: a burning sensation in your chest, nausea, belching/burping, and chest pain. What the heck could this be?!?! Well….we can give you the answer.
GERD. What is GERD? GERD is the acronym for the diagnosis of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disorder. According to a study written in the Journal of Chinese Medicine in 2015, “official statistics suggest that 44% of the population of the United States experience GERD symptoms at least once a month, and 20% at least once a week. The overall prevalence of GERD in the Western world has been reported to be about 10%-20%, making it one of the most common gastrointestinal diseases.” (1). Unfortunately, GERD has likely become even more prevalent due to the population’s love for carbs and spicy foods, their preference for restaurant meals over home cooked dinners, and the overweight/obesity epidemic.
In this blog post, we are going to review and suggest certain natural remedies that can be used in the event that a GERD attack hits you. But first we want to stress the importance of avoiding potential triggers and changing certain behaviors BEFORE GERD strikes.
Completely removing irritants from your diet such as spicy and high acidic foods/drinks, and decreasing abdominal girth (losing weight) are the two top priorities when it comes to preventing GERD. It is also extremely important to avoid the overuse of proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs— like Prilosec, Nexium, Protonix) and H2 blockers (Zantac) due to the risks and complications that come with chronic use. “Proton pump inhibitors and H2 receptor blockers are the most commonly prescribed drug classes for GERD. However, despite their proven effect and widespread use, adverse events such as hypochlorhydria [low amount of hydrochloric acid], cardiac events and increased risk of hip fractures have led to concerns over the safety of these drugs, resulting in a surge of interest in identifying natural remedies that can effectively control GERD symptoms and prevent its complications.” (2). We suggest keeping a food journal and noting what foods irritate so you know what to avoid/eliminate along with having a discussion with your primary care practitioner about ways to reduce your weight, if applicable.
Aloe Vera has a wide variety of medicinal uses. I remember as child whenever my cousins or I would scrape our knees my grandmother would take the gel from her aloe vera plant and apply it to the area in order to help it heal; no topical antibiotics needed. But, did you know aloe vera taken orally can help alleviate reflux symptoms along with aiding in the healing of gastric ulcers? In a randomized controlled study (3) 79 patients were given either aloe vera syrup (10ml daily), omeprazole (Prilosec) 20mg (PPI) daily, or ranitidine (Zantac) 150mg twice daily for 4 weeks. The researchers concluded that aloe vera was comparable (and sometimes more efficacious) than the prescription drugs given. Unlike prescription medications which come with a slew of potential side effects, aloe vera is well tolerated and safe. Aloe vera comes in both juice and syrup formulations- or you can even take the gel from the aloe vera plant and squeeze in into warm warm to ingest. This can be taken at the time of reflux symptoms or 30 minutes prior to meals/after meals.
Ginger root’s gastrointestinal benefits have been well documented throughout the years in medical publications and thousands of blog posts. If you ask any woman who has suffered with severe nausea and vomiting what was a savior for them during that phase of pregnancy (or unfortunately sometimes throughout the whole pregnancy), they will likely list ginger. Personally, ginger was a saving grace throughout both of my pregnancies; especially with the reflux symptoms I suffered with my second daughter….she definitely made her presence known! Ginger has been proven to protect/prevent/heal gastric ulcers (4) and comes in many different formulations: candies, lollipops, teas, and even just the raw root. I would recommend avoiding or limiting the candies and lollipops due to added sugars, which might aggravate the reflux even more. The most effective formulation seems to be ginger tea as it soothes the stomach while decreasing inflammation. Check out this blog post from VKOOL which shows different ways to use ginger. Ginger does have blood-thinning properties, so if you take aspirin or other blood thinning medications (coumadin, Xarelto, Eliquis etc) consult with your practitioner before adding it into your diet.
Fennel is a crunchy, green plant that is a part of the parsley family and has been used for thousands of years in many different Italian and Greek recipes. However, the benefits of fennel were not well known or studied until recently (meaning within the last 10-15 years). Fennel posses an active ingredient called Anethole which helps prevent gastrointestinal spasms and reflux. You can drink it in a tea formulation whenever you experience reflux symptoms, or before or after meals. We love Traditional Medicinals Organic Fennel tea whenever our stomachs become cranky or if something we ate is not settling right and is giving us those awful reflux symptoms. Fennel has also been studied in infants with colic (5). The mothers ingested fennel tea and it was transferred through their breast milk to their infants. The studied concluded there was a significant decrease in colic symptoms in these infants. Despite the potential benefit, it needs to be discussed with the mother’s OBGYN to ensure the safety of the mother and baby.
Chamomile is one of the most popular herbs as it has many health benefits, including (surprise!) alleviating reflux symptoms. Chamomile has been proven to reduce inflammation, gas buildup, the overproduction of hydrochloric acid, and gastrointestinal spasms (6). It is safe to use and does not have any nasty side effects. Because it balances the acidity in your stomach, drinking it 30 minutes prior to bed helps to prevent night-time GERD while also reducing stress- which, in turn, can help with sleep. The most popular formulation of chamomile is chamomile tea, but it comes in a capsule and as an essential oil as well. You can take chamomile either when symptoms occur (which is when a tea can be easiest to use) or before/after meal (when the capsules might help).
Turmeric has gained tons of notoriety in the last few years due to its anti-inflammatory properties and ability to alleviate joint pains from chronic conditions. But did you know it also reduces reflux symptoms?? Yes! Another win for turmeric! The active ingredient (called curcumin) reduces inflammation in the stomach which aids in gas relief, bloating, the burning sensation in your chest, and more. Turmeric comes in many different forms including teas, oral supplements, and raw spice. It is recommended that you use the raw turmeric versus the prepared powdered turmeric when using it in cooking to ensure that you receive all of the benefits. There are many recipes out in cyberspace that include the use of raw turmeric. It gives a gorgeous color and flavor to your dish, while at the same time reducing the chance of post-deliciousness reflux occurring. Turmeric tea can be ingested when symptoms occur, or 30 mins before/after meals.
In conclusion, there are many different natural remedies that can help prevent and reduce the symptoms of GERD. Like we stressed before, the best way to prevent GERD is eliminating the modifiable risk factors: diet irritants and obesity. We suggest consulting with your primary care practitioner before trying any of the remedies above to ensure there are no possible interactions with medications you might already be taking. It is also a good time to have a dialogue with them about what you can do to remedy GERD without the use of medications. If you have any questions about this blog post or previous blogs don’t hesitate to email us at info@firstname.lastname@example.org
Until next week continue to Follow Your Gut,