Most people who enjoy the occasional spicy meal will experience heartburn now and again, but if you find yourself feeling the burn even when you consume mild foods, you may be one of some 3 million adults suffering from a more chronic, aggravating condition: acid reflux. Though not a dangerous condition, acid reflux can cause significant discomfort, and it can be challenging to treat effectively.
What Is Acid Reflux?
In layperson’s terms, acid reflux is what happens when the acidic contents of the stomach flow upward into the throat, irritating the lining of the esophagus.
This can cause a range of unpleasant symptoms including chest pain that worsens when lying down, a burning sensation in the throat or mouth, bloating, belching, coughing, nausea, and even regurgitation.
Though not life-threatening by itself, acid reflux has been linked to far more serious ailments including esophageal cancer, so it shouldn’t be taken lightly.
But even if it doesn’t lead to complications down the road, acid reflux is a condition that can considerably lessen your life’s enjoyment, making it hard to relish a meal without pain or to sleep without waking up to chest pressure and coughing. To read more about how it manifests and how it can be treated, read on.
What Are the Symptoms of Acid Reflux?
Because the symptoms of acid reflux can easily be mistaken for more serious conditions, it’s important to be able to identify them so you can know whether you need to urgently seek medical care. You can read more about the symptoms here.
If you have experienced any of the following, consider making an appointment with your primary caregiver to receive a proper diagnosis.
1. Chest pain:
Prior to being formally diagnosed, many acid reflux sufferers mistake their chest pain for a heart attack and find themselves in the emergency room.
While frightening, the chest pain associated with acid reflux isn’t a sign of imminent danger. However, because it can be a sign of a more serious underlying problem, please seek immediate medical attention if you’re experiencing chest pain.
2. Pain that worsens when you’re lying on your back:
When you stand upright, gravity helps keep the contents of your stomach in your stomach where they belong. But when you lie down, there’s nothing to stop them from flowing back upward into your throat, where they can cause pain and discomfort.
3. Pain or nausea after eating:
People with acid reflux often experience indigestion after a big meal. This can feel like stomach pain or queasiness, and as mentioned it often worsens if you lie down. (Do note that if you find yourself experiencing recurring stomach pain after eating that you should be evaluated by a doctor to rule out other conditions such as ulcers.)
4. A hoarse voice:
If your throat feels raspy and you know you aren’t suffering from an upper respiratory ailment, it may be a sign that you’re dealing with acid reflux. Stomach acid flowing into your esophagus can irritate your vocal cords, giving your voice a hoarse quality or even causing it to crack unexpectedly, especially after eating.
5. Cough, sore throat, or asthma:
If stomach acid is seeping into your throat or lungs, soreness and coughing are predictable outcomes, and if you’re already an asthma sufferer, the strain of constantly coughing can actually trigger an asthma attack.
If you are asthmatic, it’s all the more important that you treat your acid reflux to help avoid unnecessary attacks.
These are just a few of the symptoms associated with acid reflux. You can read more here.
If you suspect that you may have acid reflux, it’s important to get a full evaluation from your doctor to rule out any more serious disorders, including stomach ulcers, cancer, or heart problems.
What Are the Risk Factors for Acid Reflux?
The following characteristics are associated with an increased likelihood of developing acid reflux. By themselves, none are guarantees that you will develop the condition.
However, if more than a few of them apply to you, you should consider yourself more susceptible than the average person. If you notice you’re already experiencing symptoms of acid reflux, consider how the following lifestyle habits might be contributing to them.
- Eating a diet high in fatty or acidic foods, or consuming beverages including coffee, tea, alcohol, and soda
- Lying down immediately after eating, or snacking close to bedtime
To learn more about risk factors associated with acid reflux, go here.
How Can I Treat My Acid Reflux?
In their haste for relief, many sufferers visit their local pharmacy to load up on antacids, or see their primary caregivers for stronger prescription remedies.
But these treatments simply minimize the symptoms of the condition rather than resolving them—and they often come with a host of unwanted side effects. For lasting relief, a more holistic approach to healing is often required.
Through a combination of dietary changes, behavioral changes, and natural remedies, you can conquer acid reflux permanently without having to resort to harsh pharmaceuticals and chew on chalky antacids. Read on to learn how!
Your Complete Guide to Battling Acid Reflux … And Winning!
This simple strategy for combating acid reflux can also be one of the most difficult, especially for the foodies among you.
While reducing your consumption of fatty and acidic foods is the most reliable way of reducing or eliminating symptoms, it entails a major lifestyle change that many will find daunting.
However, if you’re tired of being in pain and chomping on antacids like they’re after-dinner mints, you should consider modifying your current diet.
Foods known to aggravate acid reflux include whole milk, fried and fatty foods, peppermint, spearmint, oils, chocolate, creamed soups, and most fast food.
Foods that can irritate an already inflame esophagus include citrus (such as pineapple, tomato, orange, and grapefruit), coffee, tea, soft drinks, and other caffeinated beverages. If any of these items is a staple of your diet, it’s safe to assume that they’re contributing to your discomfort and should be avoided.
For a more complete list of foods to avoid and replacement foods, visit this page.
It’s also important to note that dietary changes don’t merely include what you eat, but how you eat. You can help to reduce the symptoms of acid reflux further by taking your time when you eat a meal, taking smaller bites, chewing slowly and thoroughly, and consuming smaller portions in each sitting.
We’ve already established that lying down after eating can cause the symptoms of acid reflux to worsen, so where does this leave you when bedtime rolls around? One easy solution is to elevate the head of your bed by about six inches.
This will allow you to take advantage of gravity and prevent stomach acid from seeping back into your throat while you sleep.
Also, though it may be tempting to lie down in front of the TV after eating, particularly after a meal laden in carbs, it’s unwise to do so until after you’ve had some time to digest your food, which takes about four hours.
If you’re already prone to stomach pain or chest pain after eating, lying down right after will only intensify it. There is also some evidence that sleeping on your left side instead of your back can further reduce uncomfortable symptoms.
Obviously this doesn’t apply to all sufferers, but if you know you’re overweight then you should also know that excess stomach fat can constrict around the stomach, forcing acid upwards into the throat.
You may not experience total relief from your symptoms simply by slimming down, but it’s a surefire way to reduce them, and to improve your overall health to boot.
Everyone knows that cigarettes pose a hazard to your health, inviting a legion of dangerous and even deadly diseases including lung cancer, mouth cancer, and emphysema.
But smoking can also worsen acid reflux by weakening the muscle that helps your stomach contain acid. If you didn’t already have enough good reasons to quit, consider this one more.
Explore alternative therapies
Before you go reaching for that roll of Tums or trotting down to the doctor’s office for a prescription, you should know that you may already have some gentler acid reflux remedies close at hand, perhaps even in your very own kitchen. Keep reading to discover just a few of them.
1. Baking soda
It’s not just an ingredient commonly used in chocolate chip cookies; it’s also a wonderful, natural antacid. In chemistry, baking soda is what’s known as an alkaline substance, meaning it has a pH higher than 7. In other words, it can neutralize acidity.
To gain some instant relief from acid reflux, stir about a teaspoon of baking soda into a glass of water and drink. The alkalinity will help reduce stomach acid and provide some pain relief. However, if you’re on a low-sodium diet, baking soda shouldn’t be used as a go-to remedy, as it’s high in salt and can cause unwanted side effects.
Most people have used aloe vera spray on a bad sunburn, or applied the cool, healing goo of an aloe plant directly to a superficial burn blister.
But did you know that aloe can also be effective for treating the heartburn caused by acid reflux? Because it’s a natural anti-inflammatory, it can help reduce inflammation in the esophagus, providing some much-needed pain relief.
Do note that aloe can have laxative properties, so be careful to choose a brand with the laxative elements removed. These can be purchases in most health food stores. Drinking about 1/2 a cup prior to a meal is a great preventative agent against acid reflux.
3. Slippery elm
This is another herbal remedy known for thickening the mucus that lines your stomach, creating a stronger barrier against corrosive stomach acid. Traditionally, it’s dissolved in water and consumed during meals and before bedtime to prevent chest pain and burning in the throat while sleeping.
4. Other herbal remedies
Many sufferers have reported receiving relief from different herbal remedies including milk thistle, licorice, caraway, angelica, peppermint, German chamomile, and more.
However, some of these remedies have also been shown to aggravate symptoms in certain patients, so you may need to experiment with different combinations before you find the one that’s right for you.
5. Chewing gum
While not precisely a natural remedy, sugar-free chewing gum doesn’t require a prescription or even a visit to the over-the-counter drug aisle of your local convenience store.
However, it is known to have some useful properties for treating acid reflux. Chewing gum after eating is a quick, effective way to stimulate saliva production, which helps to flush acid out of the throat and back into the stomach where it belongs.
Most people know of melatonin as a natural sleep aid, but did you know that there’s some evidence that it can relieve acid reflux symptoms, too? Try popping a few tablets before bedtime. Not only should you experience some relief from heartburn, you should also sleep better than ever.
A Systemic Problem Needs a Systemic Solution
By now it should be clear that acid reflux isn’t a problem limited to just the stomach or the throat, and it can’t be cured by just popping pills.
It’s a systemic problem affecting the whole body, and as such it can only be effectively neutralized with a systemic approach that takes into account everything from diet to sleeping habits to weight to posture and more.
If you want to be rid of this bothersome condition, we suggest using a combination of the remedies described above for optimal relief.
Do you have any experience treating your acid reflux with natural remedies? If so, please leave a comment and tell us about it. We would love to know more about what works for you.
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A Chevalier says
Apple Cider Vinegar, slippery elm, and DGL have all helped greatly! I struggled for years with acid reflux and took Prilosec, it seemed like it was getting worse until I stopped taking pharmaceuticals and started a natural / herbal cures.
Diane Indelicato says
My grandaughter suffers from LPR. So hard for her when contents of acid come up her throat and she coughs for at least 15 minutes. Also her nose. When its over she immediately is fine. I have been giving her small amounts of food 5 times a day, also making sure they are not acidic. I found it easy to ask Siri if a food I wanted to try was acidic. So easy to find out right away. Also she has lost 7 lbs. which was helpful. She has been on Pepcid complete one pill before dinner for one month. I will be trying to wean her off soon. I hope this helps. Really like all these comments. We all need to help each other. Good luck. Diane
I only get acid reflux in the middle of the night when I wake up choking from the acids rising into my throat. When this happens I get a big spoonful of peanut butter to eat and the reflux goes away quickly.
Tried over the counter stuff with no results. The burn stayed. I tried Gaviscon from UK didn’t work. Tried Ppi and H2 with some success but had side effects I couldn’t tolerate. Sleep on wedge, eat non acidic food, eat 6 hrs before bed and still manage to get throat burn at night. Tried xyfaxan for sibo which can cause symptoms such as this with minimal success. Started losing so much weight because I had alkaline my stomach acid so much that I was not digesting food. Went to a naturopath who increased my stomach acid and helped my digestion but after a month and a half still have throat burn. I’m at the point of thinking this may slowly kill me. Gastro doctors don’t seem to understand the upper throat and ENT don’t understand the stomach and because throat burn only symptoms must have something to do with both this falls through the cracks. I have no idea what to do next
I was diagnosed with silent heartburn. I was having some difficulty swallowing sometimes and went for a laparoscopy. I declined the antacids the Dr prescribed. I now follow a keto and mostly low FODMAP diet and am doing great
Trish Pope says
I too suffer from acid reflux and I’ve been on Prilosec for 3 years. It works great, and I also do not eat past 5 p.m. I am weaning off Prilosec and going to try more natural way. Word of advice, If you take Thyroid Medications, you do not take ANY acid blockers for 4 hours after your thyroid meds. Your doctor will not tell you this but if you read the pamphlet and read about how to take prilosec, the instructions do warn you about how and when to take them. It is very tricky because you take thyroid meds and acid blockers on an empty stomach. Also, ask your doctor.
I have recently found immediate help if I take a teaspoon of yellow mustard and follow with a small amount of water. It neautralizes the acid. I always thought this was strange but was desperate for relief so finally tried it!
I lopez says
I couldn’t believe it till I tried it. It was an apple before bed if I ate to late or maybe felt symptoms of acid reflux I would eat an apple and it was a miracle. I guess what they use to say and apple a day keeps the doctor away. Worked for me!
Gary Madison says
My husband was diagnosed with MND ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) when he was 69 years old 6 years ago. The Rilutek (riluzole) did very little to help him. The medical team did even less. His decline was rapid and devastating. The psychological support from the medical center was non-existent and if it were not for totalcureherbsfoundation .c om and the sensitive cure of their herbal formula he would have been not been alive today,there was significant improvement in the first 4 weeks of usage that gave us hope that he will be alive,His doctor put him on riluzole, letting us know there was no cure until we gave try on total cure herbal supplement that cure him totally from this disease after 15 weeks of his usage. There is nothing positive about cure ALS condition except for their herbal treatment .
Manon Turcotte says
Dr. Jamie Kaufman is supposed to be the #1specialist on silent reflux. Silent reflux and GERD are not the same thing.
Check out her books. They may help you. I’m just hoping someone can figure out how we can all get our lives back. The silent reflux treatment really hinders your social life and any family meals.
I eliminated all gluten, fried food, and some soft dairy from my diet in addition to not eating at least 3 hours before sleeping, I’m off protinix. I feel great but that did not happen overnight. It took some time to heal. Maybe this can work for you? It’s worth a try. I remember waking one night not able to breathe in or out because I had stomach acid in my throat. I had such extreme pain in my throat and was wondering at the time if it caused permanent damage. I felt I needed to address the cause, assuming it was not a mechanical issue, than continue on meds. I wish you all good health!
After reading your article, I realize that the majority of the foods I eat are acidic. I am now changing my diet to more alkaline foods and it is making a BIG difference. I am sleeping better and I am not coughing all of the time. Thank you for a thorough and great article.
I have stuffered for six years I lost weight lot if it
I feel weak anytime I eat the feeds regurgitates.. No drugs works I have tried esose, nexium and all… Though I was diagnosed with acute gastritis… The reflux is way too much please tell me a good medication
I wish I could I’m taking Zantac right now been through the rest. Take a probiotic from dr but have taken those from health food stores. Aloe does help I’ve taken it before I guess I will go to health food store and gets some more.
I had duty for a hiatal hernia 3 yrs ago, it was to help my reflux.
I had a barium swallow test last week. My hernia is working it’s way back from the so. My reflux is back with a vengeance.
So far I have lost my taste buds, the enamel from my teeth, and now it’s working on my voice, it’s raspy.
I hate it every thing I love I can’t have, pineapple, oranges, choc, tea!
How many people suffering have a hiatal hernia? No matter the size? Just curious? Anyone ever get a consult for the surgical repair?
Nancy Long says
Yes I have , dr said he could fix it but I will never be able to vomit again, they only have a one way flap
I had an EGD and was told I had a small hiatal hernia and some eroded areas. Doctor said nothing needed to be done with it.
I have had two surgeries and will be getting a third (revision) in latter March or early April. I have suffered with hiatal hernia for 52 years. I pray the surgery will work as I am supposed to take Dexilant 2x a day and Ranitidine before bed. I only take one Dexilant and stopped Ranitidine because of cancer causing agents. Have been on these meds for at least 7 years and others before that.
“Though not a dangerous condition….” FALSE. Acid reflux is a dangerous condition that poses serious health risks – the most serious being the development of Barette’s esophagus (you can read up about it) which can lead to esophogeal cancer – one of the dealiest forms of cancer. In addition to this acid reflux can cause wheezing due to acid being pushed up into the throat and wheezing a lot over a long period of time can lead to asthma. Add to that all the people who regularly vomit blood because concentrated acid is literally burning their throats sore or who have developed scar tissue in their throats and are unable to swallow food comfortably and it’s not a disease to be taken lightly.
Persons with reflux should get their diets under control and get to their doctors for tests on any damage that may have already been done.
I have high level reflux and I used to consume a bottle of antacid per week. What helped more than anything, surprisingly, was cutting out wheat. I’m not advocating a gluten free lifestyle. I personally love bread and all kinds of baked treats but I have to admit that cutting out wheat was the biggest factor in getting my reflux under control (in addition to avoiding fatty, acidic and spicy foods and not drinking any strong alcoholic drinks or strong coffee….there’s a lot of info online about foods to avoid with reflux.)
People often take reflux lightly because they don’t know the health risks. I just want to encourage people who do have GERD (acid reflux disease) to take steps to get it under contol
I drink Throat Coat Tea and use Aloe Vera from the health food store. It helps. When I have times when the reflux is worse I use my recliner to sleep at night. It’s in my bedroom so that is the only purpose. Since I get migraines (I have had them for years) my doc said to sip a diet caffeine soda, pills do not agree with me. I’m a classical singer (opera) and the throat problem is distressing but I’m in my late 60s and teach and it’s hard to demonstrate. My throat is important to me so I use advise. Also drinking a lot of filtered water will help by getting rid of some of the minerals and additives.
I took Prilosec, Gaviscon, dicyclomine, promethazine, Nexium, baking soda, and the list goes on with no relief. The other day, I grabbed a club soda and drank it because I was out of bottled water. In a matter of minutes, I went from doubled over with pain from my burned esophagus, to almost complete relief! To be on the safe side, I’m taking Nexium and Zantac one hour before I wake up, and drinking club soda throughout the day, especially with meals. If you don’t have a sodium sensitivity, I highly recommend drinking club soda!
I injured my esophagus when a habanero supplement used for colon cleansing got stuck in my throat. Was on Prevacid and Sucralfate but stopped after reading info on the long term side effects of PPI’s. For months I tried all natural remedies and more not listed here with varying short term results. I also used meditation, yoga, Chi Gong and healing frequencies on YouTube and was on an alkaline diet as well as raising my torso at night which all helped. If I didn’t have food in my stomach my throat would really suffer even though my stomach had an above normal alkalinity which I had tested using alkaline strips. Much to my dismay I had to go back to Prevacid and Sucralfate where I noticed a difference almost immediately.
I’ll be staying on this regimen until I’m fully healed then will slowly wean myself off the meds as needed.
I highly suggest drinking Bell’s Kidney Cleanse and Function Tea whilst taking strong meds as it helps the kidneys filter the drugs out of your system and keeps them healthy.
Will update progress in future.
I have tried most everything and nothng seems to help as much as pepcid ac but knw i shouldnt be taking this all the time. Wish i could elevate bed but not an easy task. Help!!
I drink Aloe Vera juice from the health food store. Works great
Try cutting back on wheat (flour products) and you can easily elevate your bed by just sticking items (books, blocks of wood etc) under the top legs. They also sell bed raising pegs. Check Amazon. These things may not look the most appealing but you decide if it’s worth it for your health.
I’ve found that I get heartburn if I eat too much, or too many things at the same meal. If I keep it simple I don’t usually get any heartburn or reflux. …………..peggy
That’s for the information. I will definitely try some of these remedies thank you
Elizabeth Corey says
Black Strap Molasses, soothes my throat for short periods. I read about this in a blog when first diagnosed. Sugar content is high so I’m careful how often I use it throughout the day.
Ginger Tea is soothing for my throat & stomach irritation with a few drops of Stevia added….Traditional Meditationals Ginger tea with no other herbs is the best, I’ve found. I have not yet made my own ginger tea.
FD Gard 30 minutes before or after a meal greatly helps me when I occasionally experience idiopathic stomach pain.
I was diagnosed with GERD and Barretts Esophagus two years ago. I do take Protonix as needed. I am a 74 yr old female.
I hope this is helpful.
I am 21 I have been diagnosed since I was 18 my life literally sucks with this can’t get to enjoy no junk food and my throat is always in pain no matter what I do I am so depressed I can’t even work out it triggers the reflux .
I feel the same way I have loss 20pounds now so stress out from it can’t take lot of stuff for it went threw kidney cancer a few years back need lot of help what food can you eat 417 217 2814
Hi Liz, I’m sorry you’re struggling with this. My little guy is 9 and he’s been really suffering for over a year…every day. I’m curious as to what your average diet consists of, food, drink, etc?
Carmen Spence says
Yes, very good article, I have become breathless, can’t walk too far, and the pain in my throat is excruciating, and have just now started useing Aloe vera, have obtained some relief now. I hav3 also purchased a wedge pillow, still suffering, however the pain is easing, will have to do this for the rest of my life, I think now.
I am so sorry to hear this. I feel your pain. I have been suffering from this for several years now. I can’t even sleep a full night in bed. I usually wake back up with reflux coming up in my throat and burning it badly after just about an hour of laying down. I then have to get up and sleep in a chair upright for several hours before I can go finally lay back down. It is misery to not be able to just lay down and sleep like a normal person. I also have to eat a lot of saltines too get the bile taste out of my throat. It’s not what I want to be doing at 2 and 3 in the morning! My heart goes out to you! Good luck!!
Was diagnosed with gerd in er. I have had this for two months and it’s been awful. Bc of covid couldn’t see a gi in person but they prescribed me which I have been on Pepcid and omeprazole and I really haven’t seen much relief. I just don’t understand; two months ago I was fine. But my life now is a nightmare can not sleep eat ..sitting up since I’m a light sleeper as it is. I have a bad after taste constantly, it hurts to swallow ..bloated constantly ..never goes away.
I am also suffering from such symptoms. It is overwhelming to hate sleeping down. I hope there will be an absoulite cure for this disease.
Great article, accurate information. I’m always looking for alternatives not only for myself but also for my patients.