Once we chew food, it travels down our food pipe (esophagus), and enters the stomach, followed by the intestines where digestion continues to take place. In between our food pipe and stomach, there is a small valve known as the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) which helps to control the passage of food, opening to allow food to go down to the stomach and then closing.
Acid reflux occurs when this valve doesn’t function optimally and stomach acid travels in the opposite direction, up the food pipe. Essentially, stomach acid is pretty strong, and only supposed to be present in the stomach which is accustomed to this environment. Hence, when the acid enters other organs due to reflux, symptoms such as a bitter taste in the mouth, and heartburn – a burning sensation near the chest can occur, causing discomfort.
Nutrition and lifestyle tips that can help manage acid reflux include:
- Avoid trigger foods – spicy, fried, oily, or fatty foods, tomato, and citrus foods, caffeinated drinks, and alcoholic beverages are common ones. It can be informative to pay attention to and track the specific foods that your system is sensitive to so as to be mindful of those.
- Avoid smoking
- Wear comfortable and loose clothing that is not too tight around the waist
- Avoid lying down soon after meals
- Eat small, frequent meals rather than large, heavy ones
Unfortunately, there is no universal quick fix for acid reflux, however, one can try home remedies or medications (e.g. antacid) that suit you – consult with a healthcare professional for individualized advice.
When it comes to home remedies, there are many old wives’ tales and it is best to seek professional opinion and use your own judgment before trying anything new. Five common remedies that may provide relief include having a cup of water boiled with ajwain and saunf, a glass of buttermilk or cold milk, chewing a small piece of ginger, or eating a banana. Importantly, it is not worth relying on these solutions in the long-term, but rather on preventing and managing the occurrence of acid reflux altogether.
Note, if acid reflux symptoms persist or occur frequently it may indicate the development of GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease and it is recommended to seek the advice of a healthcare professional.