Nothing ruins a good meal like digestive discomfort can. If you experience heartburn or feel bloated or nauseous after eating, these may be symptoms of acid reflux. Like any other digestive problem, acid reflux develops out of an unhealthy gut environment. Keep reading to find out all you need to know about acid reflux and what steps you can take to promote a healthy gut environment.
What Is Acid Reflux & What Causes It?
When everything is in working order, the food you eat goes from the mouth through the esophagus and into the stomach. A ring of muscles called the lower esophageal sphincter or LES regulates food’s entry into the stomach. The LES opens up to let food into the stomach and closes once food passes through.
With acid reflux, the LES doesn’t work as it should. Sometimes it will open up too often or it doesn’t fully close once food passes through. When this happens, stomach acid moves up into the esophagus, causing discomfort. If you experience acid in your esophagus more than twice a week, acid reflux may well be at work.
The cause of acid reflux results from weak or overly relaxed muscles in the lower esophageal sphincter. Weakened or overly relaxed muscles may develop from any condition that affects how the muscles work or from conditions that place undue pressure on the abdomen. In any event, when left untreated, acid reflux can lead to inflammation of the esophagus wall and even bleeding. In the most severe of cases, cancer can develop. Conditions to watch for include:
- Being overweight, obese, or even pregnant
- Smoking tobacco
- Inhaling secondhand smoke
- Certain medications, such as sedatives, antihistamines, and pain pills
- High blood pressure medications, particularly calcium channel blockers
Acid Reflux Symptoms
Much like with most any other health problem, symptoms of acid reflux vary depending on how mild or severe the condition is. Once chronic symptoms develop, acid reflux becomes a full-blown disorder known as GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disorder. Common symptoms may take the form of a burning pain that moves from your throat to your chest, stomach, and/or abdomen. You may also experience other various symptoms, such as burping, regurgitation, nausea, sore throat, bloating, dry cough, bloody or black stools, and weight loss.
Steps You Can Take to Help Relieve Acid Reflux Symptoms
While prescription over-the-counter remedies may offer temporary relief from acid reflux, more often than not, they only treat the symptoms and not the root of the problem. Over time, these approaches can actually cause more harm than good. Acid-reducing agents interfere with your digestive tract’s ability to absorb nutrients from food. When used as go-to remedies, these conditions open the door for other health problems to develop. Getting to the root of the problem means addressing the conditions that fuel the problem and treating acid reflux naturally. Here are a few steps you can take that will strengthen and support healthy digestive tract functions.
Switch to a High-Fiber Diet
A high-fiber diet offers a wealth of health benefits, especially where digestive health is concerned. Along with promoting regular bowel movements, dietary fiber has prebiotic properties, meaning it acts as food for the “good” bacteria in your gut. Feeding the good bacteria promotes a healthy stomach environment, which can help with reducing acid levels.
A study appearing in the June 2019 World Journal of Gastroenterology sought to investigate the effects of dietary fiber on GERD symptoms. The study observed the effects of adding psyllium fiber to the diet of 36 participants affected by GERD who regularly consumed low dietary fiber in their daily diets. The results of the study showed participants experienced a significant decrease in acid reflux events, as well as a marked decrease in heartburn frequency.
If you struggle with acid reflux symptoms, you’ve likely noticed that certain foods tend to make the condition worse. Highly acidic foods, such as spicy, minty, garlicky, and fatty foods naturally aggravate acid reflux symptoms, so avoiding foods that cause problems can help relieve discomfort. Other foods to steer clear of include alcohol, caffeine, salt, and chocolate. Eating too much and eating too quickly are two other things that can stir up acid reflux symptoms.
Overeating places undue stress and pressure on the esophagus. Instead, try eating smaller meals throughout the day. Likewise, eating too quickly not only places undue pressure on the esophagus but also tends to lead to under-chewing. Under-chewed food means the stomach has to work that much harder to break down food materials. This can cause excess stomach acid to form.
Dietary Supplement Options
Ultimately, if you suffer from acid reflux, anything that’s able to promote a balanced gastrointestinal environment can help stabilize excess stomach acid. When it comes to gaining relief, this is all you need to know about acid reflux. Dietary supplements offer a way to support the chemical processes that promote digestive health. Two supplement options you may want to consider are digestive enzymes and probiotics.
If you’re low on digestive enzymes, your gut can’t metabolize and digest food as it should. These conditions not only prevent nutrients from being absorbed but can also leave undigested food to ferment inside your digestive tract, causing high acid levels. Digestive enzyme supplements supply your gut with the materials it needs to fully digest the food you eat.
Probiotic supplements work much like high-fiber foods do, feeding the good bacteria in your gut. When the number of bad bacteria outnumbers the good bacteria, food can’t digest properly, which opens the door for digestive problems to take hold. Probiotics help by increasing the number of good bacteria in your gut.
Acid reflux is not only uncomfortable but can quickly develop into more serious health problems. Taking steps to correct the source of the problem goes a long way toward safeguarding your digestive health. After all, the health of your digestive system ultimately determines your overall health, so it’s worth doing something about it.