In health care since 1977, but keenly aware of Western medicine's shortcomings, Rose Mary began exploring natural health in the late 1990s.
The Western perspective on reflux and heartburn is that we have excess stomach acid which needs to be reduced. The alternative medicine perspective is quite different, asserting that we do not have enough acid or our acid is too weak for optimal digestion. Below are natural remedies for reflux and heartburn. Whether you are taking reflux medication, or whether you and your provider have decided on natural strategies, some of the tips below are bound to work for you.
Tips 1-11: Managing Your Meals
1. Take digestive enzymes such as pancreatin with or between meals. Pancreatin assists in the digestion of proteins, fats and carbohydrates. I have been taking NOW Pancreatin 10x 200 mg for many years. I try to take it at least twice a day.
2. Take digestive enzymes such as betaine hydrochloride with meals. I use Zypan by Standard Process. It will fortify your stomach acid, which is particularly important for the digestion of animal protein. Many alternative health specialists believe that our problem is not too much stomach acid, but too little.
3. Try not eating animal protein and starch in the same meal. Donna Gates, author of The Body Ecology Diet, says the digestive process, enzymes and such, are very different for meat versus starch. Unfortunately, this means that classic favorites like spaghetti, steak and potato, and hamburger with fries, are not a good idea.
4. Minimize beverages immediately before, during and after meals. This dilutes your stomach acid and makes digestion less efficient.
5. Avoid grazing and eating between meals. If you are constantly eating, you have less available digestive acid to break down your food at meals.
6. Do not overstuff yourself at meals.
7. Don’t eat within 4-5 hours of bedtime. At a minimum, don’t eat 2 hours before bed.
8. Try juicing. Organic fruits and vegetables are best.
9. Eat vegetables with every meal. Vegetables are foods like salad greens, cucumbers, tomatoes, green beans, cabbage, zucchini, kale, and asparagus. Potatoes are starch and fall into the bread category with rice, pinto beans, black-eyed peas, and black beans.
10. Use more herbs and spices, most of which have benefits to the digestive system. Herbs such as basil, oregano, parsley and thyme have known properties of aiding digestion. Likewise, spices such as cardamom, coriander, turmeric, and cumin are beneficial for digestion.
11. Drink water with lemon oil, which is alkali, made from the peel and pith, instead of lemon juice which is made from the pulp, and acidic.
Tips 12-21: Avoid Trigger Foods
As I told my naturopath, it seems like sometimes I can eat or drink most anything, but other times no matter what I eat or drink I will have heartburn. He said something that was a Chinese medicine reference as a way of saying he believed me. Common wisdom, however, is to minimize trigger foods.
Some common triggers (to minimize or avoid) are:
12. Alcohol, especially red wine
13. Caffeine, found in colas, Mountain Dew, tea, coffee, and chocolate
14. Spicy food
15. Tomato-based foods
18. Hot sauce
19. Fried and fatty foods
20. Citrus, such as oranges, lemons, grapefruit
21. Milk products (there is disagreement among experts on this one)
Tips 22-26: Consume Probiotics
Consume foods with probiotics (beneficial bacteria for the gut), like:
26. Yogurt: I know a chiropractor that swore by Activia yogurt. He resolved serious, longstanding digestive issues by eating one Activia yogurt per day.
27. Kefir: Donna Gates, author of The Body Ecology Diet, recommends making kefir from young coconut water before advancing to milk-based kefir.
28. Cultured (fermented) vegetables: Most fermented vegetables are cabbage-based. It’s best to make your won with culture starter as commercial products tend to use salt as a preservative.
29. Kombucha: There are many commercial brands and a multitude of flavors available now at larger grocery chains.
30. Kvass: Commonly made from rye bread, but I make a red beet kvass.
Tips 27-37: Supplements and Products
I tend to change up supplements for my symptoms. It seems that if I take the same thing, and only one thing, it is less effective over time.
27. Drink 2 to 8 ounces of carrot juice after meals. I sometimes have 2 to 4 ounces after dinner for prevention, especially if it is a meal that has given me heartburn previously. If I am reasonably certain that the meal was a bad idea, I might have 8 ounces.
28. Drink 4 ounces of aloe vera juice after meals, or at bedtime. I had a colleague that told me she drank 11 ounces every night. I personally would not drink that much without consulting my provider.
29. Take celery seed extract capsules. I take NOW celery seed extract with horse chestnut and hawthorn extract, usually 1 to 2 capsules after meals or at bedtime.
30. Take Pulsatilla, a homeopathic remedy, available in sublingual pellets. Take 3 after meals. Pulsatilla is very convenient to carry in your purse or pocket.
31. King Bio Homeopathic heartburn reliever spray. Spray 3 times into mouth for symptoms. I often keep a bottle of this in my handbag.
32. Mix ½ teaspoon of baking soda into 8 ounces of water and drink for symptoms. Baking soda is a buffer and neutralizes excess acid or balances pH if too alkali. This is my “old reliable” remedy after I have tried one or more other natural remedies with no relief.
33. Drink 1-2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar with the mother, such as Bragg’s, mixed with 1-2 ounces of water after meals.
34. Drink ginger tea after meals.
35. Drink peppermint tea after meals.
36. Rub peppermint oil on your abdomen over your stomach, or your entire abdomen if moved to do so.
37. Digize oil is available through YoungLiving.com. I dilute some with vegetable oil in a rollerball bottle and rub it on my belly every night at bedtime.
Tips 38-43: Raise the Head of Your Bed
38. Placing blocks under your headboard posts is a common recommendation for people with reflux. I never did this because it seems to me that that would stress my bedframe.
39. Place large books, such as large catalogs and phone books, between your mattress and box springs to elevate your head and upper body. A physical therapy colleague told me she recommended this for the foot of the bed when clients needed to elevate their feet.
40. Foam wedges are commercially available to place on top of your mattress. I bought one of these for less than $20. It didn’t work out that well for me, but I loaned it to a co-worker when she was pregnant, and she said it helped her a lot.
41. My sister built me a 6”-8” wedge to put between my mattress and foundation of my king-sized bed. Not long after she built it, I read that elevation should be 10”-12”. It still served me well for a few years.
42. After many years, I finally decided to get an adjustable bed. This obviously cost a lot more than any of these other options to raise the head of the bed, but I have not regretted it. What I love most is that sometimes I can actually sleep flat for a few hours. And when I’m having a bad run of reflux, I can raise the head 45 degrees or more if I need to.
43. A recliner is a great option for sleeping. It’s also a good way to take a test run to see if you would benefit before you invest in a wedge or adjustable bed. When I go to the Carolinas to visit, both my mom and my dad have a recliner in their guest room for me.
Tips 44-50: General Tips
44. Increase your activity level, even a little.
45. Don’t gain weight. Sometimes seemingly impossible I know, but it is such a common recommendation from the medical community, I had to include it.
46. Don’t wear tight clothes, especially around waist. Make sure your waistband or belt are not overly tight.
47. Do what you can to support your general health, like taking vitamins, particularly those that provide immune support. Multiple family members and I take Daily Advantage from DrWilliams.com.
48. Sleep on your left side to facilitate digestion.
49. Consider chiropractic adjustments. Adjustments to the cervical spine can enhance thyroid function to indirectly modulate reflux, and thoracic adjustments can directly benefit digestive function of the stomach.
50. Avoid ibuprofen, a common reflux trigger. I haven’t touched the stuff for years and can tell you it definitely triggered reflux in me.
Talk to Your Health Care Provider
This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Consult your doctor or alternative medicine provider.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2018 rmcrayne
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on October 06, 2018:
This a great article full of suggestions to treat the reflux. I have a very mild case every once in a while, but I am going to follow some of your suggestions. Excellent article.
Stephanie Parker on October 01, 2018:
Drinking apple cider vinegar squashed my reflux, after 10 years of problems and trying a lot of the above. Seems counterintuitive... something acidic getting rid of acid? I take 2 capfuls in the morning, few times a week, straight. I rinse my mouth with water or brush my teeth. I can eat onions, garlic, tomato-based products, and occasionally lightly spicy stuff with no GERD! It balances the tummy's ph. Even got rid of the phlegm that used to be in my throat from reflux!