Gas, burping, bloating: all are signs of acid reflux, a common (and also very painful) digestive issue that occurs when the acid from the stomach rises into the esophagus.
In your stomach, gastric acid is a good thing: it activates digestive enzymes while at the same time destroying and preventing harmful pathogens from entering your intestinal tract.
Without stomach acid, we wouldn’t be able to digest, absorb, or assimilate nutrients – and we’d likely all end up with bacterial infections.
Normally, stomach acid stays in your stomach. But when you have acid reflux, it moves up towards your esophagus. This movement produces a painful burning sessions because your upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract isn’t protected from the harsh effects of the acid, while your stomach’s lining is.
To help you better manage and protect against the painful symptoms associated with acid reflux, I put together a list of 9 natural home remedies.
But before we get into acid reflux remedies, let’s take a look at the symptoms, causes, and long-term effects of acid reflux.
Symptoms of Acid Reflux
Since acid reflux is a condition that affects the digestive tract, other symptoms that are linked to poor digestion are commonly found with it.
These symptoms include:
- Dysbiosis (an overgrowth of bad bacteria)
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD)
- Diarrhea or Constipation
- Bad breath
- Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
- Frequent colds or flus (a sign of a weakened immune system)
- Difficulty swallowing your food
- A sour taste in your mouth (caused by stomach acid)
- Chest pain or heartburn
Since acid reflux impairs your body’s ability to absorb essential nutrients for your health, many other (and more serious) symptoms can result if long-term acid reflux (also known as GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease) goes without being treated.
Acid reflux is diagnosed as GERD if the symptoms regularly occur more than twice per week.
Common Causes of Acid Reflux (Not What You Think)
Intuitively, you’d be led to believe that if acid is coming up through the esophagus, it must mean you have high stomach acid – but it’s actually the opposite.
Although the painful, burning sensation may feel like acid is being overproduced, the most common cause of acid reflux is low stomach acid.
This can be explained in a few different ways.
First of all, stomach acid production declines as we age, and is suggested to be at its lowest production after we hit the age of 80. Not so surprisingly, the most common age group to experience acid reflux is elders, not children.
Secondly, although billions of dollars worth of pharmaceuticals are prescribed to patients each year for acid reflux, relief is best found by supplementing with extra hydrochloric acid, or Hcl (1).
If high stomach acid production was the cause of acid reflux, taking additional Hcl would worsen the condition, rather than provide relief from symptoms.
Low stomach acid can also explain why bacterial infections – like H.Pylori – are associated with GERD.
When an insufficient amount of stomach acid is being produced, there’s a greater risk for harmful microorganisms to enter the digestive tract rather than being killed off by stomach acid (2).
This is the primary reason why acid reflux can also be considered a bacterial problem.
So what causes low stomach acid in the first place?
Diet and Lifestyle Issues
Low stomach acid is primarily linked to dietary and lifestyle factors.
Chronic stress, smoking, a diet high in refined sugar, frequent antibiotic use (hint: this is why prescription drugs for acid reflux can do more harm than good), eating while multi-tasking or when upset, and consuming too much alcohol can all contribute to low stomach acid production.
Acid reflux can also occur during pregnancy, due to fluctuating hormone levels (3).
Acid reflux is not only an unpleasant condition that reduces the overall quality of your everyday life, but it can also become dangerous if left untreated – and that’s to say the underlying root cause has not been addressed, not that symptoms have been covered with a prescription drug.
Unresolved acid reflux can lead to a weakened immune system, asthma, permanent scarring and tissue damage, and in serious cases, esophageal cancer.
Why is Acid Reflux Worse at Night?
If you have acid reflux and notice it gets worse at night there could be two reasons: one, eating late at night and two, lying down while your body is digesting.
First off, the amount of stomach acid you produce decreases throughout the day, so your lowest levels of stomach acid are at night. If you eat a late meal and are already prone to acid reflux, the symptoms may become aggravated.
Second, if you’re lying down, simple body mechanics means that it’s easier for the stomach acid to travel to your esophagus.
To help combat nighttime acid reflux, try having your largest meal earlier in the day (or eat smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day to reduce the amount of stomach acid needed) and avoid lying down right after meals – sit upright instead.
Even if the symptoms of acid reflux are worse after a meal and you feel the need to lay down, lying horizontally will only make it worse.
Things to Avoid
There are specific foods that are known to aggravate symptoms of acid reflux in some people. This either due to a high acidity content (such as coffee or tomatoes), or because they can deplete stomach acid (such as ice cold water with meals or alcohol).
If you commonly experience acid reflux, try eliminating these foods/activities and see if you notice a difference:
- Garlic, Raw Onions, Spicy Food
- Ice Cold Water with Meals
- Refined Sugar
Natural Home Remedies For Acid Reflux
Although it can seem like you’re fighting a losing battle, there are several natural and effective ways to get rid of acid reflux for good – and they actually work.
Here are a few natural remedies for acid reflux to help soothe your upper GI tract, improve your stomach acid production and help promote efficient digestion.
1. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar, or ACV, is one of the most effective natural remedies for acid reflux because it mimics stomach acid.
If low stomach acid is causing acid reflux, which is the case with most people, more than likely you’ll feel quick relief from your symptoms after taking a tablespoon of ACV.
You can take apple cider vinegar straight in a shot glass, or incorporate it as an ingredient in a healthy homemade drink.
A personal favorite of mine that makes ACV taste delicious is this Apple Cider Vinegar Hawaiian Drink recipe.
Ginger has been known as a cure-all for all things digestive related, including acid reflux.
Although the exact reason why ginger is so effective for digestive issues remains unclear, it’s been suggested that as a natural anti-inflammatory, ginger helps reduce the inflammation associated with the upper GI tract when acid reflux is present (4).
[Related: 19 Anti-Inflammatory Foods You Should Eat Each Week]
3. Aloe Vera
Aloe vera is so much more than the green, bubbly goop you apply to your skin after a long day at the beach.
But the fact that we use aloe vera to soothe our skin when it’s inflamed from a sunburn suggests why this plant is also effective for reducing internal inflammation.
As a cooling, soothing plant, aloe vera helps “put out the fire” that acid reflux causes. It can be included in your diet in liquid or gel form, and diluted with water or blended into a smoothie.
When shopping for aloe vera, be sure to find the pure form – or better yet, get an aloe leaf from the Asian market or your local grocery store. Several sports drinks contain aloe vera but they also contain nearly 30 grams of sugar per serving, which will only make symptoms of acid reflux worse.
Fennel has been used for centuries to help speed up and improve digestion. Commonly used for constipation and bloating, fennel can also help reduce the symptoms of acid reflux based on its ability to promote more efficient digestion.
You can drink fennel in the form of tea, or blend freshly chopped fennel in with your smoothies.
Mastic comes from the leaves or stem of the Mediterranean evergreen tree.
It’s said to act as a natural antibacterial to kill off the harmful pathogens associated with acid reflux, such as H.Pylori and Staphylococcus. This is the primary reason why mastic has become a must-have acid reflux remedy for anyone experiencing the painful symptoms.
Mastic is most commonly chewed in the form of gum because it has a unique sticky, chewy texture.
6. Digestive Enzymes
Digestive enzymes are another effective natural remedy for acid reflux.
As you now know, you need enough stomach acid to prompt your body to produce digestive enzymes. But if there’s too little, your body may not get the memo to secrete an adequate amount of enzymes to help you digest your food properly.
If that happens, your acid reflux symptoms can flare up. For this reason, taking a plant enzyme such as bromelain or papain before each meal can help prevent the symptoms.
7. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil contains lauric acid, which is a fatty acid that contains anti-microbial properties (5).
That’s why using coconut oil for cooking, in recipes, in tea and even eating a tablespoon of it straight each day may help kill off the strains of bacteria that cause acid reflux.
8. Licorice Root
Licorice root, also known as deglycyrrhizinated licorice (or DGL), has been used for hundreds of years to help alleviate digestive disorders.
According to traditional Chinese medicine, DGL is considered a “dampening” food, which can help put out the “fire” associated with acid reflux.
DGL is also believed to soothe and release the spasms in the digestive tract that can result with acid reflux.
DGL is typically taken as a chewable tablet or capsule supplement and is also found in herbal digestive teas.
9. Slippery Elm
Slippery Elm is a type of tree, but the substance that’s commonly used to help alleviate acid reflux is extracted from its inner bark, and then dried and turned into a powder.
Slippery Elm has been studied for being a soothing and coating agent for the mouth, throat, and stomach, which is why it’s said to be one of the most effective acid reflux remedies (6).
You can take slippery elm in capsules, lozenges and herbal tea blends.
Lifestyle Cures for Acid Relux
In addition to the 9 natural remedies listed above, taking routine measures to help improve your overall health can also promote healing of the underlying cause of acid reflux, and further prevent the occurrence of symptoms.
Actions I recommend taking each day for optimal health include;
- Drinking plenty of water
- Including probiotics in your diet
- Managing stress levels
- Eating without distractions
- Chewing your food thoroughly.
These actions will not only be great for your health, but might help cut back on your symptoms, as well.