While many turn to over the counter antacid medications to combat the symptoms of reflux or heart burn, you must remember these are not created to be used long term. In fact, long-term use of these medications comes with some very adverse and severe side effects and risks. It is always best to get to the root cause of an illness or disorder, rather than mask the symptoms with medications.
Here are my top tips to do just that:
· Slippery Elm: While working on the dietary and lifestyle factors you can get relief from the burning sensation, without nasty side effects, by using this powder created from a tree bark. It has extremely therapeutic anti-inflammatory effects and also encourages the intestinal tract to excrete more mucus, as a protective mechanism from acid. Available in some supermarkets, health food stores and online.
· Check the diet: Common foods that cause reflux and heartburn are; alcohol, chocolate and high fat foods. Reduce or cut these out for instant relief. If these aren’t triggers for you, I recommend keeping a daily food diary and also recording when you have an episode to distinguish what your triggers may be. Babies and toddlers that are experiencing reflux are encouraged to trial a dairy free diet.
· Adapt how you eat: Slow down when eating, take smaller bites, avoid water with meals, have smaller meals and chewing more thoroughly all help to reduce symptoms. As we chew we excrete saliva, this saliva helps to neutralize and clear any stomach acid that may have entered the oesophagus.
· Plan to quit smoking: Smoking lowers the pressure within the oesophagus, allowing stomach acid to flow through the lower oesophageal sphincter resulting in reflux. Smoking also lowers the amount of saliva in the mouth, hindering its neutralizing effect on acidity.
· Eat earlier: Allow 2-3 hours between your dinner and your bedtime, also ensuring dinner is the smallest of your 3 main meals. Lying down in bed with a full stomach increases the pressure on your stomach and can encourage stomach acid to reverse into the oesophagus.
· Maintain a healthy weight: Weight loss has shown success in research studies for reducing the amount of reflux episodes, again due to reducing the pressure from excess weight on your stomach and oesophagus.