Gnawing, chest pain, burning uncomfortably behind the breast bone, a sore throat… I remember patients vehemently complaining about the signs and symptoms of reflux — commonly called heartburn because of, well, the burn — many without knowing their problem stemmed from the join between their stomach and oesophagus.
This issue can vary from annoying to intense, slight discomfort to all-but-disabling for some. It is caused when acid from the stomach rises into the oesophagus, or food pipe. The stomach is incredibly well designed for digestion and the acids needed to breakdown the foods we consume. The oesophagus is designed for delivery; to transport the food from our mouths and to the digestive pouch that is our tummy… not for handling burning chemicals. Yes, I do mean burning.
As Wonderopolis puts it:
“Stomach acid is very acidic, with pH measurements (that place it) in the same approximate category as battery acid. If you… put a drop of stomach acid on a piece of wood, it would eat right through it.”
So what foods can encourage our own personal battery acid to rise above its station?
We’ll take a look at food and drinks commonly linked to reflux in a moment, including one considered a super food. I also want to encourage you to read our article, Acid Reflux: What Is It And What You Can Do About It, Naturally. It’ll help.
Foods and beverages linked to reflux include…
I know, I know… the news you least wanted to hear. Chocolate relaxes the lower oesophageal sphincter, or the biological door between the oesophagus and the stomach, allowing the stomach acid to bubble up painfully into the oesophagus.
2. Coffee Lover?
The proof is in the pudding sorry, cup! Coffee has been shown to increase reflux, although it doesn’t appear to be a direct result of caffeine. Tea, anyone?
3. Cow’s Milk
Farahmand and team looked at cows milk in their study, Cow’s Milk Allergy Among Children with Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. They showed that elimination of cow’s milk was key, concluding that it may aggravate, or explain, non-responsive GERD.
4. Gluten Containing Foods
A research article by Usai and colleagues in The Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology showed going gluten-free may help reduce the symptoms and recurrence of reflux in people with celiac disease.
While I don’t have celiac’s, gluten and reflux, for me, go hand in hand. I found clinically this is common too. For approximately one year my upper stomach area was so sensitive it was difficult to wear a wired bra. With an endoscope and gastroscope unable to explain the cause of my pain, I continued to search for the key. When I realize the problems I experienced with gluten consumption and stopped, the relief was immense. It’s not always easy to identify causes of a health challenge, so try alternate approaches and see if they work for you.
5. Peppermint tea
A study published in Gastroenterology Review, looked at the dietary risk factors for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and noted daily consumption of peppermint tea was linked to an increase in symptoms. Peppermint has traditionally been recommended for people with tummy troubles, so this finding could simply identify an attempt to curtail an already underlying issue, not a cause. Still, if you are a passionate peppermint tea drinker with a chest on fire, it might be worth culling the tea for a month in order to observe any change.
Other Reflux Busting Tips Include…
For the vast majority of sufferers, reflux can be helped, and naturally. Here are three further tips that may give you the relief you seek…
1) Don’t eat close to bedtime. The excessive pressure in your stomach prior to laying down may trigger signs and symptoms.
2) Lose weight, where needed.
3) Speaking of food… Last, but certainly not least, a Mediterranean-style food plan combined with alkaline water might be your best bet. Dr. Craig H. Zalvan, MD, FACS, head of Otolaryngology, Phelps Hospital, Northwell Health, conducted research revealing likely benefits for those suffering from reflux. The conclusions?
Stick to a whole food-based diet, consisting of “mostly fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts with near complete cessation of dairy and meats including beef, chicken, fish, eggs and pork.” I’d add here, low glycaemic load gluten-free grains if opting to include these in your food plan.
With the right approaches, appropriate testing to rule out other causes, and a little trial and error, it is possible to relieve your reflux and the signs and symptoms which come with it.