Acid Reflux & Heartburn

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The Pure TheraPro Team

The Pure TheraPro Education Team is comprised of researchers from diverse backgrounds including nutrition, functional medicine, fitness, supplement formulation & food science. All articles have been reviewed for content, accuracy, and compliance by a holistic integrative nutritionist certified by an accredited institution.
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Let’s discuss an often-overlooked condition that affects millions of people worldwide: Acid Reflux and/or Heartburn. In the United States alone, an estimated 20% of the population experiences these symptoms regularly. This means over 60 million Americans grapple with acid reflux at least once a month. A substantial portion of this demographic—around 15 million people—experiences symptoms daily.

Acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) when it’s chronic, occurs when stomach acid flows back into the esophagus, the tube connecting the mouth to the stomach. The lower esophageal sphincter (LES), a ring of muscle at the bottom of the esophagus, normally prevents this backward flow. However, when the LES weakens or relaxes abnormally, acid can splash back into the esophagus, causing irritation and discomfort.

While occasional heartburn might not raise an alarm, chronic acid reflux can lead to more severe complications, such as esophagitis, Barrett’s esophagus, strictures, respiratory issues, and dental problems. Ignoring persistent symptoms can lead to long-term damage and a decreased quality of life.

Symptoms of Acid Reflux

1. Heartburn
A telltale sign of acid reflux is heartburn—an intense burning sensation in the chest that might extend to the throat. Heartburn often occurs after meals or when lying down and can worsen at night. Understanding the triggers for heartburn, such as specific foods or activities, can help individuals manage this common symptom.

2. Regurgitation
Regurgitation is when stomach contents flow back into the mouth, leaving a tang of sour or bitter taste. This unpleasant symptom can occur on its own or accompany heartburn and may be more noticeable when bending over or lying down. 

3. Difficulty Swallowing (Dysphagia)
Persistent acid reflux can lead to the development of esophageal strictures, making swallowing difficult. Dysphagia can sometimes feel like food is getting stuck in your throat or chest.

4. Chronic Cough
Chronic coughing can be a symptom of acid reflux when stomach acid flows back into the esophagus and irritates the sensitive tissues at the back of the throat. This irritation can trigger the body’s natural response to clear the airways, leading to persistent coughing. While heartburn is a more commonly recognized symptom of acid reflux, the absence of it doesn't rule out the possibility of acid reflux-related coughing.

What causes Acid Reflux?

1. Weak Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES)
The LES is a crucial component in preventing acid reflux. When it weakens or relaxes inappropriately, stomach acid can easily flow back into the esophagus. Factors such as obesity, certain medications, and genetic predisposition can contribute to the weakening of the LES.

2. Hiatal Hernia
A hiatal hernia occurs when a portion of the stomach pushes through the diaphragm into the chest cavity. This displacement can compromise the function of the LES, leading to acid reflux. Hiatal hernias are often associated with age and increased intra-abdominal pressure, such as during pregnancy or obesity.

3. Pregnancy
Pregnant women are particularly prone to acid reflux due to hormonal changes and the pressure exerted on the stomach by the growing uterus. While often temporary, it’s essential to manage symptoms during pregnancy for maternal comfort and well-being.


4. Smoking and Alcohol
Both smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can weaken the LES and contribute to acid reflux. Additionally, these habits may increase stomach acid production, exacerbating the condition. Quitting smoking and moderating alcohol intake are positive steps towards managing acid reflux.

What happens if you leave it untreated?
While acid reflux may seem like a harmless inconvenience, leaving it untreated can lead to severe complications affecting multiple aspects of your health.

  • Esophagitis
Untreated acid reflux can cause inflammation of the esophagus, a condition known as esophagitis. This inflammation may lead to discomfort, pain, and difficulty swallowing. Chronic esophagitis can contribute to more severe complications.

  • Barrett’s Esophagus
In some cases, long-term exposure to stomach acid can result in changes to the lining of the esophagus, a condition called Barrett’s esophagus. This alteration increases the risk of developing esophageal cancer. Regular monitoring and treatment are necessary to manage Barrett’s esophagus and reduce the risk of progression.

  • Strictures
Repeated injury to the esophagus from acid reflux can lead to the formation of scar tissue, causing the esophagus to narrow. This narrowing, known as a stricture, can result in difficulty swallowing.

  • Respiratory Issues and Dental Problems
Stomach acid that makes its way into the throat and airways can lead to respiratory problems. Chronic cough, wheezing, and exacerbation of conditions such as asthma may occur. Treating acid reflux can alleviate respiratory symptoms and improve overall lung health.

The corrosive nature of stomach acid can have detrimental effects on dental health. Untreated acid reflux may contribute to tooth erosion, cavities, and gum disease.

How can you effectively prevent it?


1. Lifestyle and Dietary Modifications

Taking charge of acid reflux often means adjusting your lifestyle and diet to dial down symptoms and boost your digestive health. Adopting these changes can significantly contribute to the effectiveness of treatment and enhance your quality of life.

2. Dietary Recommendations

Limit Trigger Foods: Identify and limit consumption of foods that commonly trigger acid reflux, including citrus fruits, tomatoes, chocolate, spicy foods, and caffeine. Keeping a A food diary can help pinpoint specific triggers.

Eat Smaller, More Frequent Meals: Consuming smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day rather than three large meals can reduce the likelihood of overloading the stomach, minimizing the potential for acid reflux. Refrain from eating large meals close to bedtime. Giving your body ample time to digest food before lying down can reduce the risk of acid reflux during sleep.

Weight Management: Maintaining a healthy weight is crucial in managing acid reflux. Excess weight, especially around the abdominal area, puts additional pressure on the stomach and can exacerbate symptoms. Incorporating regular physical activity and adopting a balanced diet can contribute to weight management and overall well-being.

Cutting Out Smoking and Alcohol: Both smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can weaken the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), contributing to acid reflux. Quitting smoking and moderating alcohol intake are crucial steps in managing symptoms and preventing further complications.

Medications for Acid Reflux

In cases where lifestyle and dietary modifications alone may not provide enough relief, medications are often prescribed to manage acid reflux symptoms effectively. Having a good understanding of the various medication options available is a valuable asset when it comes to making informed decisions.

  • Antacids

Antacids are over-the-counter medications that provide quick relief by neutralizing stomach acid. They are often used on an as-needed basis for occasional symptoms. Common ingredients in antacids include calcium carbonate, magnesium hydroxide, and aluminum hydroxide. Long-term use may lead to kidney problems, an increased risk of fractures, and potential interactions with other medications.

  • H2 Blockers
Histamine-2 (H2) blockers reduce the production of stomach acid by blocking histamine, a chemical that stimulates acid secretion. Popular H2 blockers include ranitidine, famotidine, and cimetidine. These medications are available over-the-counter or with a medical prescription, depending on their strength. Long-term use can lead to vitamin B12 deficiency and an increased risk of bone fractures.

  • Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs)
PPIs are potent medications that inhibit the production of stomach acid by blocking the proton pump in the stomach lining. Examples include omeprazole, lansoprazole, and esomeprazole. PPIs are usually prescribed for more severe or persistent cases of acid reflux and are available in both over-the-counter and prescription forms.

  • Alginate Antacids
Alginate antacids work by creating a protective barrier on the surface of the stomach contents, helping prevent reflux into the esophagus. These medications often contain alginic acid, sodium bicarbonate, and an antacid component.

While all these medications can provide relief, they should only be used under the guidance of a healthcare professional to ensure proper dosages are administered. It’s worth noting that medications alone may not address the root causes of acid reflux, and a comprehensive approach that includes lifestyle modifications, as discussed in previous sections, is typically recommended. Additionally, prolonged use of certain medications, especially PPIs, may have potential risks.

Natural Remedies and Home Treatments


In addition to medications and lifestyle modifications, natural remedies and home treatments offer an alternative that can play a valuable role in managing acid reflux.

1. Ginger and Aloe Vera

Both ginger and aloe vera have properties that support a healthy inflammatory balance and may help soothe the irritation caused by acid reflux. Consuming ginger tea or incorporating aloe vera juice into your routine may provide relief for some individuals. It’s important to note that individual responses to these remedies can vary, and consulting with a healthcare provider is advisable.

2. Dietary Fiber

A diet rich in dietary fiber can promote digestive health and may help prevent symptoms of acid reflux. Fiber helps regulate bowel movements and can contribute to a feeling of fullness, potentially reducing the likelihood of overeating. Whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes are excellent sources of dietary fiber.

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3. Slippery Elm
Slippery elm, a traditional herbal remedy, is known for its mucilage content, which can create a protective layer in the esophagus. This may help alleviate irritation caused by stomach acid. Slippery elm is available in various forms, including lozenges and capsules.

4. Proper Hydration
Water helps neutralize stomach acid and supports the digestive process. It’s advisable to avoid excessive consumption of acidic or carbonated beverages, as they can contribute to acid reflux symptoms. Sipping water throughout the day and staying adequately hydrated contributes to overall well-being and digestive comfort.

Beverages containing caffeine, such as coffee, tea, and cola, can contribute to acid reflux by relaxing the LES. Additionally, carbonated drinks can introduce gas into the digestive system, potentially exacerbating symptoms. Choosing decaffeinated options and reducing carbonated beverage intake would be ideal if you have chronic acid reflux.

Managing acid reflux involves understanding, taking proactive measures, and seeking professional advice for relief and well-being. Untreated acid reflux can lead to complications, highlighting the importance of proactive management. Lifestyle modifications, dietary adjustments, medications, and natural remedies create a blueprint for dealing with acid reflux. Managing acid reflux effectively alleviates symptoms and leads to an improved quality of life.

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