It feels as bad as it sounds: Semidigested food and acid rise up into the esophagus (the tube that connects the stomach and mouth), triggering regurgitation, all while you're having heartburn.
The symptoms could indicate gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which can damage the esophagus over time. Experts from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore explain how to deal with reflux naturally.
A Gastroenterologist's Take
Patrick Okolo, MD
"If you develop heartburn suddenly, you need to be evaluated by a physician, especially if you're having other symptoms like difficulty breathing, swallowing, or weight loss. Once you've ruled out other serious conditions, an integrative approach, including weight management and relaxation, is important."
To reduce and block stomach acid, doctors may prescribe proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) in addition to other drugs that aid digestion or promote healing in the esophagus.
A Nutritionist's Take
Gerard E. Mullin, MD
Common triggers are fatty, spicy, or acidic foods, such as chocolate, tomatoes, onions, fried things, alcohol, and caffeine. Any heavy meal can trigger reflux, though, especially if consumed after 7 p.m. For some, even food sensitivities can prompt reflux. "Patients who suspect a food may be causing symptoms should go on an elimination diet, then reintroduce foods while tracking any reactions."
Shed excess pounds, which can put pressure on the stomach and push up food. To ease digestion, chew completely before swallowing, which helps digestive enzymes break down food particles. Try natural soothers, such as aloe vera juice, cooked vegetables, and chewing gum to neutralize acid. Slippery elm and marshmallow root herbs can provide relief by "coating the irritated tissues of the esophagus," Mullin says. Add gut-friendly ginger root supplements to your daily regimen.
An Integrative Medicine Specialist's Take
Linda Lee, MD
Stress seems to be a major risk factor for developing GERD. "Paying attention to diet helps, as well as using mind-body measures to reduce stress. This might include meditation, yoga, or massage therapy. Acupuncture has been shown to help improve symptoms when used with certain drugs that reduce gastric acid production."
Loosen up. Give yourself enough flexibility in your day to relieve tension and enough room in your pants to breathe. "Some patients say that wearing control panties worsens symptoms by increasing pressure against the abdomen," Lee says. And put gravity on your side by propping up the head of your bed six inches with books.