Taking a Holistic Approach to Treating Acid Reflux

By Patricia Raymond, Michelle Beaver

Lifestyle and dietary changes can be an effective method to treat acid reflux and GERD. Learning which foods to avoid, what habits to break, and watching your weight are all useful tools in your battle with reflux. But they aren’t the only tools at your disposal.

You may find that a holistic approach is effective for you. But don’t forget that such natural or homeopathic treatments may still have potential side effects. Natural is not the same as safe.

Although this approach can be helpful, it’s important to keep in contact with your doctor. She’ll help you assess whether your treatment regimen is working effectively, as well as whether it’s putting your health at risk. Just because you aren’t taking a pharmaceutical doesn’t mean there won’t be complications.

When you’re trying to find ways to handle your reflux symptoms, you may turn to the Internet to do some research. The good news: The Internet is a treasure-trove of information. The bad news: The Internet is a treasure-trove of hogwash. Just because you read something on the Internet, doesn’t mean it’s true. And as always, talk with your doctor about what you’re considering before you try it.

Baking soda

You can find lots of advice about effective ways to stave off or treat reflux or heartburn, but it turns out one old standby actually has some merit. For years, patients, as well as some doctors, have been recommending baking soda to help relieve acid reflux and heartburn symptoms.

Consuming a small amount of baking soda can help neutralize any stomach acid that’s managed to make its way into your esophagus.

Baking soda won’t treat the root cause of your acid reflux. Like antacids, it temporarily neutralizes the stomach acid. And it does so fast. That’s one of the primary advantages of using baking soda to treat your reflux. It’s fast, cheap, and available.

Feel free to pull out the baking soda for some quick relief of a painful explosion of heartburn, but don’t expect it to be a long-term treatment or solution. And if you have issues with sodium, like high blood pressure, kidney disease, or congestive heart failure, definitely check with your doctor first.

Acid neutralizers

If you want to take a holistic approach, it’s possible to make your own acid-neutralizing medications at home. Whether these work is up for debate.

Aside from getting some of the chemical compounds used commonly in antacids, such as calcium carbonate, there are other common home remedies. One of the most popular self-care remedies is to drink about 1 ounce of apple cider vinegar.

Aside from apple cider vinegar, aloe vera and coconut water have also been touted as great home remedies for heartburn and reflux, but as with apple cider vinegar, there is little to no scientific data to confirm their effectiveness.

Herbal remedies

There is a wide variety of possible herbal remedies, and some are more common than others. The first is using ginger tea to help relieve heartburn and minimize acid reflux flare-ups.

The next time you have a bout of heartburn, try adding a teaspoon of gingerroot to a cup of boiling water and let it steep for ten minutes or so. Strain the ginger out of the water before you drink it. Just like many of the acid neutralizers, this particular remedy works quickly — some people claim nearly immediate reduction of symptoms.

Chamomile, mint, or fenugreek tea have also been recommended for reducing acid reflux symptoms.

Some dietitians believe that fenugreek seeds can be an effective treatment against heartburn and reflux as well. One or two teaspoons added to your food may help coat the lining of your stomach, making it more difficult for acid to move up your esophagus. The seeds may also help prevent inflammation and damage to your stomach, which may help reduce your risk for stomach ulcers.

Some dietitians believe that herbal supplements like slippery elm have also been shown to soothe the digestive tract and help reduce heartburn and acid reflux attacks. Again, the scientific community has not proven this, so try at your own risk.

Digestive enzymes

Some people who suffer from chronic acid reflux may be able to find relief by taking digestive enzymes. Usually a homeopathic specialist will want to develop digestive enzymes specifically for you. He’ll develop these digestive compounds based on the specifics of your case and your symptoms. The two most commonly used ingredients in these homemade digestive enzymes are slippery elm and licorice root.

Chewing gum

If you deal with the searing pain and discomfort associated with acid reflux and GERD, the idea that something as simple as chewing gum could help cure your reflux may seem preposterous. However, there is increasing evidence that this just may be the case. But how does it work?

First, chewing gum helps with the production of saliva. Saliva can play a critical role in helping clear acid from the esophagus, throat, and larynx. The more saliva you produce, the more you’ll swallow, which will make it harder for acid to work its way up the esophagus. On top of that, the alkaline nature of saliva helps neutralize any acid it comes into contact with.

Natural licorice

Licorice or licorice extract is commonly used by homeopathic practitioners to treat digestive system complaints such as stomach ulcers, heartburn, colic, and chronic gastritis (an ongoing inflammation of the lining of the stomach). It’s been used to help relieve sore throats and coughs, both of which can be symptoms of acid reflux.

Generally, licorice will be combined with several other herbs when it’s used in the treatment of acid reflux. The most common herbs that are combined with licorice to treat reflux include angelica, caraway, celandine, clown’s mustard plant, German chamomile, lemon balm, milk thistle, and peppermint leaf. Just like digestive enzymes, the exact combination of ingredients will depend on your specific case.