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Acid Reflux and Heartburn: Symptoms, Causes, and Remedies

Author: Renu Puri

Date: 01-03-2023

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This blog addresses a very common condition that a lot of Indians face but don’t know the treatments and the cure for – Acid Reflux and GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease) 


If you are someone who has heard bizarre things like standing on one leg while making humming sounds or gulping a glass of milk will give you instant relief from acidity then you’re not alone!


Our registered dietitians have collaborated and written this blog to educate you on everything you need to know about acid reflux. By the end of this blog, you will be well acquainted with the concept, how it is triggered, its causes, symptoms, and some long-term remedies as well as quick fixes to cure the condition.


Introduction



Millions of people in India experience symptoms of Acid Reflux or GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) at least once a week. For a huge chunk of people, the effects are temporary and go away within a few hours whereas for others, the symptoms become a part of their daily life. The gut-wrenching pain associated with the condition often requires one to take a PPI medication or some kind of acidity tablet to manage the condition. Let’s be real - feeling like someone lit a fire in your GI tract is never fun! 


The intensity of symptoms for people suffering from GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) can be difficult to gauge. We often get questions during our consultations like ‘Is my condition normal?’, ‘Can it be cured naturally?’, or ‘How will it affect my day-to-day life?’. This blog aims to answer these questions in detail. 


The topic of acid reflux and GERD always brings us to one client story. Shrey, a 35-year-old client of ours, is the kind of person who lights up the room as soon as he walks in. Being the life of the party, Shrey’s social obligations and love for ‘party foods’ made him gain 20 kilograms in the past year. All the drinking, binge eating, and unhealthy habits made him feel like he was losing out on life and opportunities. The last nail in the coffin was when he woke up feeling like his chest was paining, his heart was racing, and his GI tract was on fire. His life came flashing by when he thought that these symptoms were of a stroke. His wife quickly rushed him to the emergency room just to find out that he had bad acid reflux. 


Being a top-notch athlete in his youth, Shrey’s current situation was such that did not allow him to climb 5 stairs without feeling like he was going to pass out. Every time he ate something, he felt miserable. That is when he made a promise to his wife to find a natural solution to his acid reflux problem. He threw his PPI medications and looked for ways to reduce acid reflux. He went on google and typed ‘Acidity home remedies and quick solutions’ and clicked on one of the links on the pages. 


The link directed him to an article that told an old wife’s tale, a rather unusual solution that recommended that he should try sleeping on an inclined bed, with the head of the bed elevated several inches higher than the foot of the bed. Shrey was skeptical but desperate, so he decided to give it a try.

That night, he propped up the head of his bed with some books and settled in for a good night's sleep. However, he soon realized that he had underestimated just how inclined the bed was.


As he drifted off, he began to slide down the bed, and before he knew it, he was completely upside down with his feet in the air! He struggled to right himself, but every time he tried, he just ended up slipping further down the bed. In the end, he had to call out to his wife for help. She found him dangling upside down from the bed looking utterly stupid. They both burst out laughing and Shrey had to admit that while the inclined bed didn't cure his acid reflux, it certainly provided them with a good laugh!


That is when his friend recommended niwi.ai to Shrey. Our registered dietitian created a flexible weight-loss diet for him. This diet plan was created considering Shrey’s body type, genetics, activity levels, busy schedule, and even his taste buds! Yes, you heard it right. We believe that a diet should never feel like a compromise, but rather a lifestyle that you can sustain, and that is why we recommended mouth-watering recipes to Shrey that would take care of any of his cravings and make him feel like he never left junk food. Cut to now, Shrey’s dietary modifications helped him get rid of his acid reflux and he is back to playing soccer every day with his kids.


But what really is Acid Reflux and GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease)?


Acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), is a condition in which stomach acid flows back up into the Esophagus (the tube that connects the throat to the stomach). This occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter, a muscle that normally keeps the stomach contents from flowing back up, is weakened or relaxed.


A strong and healthy lower Oesophageal sphincter shuts completely after your food enters your stomach, thereby keeping the food and your stomach acid contained within your stomach. However, a weak one does not shut tightly and can allow the acid from your stomach to leak into your Oesophagus resulting in heartburn and discomfort.


Causes of Acid Reflux 


  • Weakness or relaxation of the lower Oesophageal sphincter.
  • Hiatal hernia, a condition in which the upper part of the stomach protrudes through the diaphragm into the chest causing the lower Oesophagus sphincter to collapse and not function properly. 
  • Being obese and overweight.
  • Consuming heavy meals or lying down immediately after eating allows stomach acids to go back up into the Oesophageal.
  • Certain foods and drinks, especially oily food, spicy sauces, citrus fruits, chocolate, caffeine, and alcohol can trigger acid reflux.
  • Smoking and passive smoking.
  • Certain medicines like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, aspirin, and blood pressure medicines.
  • Pregnancy. 


Acid Reflux and GERD Symptoms


You sure have experienced acid reflux at least once in your life. The symptoms are more or less the same for a wide spectrum of people. However, it can also be very tricky to identify the difference between an episode of acid reflux and a pre-stroke / stroke. A lot of people overlook the symptoms of a heart attack thinking that it’s just acid reflux and end up with disastrous consequences. In a place like India where hospital visits are made only if the situation has gone out of hand, many people believe in self-diagnosis and self-treatment which is the worst thing to do. We understand that the symptoms of both conditions are quite similar, but if you feel like something’s not right, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Some symptoms of Acid Reflux and GERD include : 


  • nausea
  • chest pain
  • pain when swallowing
  • difficulty swallowing
  • chronic cough
  • a hoarse voice
  • bad breath


GERD and Acidity treatment


Remedies are important for acid reflux because they can help alleviate the symptoms of the condition and prevent further damage to the Oesophagus. To be honest, the only guaranteed and sustainable way to get rid of acid reflux and GERD is by making lifestyle and dietary modifications but some quick fix remedies can supplement your journey to bettering your condition.


1) Eat slowly and sparingly


Whenever you eat in haste, you end up swallowing more air which can elevate the pressure on your stomach and cause acid reflux. Eating slowly can give the stomach more time to empty and reproduce digestive enzymes that break down foods which prevent it from backing up into the Oesophagus. We always encourage our clients and supporters to try eating smaller, more frequent healthy meals rather than over-stuffing their stomachs with food many times a day.


2) Avoid some foods


If you tell your mother or grandmother that you’re having acid reflux, they would advise you to let go of flavourful foods and eat bland food till the time your symptoms cool down but this is no longer the full truth. Although we do agree that there are some foods that you should stay clear from, especially ones that might trigger your reflux, like mint, tomatoes, coffee, onions, and fried or fatty foods, you should not sideline an entire food group just for the sake of fixing the reflux. 


3) Be active after eating


A lot of health experts state the importance of being active after having meals. By active, they don’t mean you jump around like a monkey or start break dancing, it just means to sit, stand, and move around a little. Laying down or sleeping is the worst thing you can do immediately after having your meals. So if you want your acid reflux to be gone from the root, bid adieu to your afternoon naps and late-night munchies. 


4) No aerated drinks or sodas


Carbonated beverages like soda, sparkling water, cold drinks, and beer can aggravate acid reflux symptoms due to the strong carbonation and acidity. The bubbles in these drinks can cause the stomach to expand and pressurize the lower Oesophageal sphincter causing it to collapse. This in turn leads to stomach acids flowing back up. Would you believe me if I told you that the sodas and aerated drinks you enjoy thoroughly are more acidic than vinegar? Yes! You heard it right. It has a pH value of more than 2.5 which can cause extreme discomfort in the Oesophagus. Instead of carbonated drinks and sodas, explore alternatives like herbal teas, non-citric juices, and flavoured water. 


5) Quit smoking


If you’re a smoker and can’t figure out what’s causing your acid reflux, this is it. Nicotine is known to trigger the production of acids present in the stomach while simultaneously reducing saliva production. Now normally our saliva neutralizes the stomach acids in the Oesophagus but since nicotine reduces its secretion, the acid reflux is further exacerbated. Not just acid reflux, if you’re thinking of going on a health-focused journey, the first step towards it would be to quit smoking.


6) Don’t over-exert yourself after meals


I know what you’re thinking, don’t over-exert yourself? Niwi.ai just told me to move around after my meals! There’s a difference. Slight movement after meals is good for your acid reflux problem whereas rigorous movement can do quite the opposite. If you work out or have ever enrolled yourself in a gym or a fitness class, you would be aware that they recommend not eating heavy meals before workouts. This is because when you do strenuous workouts, especially toe touch or side bend, you can send acid straight to your Oesophagus. 


7) Wear loose-fitting clothes


As much as I sound like a traditional Indian father who hates the concept of skinny jeans, one can’t deny the fact that wearing loose-fitting clothes truly does help with acid reflux. This is because tight-fitting clothing especially around the waist and abdomen can increase pressure on the stomach and enhance acid reflux symptoms. Tight clothing can also put pressure on the lower Oesophageal sphincter causing it to relax. 


8) Lose weight, if needed


A huge number of research has shown that even a moderate amount of weight loss can massively improve acid reflux symptoms. One study found that people who lost an average of 10% of their body weight experienced a 40% reduction in acid reflux symptoms. If you are overweight or obese and are experiencing acid reflux symptoms, losing weight through modification of diet and a disciplined exercise regime may help in improving your symptoms and reducing your risk for long-term complications. Having an accountability partner and a guide to help you navigate safe and effective weight loss can really help fix the root cause of your acid reflux.


You see, our habits around eating become automatic and we continue to indulge in bad nutrition decisions unless actively corrected. That is why at niwi.ai, we understand the importance of being accountable to someone and having that person who motivates and pushes you in your times of weakness. We have successfully helped thousands of our clients to reach goals that they were finding very difficult to achieve alone. So, if you are tired of feeling miserable and can’t seem to figure out where you’re going wrong, we can help you get back on track.


Don’t let heartburn keep you up at night…



Whether you encounter frequent heartburn or get that uncomfortable nauseous feeling, treating your acid reflux and eliminating it from the root to find relief is the key step. Lowering the risk for future acid reflux issues is pivotal to good health. That is why we recommend managing weight, tweaking eating schedules, quitting smoking, and transforming your lifestyle to help you achieve comfort and maintain relief.


We want all of our clients and readers to live a happy and fulfilling life but not at the expense of bad health. It's easy to get caught up in the moment and forget to take care of yourself. We all do it. We're busy, we have a lot going on, and sometimes it can feel like there's just no time. In such times, just take a deep breath and remember to love your body and fuel it with good, nutritious, and healthy foods.


Seeking professional guidance could really help you navigate through these obstacles. A registered dietitian can customize a healthy diet plan for weight loss and suggest tasty options with regards to your taste buds that would not trigger your acid reflux. If you can’t resist street food, nutritionists can include healthy chaat options in your diet, or if you love Chinese food, they can suggest some great additions. You can enjoy all of the food you love and adore with little modifications and not have acid reflux. 


Ready for a health revolution? Join us on our mission to transform the nutrition landscape! 



At niwi.ai, we have helped thousands of clients transform their lives and feel stronger, more energetic, and definitely more confident in how they look and feel, by improving their relationship with food!

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