While there are many over the counter remedies and prescription drugs that do work for heartburn, don't loose sight of the fact that reflux and indigestion are signs that your body is in need of a change of diet and lifestyle. Rather than living on antacids, get to work on changing your diet and lifestyle, and make the heartburn disappear.
Reflux is one of the most common symptoms of a digestive system that is under stress and in need of help. The great news there is many ways that this presentation can be improved.
1. “Breakfast like a King, Lunch like a Prince and Dine like a pauper”. In other words make the largest meal of the day breakfast where you can use the energy for the day, and the smallest meal dinner, so that reflux is less at night.
2. Loose weight. Excessive weight increases intra-abdominal pressure and makes reflux worse. This is one of the most common reasons for worsening of reflux symptoms.
3. Eat the evening meal early (at least 3 hours before bed). This will ensure the stomach is empty before bed, and reduce heartburn during the night.
4. Chew food carefully and only swallow a mouth-full that is fully broken up.
5. Stop, sit down to eat, and focus on digesting the food. Take a break to eat.
6. Increase fresh vegetables as these are high in fibre, and much easier to digest than animal proteins (eg meat, dairy etc).
7. Reduce red meat portion size to no larger than a hand palm 3 nights per week.
8. Avoid oranges, mandarins and tomatoes as well as the juice of these.
9. Sleep on left side. The stomach is lower than the oesophagus when you lay on your left side, helping reduce the chance for reflux.
10. Eliminate coffee (with and without caffeine), tea, chocolate bars and drinks, cola drinks, and alcohol. These beverages decrease sphincter tone and promote reflux.
11. Stay upright after eating (don't lay down in front of the TV, or on a bed)
12. Sleep with your head slightly raised (on 2 pillows).
13. Drink apple cider vinegar (or lemon juice) in water 10 minutes before meals. Mix 5ml of apple cider vinegar with half cup of warm water and drink before meals.
14. Keep a diary of foods/drinks/activities that aggravate the condition and avoid these until symptoms subside then try re-introducing them. Dairy foods are a common culprit.
15. Avoid having seconds; and keep meal sizes to a sensible minimum.
16. Quit smoking as cigarettes worsen the symptoms of reflux.
17. Avoid late night snacks, especially just before bed.
18. Avoid high fat meals as these slow transit time through the stomach and therefore increase reflux.
19. Avoid tight clothing around the abdomen as this may increase pressure in the stomach and promote reflux.
20. Exercise regularly, half hour of brisk walking per day is all it takes.
21. Reduce stress and anxiety as these contribute negatively on the whole process of digestion
If after implementing all of these changes reflux still persists, herbal and nutritional medicine interventions may be utilised to promote healing of the digestive lining, increase lower oesophageal sphincter tone and improve digestion.