Alternative Options for GERD: Taking a Holistic Approach

For many people, the idea of depending on medication isn’t appealing. Whether you just can’t afford to spend the money on a prescription or over-the-counter medication, or you don’t want to be reliant on pharmaceuticals, you may find that a more holistic or naturalistic approach is appropriate.
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.
From old wives’ tale remedies to the burgeoning field of homeopathic and natural medicine, there are treatment options outside of taking pills, getting shots, or having surgery. 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. So, although you should be open to trying a more holistic or naturalistic approach, it’s still important to understand the potential risks and evaluate the effectiveness of your treatment plan. Finally, no matter how well your chosen remedy seems to be working, it never hurts to have an examination by a doctor, just to be sure you aren’t doing more harm than good.
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. What we present in this section are some of the more popular homeopathic remedies. There is very little to no scientific evidence to back up these remedies. And as always, talk with your doctor about what you’re considering before you try it.

Baking soda
baking soda
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. (Other doctors shudder when they contemplate the huge dose of sodium you get when you ingest baking soda.)
To understand why baking soda may work, you need to understand a little bit about baking soda. As the name implies, acid reflux involves acid — stomach acid, to be specific. You may remember from seventh-grade science class when you built that bicarbonate volcano that acids and bases neutralize each other. Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, is alkaline. This is why consuming a small amount of baking soda can help neutralize any stomach acid that’s managed to make its way into your esophagus.
The nice thing about this treatment is that it’s readily available around the house. It’s a common household cooking product that’s okay for most people to take, as long as you don’t need to monitor your sodium intake. (Check with your doctor if you’re not sure.)
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.
Most people treat reflux with baking soda by mixing ½ teaspoon to 1 teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of water. This can be very helpful for unexpected flare-ups or the occasional bout of heartburn, but it shouldn’t be used as a long-term treatment. Due to its extremely high salt content, long-term use of baking soda as a form of heartburn or reflux relief can lead to side effects like swelling and nausea.
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.
If you’re using baking soda as a heartburn remedy for more than two weeks, consult your doctor.
Acid neutralizers
Acid neutralizers are among the more common ways people treat their heartburn and acid reflux. Antacids are the most common type of acid neutralizers. The good news, if you want to take a holistic approach, is that 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. Most physicians question the validity of using a weak acid to treat heartburn and reflux. That said, there are enough people who swear by it as an effective tool that it may be worth trying. That’s up to you.
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.
Whether they’re homemade or store bought, acid neutralizers do exactly what the name says: They help to neutralize acid. This makes the pH higher, or more neutral, which means the stomach contents will do less damage to any tissue they’re exposed to. As noted, this type of treatment doesn’t solve the cause of your reflux, but it may help minimize the damage and manage the pain.
This type of treatment is especially helpful for people who suffer from severe bouts of heartburn. By neutralizing the acid in the esophagus, the burn goes away. Even more significantly, neutralization reduces the amount of esophageal damage that acid can do. As the acid is neutralized, it becomes less potent, which means it’ll be less corrosive and do significantly less damage to your esophagus, larynx, or teeth.
However, acid neutralizers only offer temporary relief. They begin working almost as soon as you take them, but the relief is only short term and it’ll do nothing to prevent future flare-ups. Because acid neutralizers work by altering the pH balance in your esophagus and stomach, your body quickly reacts by increasing acid secretion.
There are benefits to treating your acid reflux with acid neutralizers. First, they’re readily available. They’re also quite inexpensive compared to most other medical
treatments. Another big advantage is the speed at which they provide relief. Other medications and remedies can help reduce outbreaks and relieve symptoms, but none of them is as able to relieve immediate symptoms with the same speed and efficiency.
Most important, they’re generally quite safe. Unless you overuse or abuse them, there are very few side effects associated with their use.
The main problem with acid neutralizers is that they don’t do anything to address the cause of your reflux, and they don’t suppress acid all the time, just when you take them. Although taking an acid neutralizer before a meal can help stave off heartburn, it’s not going to stop your acid reflux. Instead it’s simply neutralizing the acid that is pushed into your esophagus by your reflux, before you begin to experience any pain. The neutralizer can help provide immediate relief for current or imminent symptoms, but it won’t help you with the long-term management of your reflux.

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