Do you have a burning feeling in your gut? Not the inspiring, intuition-tapping-on-your-shoulder kinda feeling that tells you to ask that gal out, book the plane ticket or quit your dead-end job. The burning feeling that comes from digestive issues, specifically acid reflux, heartburn and GERD. If you’ve been struggling with this, I want to assure you that you can get relief!
To kick-off your healing journey, we’ll begin with a little knowledge about the differences between these bad boys. And because I understand how uncomfy and downright painful these suckers can be, we’ll also unearth the causes and most importantly, give you some remedies that can help ease your symptoms and soothe your precious system.
When you’re dealing with any (or all) of these, they can disrupt not only your days and nights, but also your overall quality of life. Here’s the good news: these digestive woes can usually be controlled with a little treatment and prevention. Hallelujah! Alrighty, follow me down the esophagus so we can figure this out and get ya back on track…
What’s the Difference Between Acid Reflux, GERD and Heartburn?
Let’s start with acid reflux—the backward flow of stomach acid into the esophagus. It’s very common and may or may not be serious. Anytime that acid decides to go up instead of down, you’re dealing with reflux. The tricky thing is it can present itself in a variety of ways. When you experience acid reflux, it can result in heartburn, sore throat, cough, a bitter taste in the back of the throat, burping and just feeling really overly full.
When acid reflux becomes chronic, it’s typically diagnosed as GERD (a.k.a. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease). This is like ongoing acid reflux, meaning it just won’t quit. GERD is usually diagnosed when reflux occurs more than twice a week on a regular basis. Folks with GERD often experience asthma, chest pain, dry cough, swallowing difficulties and frequent regurgitation (yuck!). It’s a more severe form of acid reflux and usually doesn’t respond to over-the-counter antacid or acid-neutralizing meds. For this reason, doctors often prescribe meds which work to limit acid production in the stomach and speed up stomach emptying so that acid has less of a chance of wreaking havoc.
Not only is GERD chronically painful, it can lead to permanent damage to the lining of the esophagus and even increase your risk of developing esophageal cancer, so it isn’t something to brush off or just learn to live with.
Now how does heartburn fit in the mix? It’s actually a symptom of acid reflux or GERD. You know that burning and tightening pain you might feel? That’s heartburn. It also comes from stomach acid that’s making its way back up the esophagus (heading in the wrong direction!). Although the name tends to hint otherwise, heartburn has nothing to do with the heart itself. It’s often mistaken for heart attack pain, but there’s no relation.
So now that we understand what each of these stomach acid issues are, let’s figure out what’s causing them.
The most common cause of acid reflux comes from foods that increase (or create too much) stomach acid. And it can be much worse when you eat any of these on an empty stomach. Here’s a list of foods to avoid if you’re dealing with stomach acid problems:
- Fried foods
- Spicy foods
- Processed foods (anything with artificial ingredients)
- Buttery foods
- High-fat meat
- Acidic foods, like tomatoes and vinegar
- Citrus fruits, like strawberries, oranges, grapefruit, lemon and lime
- Coffee (both regular and decaf)
Now some of these foods, like tomatoes, vinegar, citrus fruits, garlic and onions, are incredibly healthy. So once you’ve remedied the acid-reflux issues and given your system a chance to heal, you may be able to add small servings of them back in without a problem.
But there are a few other causes to look out for aside from your food choices. Eating big meals (think giant portions), being overweight and smoking all increase your chances of having acid reflux-related issues, too.
Ok, now that we’ve got the causes down—who’s coming with me to look at treatment options?
Ways to Remedy
Luckily, there are quite a few things you can try which will likely help you reduce heartburn and acid reflux issues. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, but there are options and that’s always a good thing. Read on!
Shed those extra pounds
Carrying around extra weight increases the pressure on your midsection and the hormones that help regulate pressure in your digestive system. This is why things are getting backed up and flowing backward. Even weight gain of 10 to 15 lbs above healthy weight can increase pressure enough to trigger heartburn and acid reflux. So weight loss may help reduce your symptoms. In one study of over 10,000 women, losing 10 to 15 pounds decreased heartburn by 40%—that’s pretty remarkable!
Find the right sleep position
Keep your head elevated when you’re in bed. This is proven to improve pH of stomach acid—meaning it’ll be less acidic. And our good friend gravity will help prevent the backward flow of acid. Want another sleep tip? Avoid laying on your right side as this may worsen reflux.
Be mindful of your plate
One of the best things you can do is to make food and meal size choices that won’t worsen acid in your system—and this is the tip that helped so many of our Crazy Sexy You friends during our 21-day total wellness program. If you can avoid large meals, fried foods, high-fat foods, especially from animal products (which stay in your stomach longer), and processed foods, you can greatly reduce your acid levels and find relief. Even large, healthy meals can cause problems. So reducing portion sizes and eating partial meals in a couple of sittings may help prevent reflux, as well. Also, check out that list of food triggers above and try to avoid or limit your intake, especially of spicy foods and acidic foods, like tomatoes, citrus and vinegar. It also may help to eliminate coffee (yes, this means decaf, too—sorry!). Do what feels best for you and see if shifting your diet helps things start flowing the right way again.
Press pause and unwind
Carve out time for relaxation and de-stressin’. When you feel tense, your body feels it, too. And sometimes, a little R&R goes a long way. Meditation is a wonderful way to unplug from the world. If you’re new, you can check out my free Pep Talk meditation here to get started. Take a bath, read a book, go for a walk, look at the stars. Do whatever makes you feel less stressed and more chill. Another thing you may want to try are essential oils. (I’m a big fan!)
Try out some supplements or medication
Digestive enzymes and probiotics are wonderful supplements that can help ease and boost digestion. You may want to add these to your diet and see if they make a difference. However, if your symptoms are affecting your quality of life or showing up more than a couple times a week, then it might be time to talk to your doc and look into over-the-counter or prescription medications for help.
Your turn: I hope this article helps you! If you’re struggling with these issues, share what’s going on in the comments below—perhaps we can offer some other solutions, or at least offer you an understanding shoulder.
Peace and smoothed digestion,
Check out my best-selling book, Crazy Sexy Diet, for more tips on restoring your gut & getting back on track to vibrant health and happiness! Get Crazy Sexy Diet here.
Great article. I treat people with these issues regularly. These techniques are so effective and easy to implement.
I love your newsyletters! This one really hits home for me and presents a teachable moment to your readers. All of the symptoms you discuss can also be the first and only symptoms of ovarian cancer. Any woman who is experiencing symptoms of gerd, acid reflux, feeling full quickly, and/or bloating – especially if these are a new development – needs to be aware.
I was diagnosed in 2011. I had never experienced heartburn or acid reflux prior to that time. In fact, I went to see a GI doc three months before my dx and was given the standard treatment of acid reducers. If not for the pelvic pain which finally developed, I would not have gone to my gyn.
I am now in my third recurrence of this disease (it likes to come back), and I can tell you that the symptoms of gerd have always been the first signs of its return for mr.
The moral of the story is ask the doc for a CA125 test if symptoms of gut problems are new or ongoing.
Kate Souder I love your juicing book! You’re an inspiration.
Kate, thank you so so much for sharing this! Much love to you!
Thanks so much for addressing this. I do have GERD and these treatments do help. I notice mine start to subside when I reduce/eliminate coffee, smaller meals etc. Letting go of the weight is a little tougher but it does happen with the elimination of sugar…I just get depressed/sad at all the things I have to eliminate to create a small measure of relief and success and tired of always having to watch and micromanage everything little thing that goes in my mouth because I also have numerous food sensitivities along with it.
Good Morning Kris,
I was diagnosed with barrett’s esophagus, about 5 years ago mainly do to stress….I hold it all in. Anyway I found you on the internet when I googled “inflamation” and began my juicing journey, and on rare occasions need to take medication. I started with your cookbook which I love and also have your juicing book. I now juice daily and eat a lot of veggies, and try to meditate when I can.
You are a blessing,
So wonderful Jeanne! Sending lots of love your way! xo, kc
I started reading very hopeful to get some good tips on how to get rid of GERD but am I missing something? Where are the remedies you are referring to? As much as those tips are nice but they are not remedies and if one truly is suffering from GERD none of them will help with that. Trust me, i tried them all. The headline was rather misleading, unfortunately.
Hi Claudia! I’m a dietitian and the nutrition director here at Crazy Sexy Wellness, so I’ll chime in. First of all, I’m sorry you’ve tried so many remedies for GERD without success. Unfortunately, in some cases, prescription meds are necessary in order to heal your system and find relief. However, as discussed under “Ways to Remedy,” with mild weight loss (if you’re carrying extra weight), good quality digestive enzymes and probiotics, and diet changes, it’s possible that over time you can slowly wean off of GERD meds. But, once doing so, you need to be extra diligent with your diet, supplements, and stress management so that heartburn and GERD don’t return. If you haven’t already, you may want to check in with an integrative doc to see if there are other reasons hindering your GERD relief, and perhaps find some additional solutions. Sending lots of smooth digestive vibes your way! xo – Jen
I just wanted to add, see my post above…. When I was diagnosed with barrett’s esophagus I also was diagnosed with an ulcer….I was a mess, once that was cleared up with medication and I started juicing and adding more plant based dishes to my diet I started to heal and wean off the medication….most of theses medications are bad for your bones. Now I rarely need medication. You have to stop the inflammation!
Thanks Kris. Love you ? and your words of inspiration. I shared on FB @BalancedHolisticHealth.
I think it would be wise to mention achlorydia as this feels similar to acid reflux but is more often the problem. And antacids and the like will really ruin you. 🙁
I agree!! I’ve heard that most reflux is caused by too little stomach acid!
I was going to say the same. Most of the time it is too little acid, and not too much, which causes the problems.
I can confirm this, I have some family members that were suffering from acid reflux, they healed after they started to take apple cider vinegar every day.
Thank you for addressing this Kris. This form of cancer is one of the faster growing cancers. (most cases) A lot of people also suffer from “silent” reflux. There is usually no heartburn. My symptom is coughing. I cough all the time. It’s very difficult because people always think there something really wrong with me. Everyone is always very concerned. Or they may think I’m contagious with something awful. If you have this condition you should see a specialist to see how progressed you are. In my case I was given medication for decades. The medication doesn’t stop the progression of the disease, just the symptoms. They also may cause many side effects that you don’t want. Just see a specialist and follow the diet like Kris explained. Losing weight is key. Main takeaway is that this condition can be very serious and you need to take action such as Kris explained.
Thank you for sharing—this is so very helpful! xo, kc
Hi Dwynne (and Kris too),
Thank you for sharing! I also have silent acid reflux (also know as LPR – short for Laryngopharyngeal reflux – whew) in which the acid goes all the way up to the larynx (for all those who are not familiar). It’s unfortunate that this condition is not well known or mentioned much. It’s gotten so little press coverage that I’d have to wonder just how serious it really is. Maybe I’ve been wrong…..pretty scary. Anyway, I found something on-line a number of years ago worth looking into. Did it help me? Not sure; I have a problem sticking with anything (being a food fanatic, even healthy food, doesn’t help), but he does have some really good ideas and insights. Worth checking out.
I am on a lot of medications due to a kidney transplant (a MIRACLE) and have found that taking my meds and vitamins on an empty can cause heartburn and even GERD. The probiotics really do help. Also, I found Aloe Water (made from the Aloe plant), mixed with some water (I sip it instead of just water) is very soothing to the stomach. And definitely don’t go to sleep with a really full stomach. I was really bad for a while but my Mom is into nutrition and these are the things we discovered. Also, if you take Tums or something like that, take them with a small sip of water, but not a lot to let them work their way down. Any other tips are welcome. Thanks for this article. It was really scarey for a while.
Wonderful tips, Viki. Sending love your way. xo, kc
An often overlooked root cause is the alignment of the upper body to the pelvis and head. Most people with these issues have a misaligned ribcage and a forward head position.
I have been diagnosed with GERD and I have a persistent cough and a feeling of a lump in my throat after eating or upon arising in the morning. I have listened to Donna Schwenk and her Hayhouse program about cultured foods and how they can remedy this condition. I am now drinking Kombucha and eating cultured vegetables and getting some relief. Perhaps you could direct some people to this information.
I experienced chest pains, left arm pain and jaw pain at 4:00 am one morning. A trip to the ER and an overnight stay at the hospital revealed it was not a heart attack but severe acid reflux that persisted. First time I’ve ever had any issues with acid reflux so I did all kinds of research on my own. I eliminated wheat, dairy and meat from my diet, juiced with celery, cucumber, ginger and parsley to calm my stomach first thing in the morning and found out about a supplement called Mastic Gum. It comes in capsule form and the best name brand is Jarrow. I take one in the morning and one at night before bed on an empty stomach. The otc antacids didn’t work well and I really wanted something more holistic. It took me a year to get to the point where I’m feeling good again, but it was well worth it. For me I think stress played a big factor and even though I’ve always thought I lived a healthy lifestyle, I found I could do more. I have to say that body movement is also a big help. Move that body! It doesn’t matter what you do, just do something that is fun. It definitely will help with the stress and know that it will take sometime for your body to align itself again. Thank you for the article Kris and good luck to all who experience this problem. Blessings!
Beverly, thank you for sharing! Blessings to you too, honey! xo, kc
I used to have a major problem with acid reflux, but using a little apple cider vinegar (WITH the mother in it) before meals has cured me! I also make sure to stop eating three hours before bedtime. The acv is so good for so many things, and it’s easy, healthy, and inexpensive!! 🙂
Hi Julie, I have found the same thing with raw ACV, it really surprised me as I thought it would provoke acidity. I still get reflux but it may have improved (I have a hiatus hernia). However it appears to be soothing and apparently helps protect against oesophageal cancer, and as there is increased risk from acid reflux, this is brilliant.
Thank you Kris! I find that I get heartburn if I eat too much bread or flour products so I try to stay away. I guess that falls under the process food category. When I fail to stay away and get heartburn, I find a huge relief from one drop of Digize essential oil blend from Young Living under my tongue. Taste nasty but goes away quickly and helps so much!
A tablespoon of baking soda mixed with water provides natural temporary relief.
Hi Kris! I am a long time follower and CSY x3 alum. As a heartburn sufferer, I enjoyed reading your post and would like to add one more cause of heartburn/reflux/gastro issues – foods that have high histamine or cause a histamine reaction in your body. A lot of healthy foods can cause a histamine response in the body without actually being allergic to it. I was eating clean 95% of the time and still suffered from heartburn until I learned about this cause. After following a low histamine diet my symptoms have improved greatly. This is not something that a lot of people are talking about so I wanted to bring it up. Best to you always!
Shelby, yes! In recent years, histamines have become a huge problem for me. Not eating foods high in histamine has helped my gut & the mast cell reactions that cause so much misery.
I’ve dealt with severe bouts of this, twice, with chest pain like a knife. Thought it was my heart. I am really reluctant to take medicine (took some the first time, and only for a few days the second time because I was reading about the theory of it being too little acid) and I so I ate REALLY bland foods – oatmeal, toast, rice at the worst – and then read about food combining (you can look it up on the web) and followed that and eventually got better. The second time I made myself a tea of fennel seed, chamomile, and calendula which I drank. I also elevated the head of my bed. Took me 6 weeks to heal. I have learned my food sensitivities through testing – am now gluten free – and if I ever get a flareup (not often and doesn’t last more than a day and usually less) I take it as a checkpoint to see what in my life is causing me stress. I wish everyone facing this much success in healing. It is possible, and all these tips are wonderful and will help towards healing. Thank you, Kris!
I know the awful feeling all too well. 10 months ago I awoke in the night with non-stop heartburn and pain in my chest, which brought me to the ER where I was diagnosed as GERD, seemingly out of nowhere (although I had recently returned from an indulging trip to Jamaica). I was on PPIs, which helped a little, but the heartburn was relentless, all day and all night, regardless of what I ate. A week into my journey I saw an amazing Naturopath. Her diagnosis was candida and parasites (she also thought lyme), even though my Nurse Practitioner tested for those things and they came back negative, I decided to follow my Naturopath’s advice, because living like that was not an option for me and I would try anything. I was on the Candida diet for about 7 months and did 4 live blood cell analysis tests along the way. About a month into the Candida diet I was able to wean off the PPIs. The diet was tough. I was already quite small, so I lost more weight, which I’m still trying to regain. The mental part was probably the hardest. I ended up with anxiety over the diet restrictions (which parasites could have also played a part in). I decided to take some anxiety medication prescribed by my NP, which did help me to relax about the food issues and helped me to heal more quickly. I’m just now weaning off of them. This journey really helped me to look inward. Daily meditation has helped more than I could have every imagined. I also regularly saw an acupuncturist and visited a spiritual healer, who provided amazing guidance. I am so grateful for the amazing women who helped me to get through this (naturopath, nurse practitioner, gastroenterologist, spiritual healer, acupuncturist). I feel like this an ongoing journey where I need to listen to the signs my body is giving me, and also thank it daily for all of the amazing work it does to keep me here. Truly an eye-opening and heart-opening experience. Wishing you all the best of luck with regaining your digestive health back.
Some supplements and food that helped me: probiotics, para-rid, silver water, apple cider vinegar, garlic, onions, aloe vera juice, diatomaceous earth, GI encap, berberus, lyme drops, colostrum, iron supplements
FYI, there’s a new product on the market developed by GI doctors that has given me amazing results. I have suffered with heartburn, reflux, and digestive issues for over 40 years. I was even diagnosed with Barret’s Syndrome a few years ago. In less than 2 weeks, my digestive issues are at bay and my chronic constipation has been relieved. I agree with your suggestions in this article, but I must admit this supplement has been a miracle drug for me. Even if you don’t post this publicly, please check out this product, Kris. If you try it or know someone who needs it and finds it effective, you may want to spread the words to your groups. I’m not a spokesperson for them… only an amazed consumer.
What is the product Barbara Steele? I’ve been taking a PPI for 20 years, and fight chronic constipation. I’m desperate to get off of Prilisev since we are finding out the dangers of taking it long term.
Hi, I have acid reflux because of a hiatus hernia. I was on a proton pump inhibitor but that didn’t really work and I still sometimes had to use antacids as well. Now I just use antacids. I have found raw apple cider vinegar before meals soothing, and also have home made sauerkraut, probiotics and live OG plain yogurts every day. I am trying smaller meals and trying to lose another 10lbs, by 5:2 diet and trying to get more exercise. I have to eat early, some foods do make it worse, and I do sleep sitting up, though I often lie flat later in the night. I will stop turning on my R side.
Thanks for the information.
I don’t know if you have any ideas abouit hiatus hernia.
I also have GERD (that started out as LERD or silent reflux) due to Hiatus Hernia, my doc suspects, and I think she is right. I think sleeping on a wedge has helped a lot (in addition to unfortunately having to resort to a nightly 150mg ranitidine right before bed). Unfortunately ACV absolutely makes my condition worse, as do other methods of increasing stomach acid. Smaller meals more frequently, no animal products (who wants ’em anyways?), licorice tea (traditional medicinals has a yummy one). Having had some really painful and scary episodes, I really feel for people who suffer with this condition. I have not tried it yet, but there are some Registered Massage Therapists who have had some luck treating this condition. It is a specialty, something that RMTs need to get extra training for. I suspect it could relapse after repositioning, but it helps some and might be worth a try. Found out about it through a 2011 article published in Massage Therapy Canada journal, written by an RMT in my area. Best of luck.