My Experience with Natural Home Remedies for Acid Reflux

This hub is about my personal experience with reflux and home remedies. Your experience could be different. I always say, if the same thing worked for everyone, we’d only need one of everything. I will cover some of the things that worked for me, as well as some of the conventional wisdom that did not work.


Natural Home Remedies covered in this hub:

Decrease Water With Meals

Don’t Graze

Avoid Trigger Foods

Food Combining

Cultured Vegetables

Don’t Gain Weight or Wear Tight Clothes

Don’t Eat Before Bedtime

Apple Cider Vinegar

Aloe Vera

Baking soda

Celery Seed

Pulsatilla

Carrot Juice

Kangan Ionized Water

Elevate Head of Bed

Sleep on Left Side

Chiropractic Adjustment

Take Your Vitamins



I was officially diagnosed with reflux in November of 2003. This was after waking with coughing, gagging and sputtering spells a minimum of 3 to 5 times a night for 9 months. The diagnosis was so difficult because at the time, I seldom if ever had gastrointestinal symptoms. My symptoms were like sinus symptoms, primarily post nasal drip and coughing. These symptoms are actually most consistent with larygotracheal reflux (LTR) or extra esophageal reflux. You can read more about LTR at Dr. Kurt Barrett’s website and blog. Also look for my upcoming hub, Reflux- The Second Time Western Medicine Failed Me.

I started out taking Prilosec, a proton pump inhibitor, and Zantac, an antiacid, to treat my reflux, which were very effective. Two years later I had a cascade of symptoms, diagnoses and prescriptions. I wound up on 11 prescription and over the counter drugs, and 3 supplements for clinical deficiencies. I felt awful and barely had a life. Who’s to say which symptoms were a direct result of medication side effects? By this time, I was having heartburn and other more classic reflux symptoms along with my usual cough and throat clearing. In my desperation I found Alternative Medicine and started eliminating prescription meds. I started taking a betaine hydrochloride supplement for my reflux, and was able to eliminate Zantac, and cut my Prilosec in half.

For those of you thinking that betaine hydrochloride sounds like acid, or making my stomach more acidic, you are correct. It’s fairly unanimous among Alternative Medicine providers that reflux is not caused by too much stomach acid, but too little.

I had gotten down to half my original Prilosec dose, and was taking the half dose 4 days a week. At 4 Prilosec a week, and daily betaine, I had good symptom control, but I could not seem to break through to decrease and eliminate Prilosec. I could tolerate reflux symptoms during the day, but the nighttime cough, interrupting my sleep, I could not go there again. Armed with my understanding of the Alternative Medical view of reflux, and a little info from The Bottom Line that made total sense to me, I tried a few home remedies.

Source

Decrease Water With Meals

My dad is a fan of The Bottom Line, and has numerous books and reports around the house, as do I now. I was home on leave, and grabbed a couple of his books to occupy myself on a road trip, making notes in a little notebook. The Bottom Line not only stated the problem with reflux is too little stomach acid, but also proposed that the less and less young we get, we have adequate quantities of stomach acid, but it is dilute, and therefore not potent enough to adequately digest food. This would be especially true for meat protein, and for me, at least partially explains deficits in iron and B12 (both of which I had). Then the bombshell. You know how experts for years have touted that we should drink a large glass of water before meals, so that hopefully we won’t eat as much? Guess what? By drinking all that water, we have just further diluted our stomach acid!

The Bottom Line suggested minimizing fluid intake immediately before, after, and during meals. I was drinking a liter of water with meals, taking my fistful of supplements. I started spreading out my supplements over a period of 1 to 2 hours, taking a few at a time with sips of water.


Don’t Graze

The Bottom Line also cautions against grazing. The rationale is that eating constantly throughout the day constantly takes from your available amount of stomach acid. When you eat a full meal, you won’t have your full compliment of digestive acid needed for meals. In general, I agree with this, but recommend taking apple cider vinegar with meals when you’ve been guilty of grazing. Dilute 1/2 oz of vinegar with the mother with 1 1/2 to 2 oz of water and drink.


Caffeinated beverages are common triggers of reflux symptoms.
Caffeinated beverages are common triggers of reflux symptoms. | Source
Tomatoes, onions and garlic are frequent triggers of reflux
Tomatoes, onions and garlic are frequent triggers of reflux | Source

Avoid Trigger Foods


Most experts agree on a basic list of foods that likely trigger reflux, but acknowledge this is highly variable among individuals. Some typically cited trigger foods:


Caffeinated beverages

Chocolate

Alcohol

Spicy foods

Garlic and onions

Tomato-based foods like pizza and spaghetti

Fried or fatty foods

Milk and dairy

Citrus


I definitely have to say coffee aggravates my reflux. For years I thought it was a good expectorant because of the throat clearing and coughing it triggered. Oh well. I was not safe to drive without my coffee when I was working. Now that I’ve retired from the Air Force, I have vowed to avoid any activities that require me to rise at 6 a.m. on a regular basis. I have been “off the coffee” since my retirement.

I’m not sure about alcohol in general, but from the minute I found out I had reflux, it ruined red wine for me. I used to love it, now I can hardly even say it. Red wine and reflux clearly don’t go together in my mind. When I occasionally have red wine, I drink at least twice as much water along the way as I do wine. I have given up alcohol in general. I occasionally have an ounce or two of white wine, but most of the time, I think about the possible reflux symptoms, and it's just not worth it.

I’m not a milk drinker. I can say though that the occasional Dairy Queen Banana Split Blizzard, which has vanilla ice cream, strawberries, pineapple, banana, and chocolate syrup, always triggers my cough and the need to clear my throat. Yet I can have the same thing at Culver’s, made with chocolate custard, and have no symptoms. I can also eat chocolate ice cream, made with “natural and artificial flavors”, and have no problems.

I only occasionally eat fried foods, or fatty foods, and rarely eat fast food. This has been the case for 20 or 30 years. Is it because the reflux trained me this way years ago? I now suspect I’ve had reflux all of my life. I’ve never had any tolerance for hot spicy food. Again, never liked it, but is that because of the reflux? I like citrus fruit, but never crave it, and historically have eaten it only sporadically.

I don’t have any problems with onions, garlic or tomatoes, and in fact eat lots of them. I always liked Italian food, then when stationed in Turkey, Turkish food, for which these are common ingredients.


Combining meat protein and starch may aggravate reflux symptoms
Combining meat protein and starch may aggravate reflux symptoms | Source

Food Combining

 

Donna Gates, of the Body Ecology Diet, cautions about food combining.  She recommends not eating starch and meat protein in the same meal, because the digestive processes are so different.  I had to concede that even junior high biology seems to support this.  Starch digestion is through enzymes, starting with salivary enzymes, and meat is more dependent on stomach acids.  This is an incredibly hard rule for me to follow, but I do think there is something to it.  While I can eat spaghetti okay, pizza now gives me heartburn every single time.  Sandwiches seem to be okay.  Other meals I can get by with mixing meat and starch, if I also consume substantial portions of vegetables.  When I skip vegetables in any meal, I almost always have reflux symptoms. 

Purple Cabbage cultured vegetables
Purple Cabbage cultured vegetables | Source

Making Cultured Vegetables

Cultured Vegetables


Donna Gates of the Body Ecology Diet also recommends cultured vegetables, as a daily part of a healthy diet. Fermented and cultured foods are chock full of healthy bacteria. They assist in making the body more alkaline, which is a less hospitable environment for diseases including cancer.

Most European and Asian cultures regularly eat such foods. I tried several commercially produced cultured vegetables which I ordered from the internet, but found the texture not to my liking (read disgusting). The Immunitrition vegetables were the best, though sometimes the texture was softer than I like. I finally got brave, and my sister and I made our own. The texture is soooo much better. The best recipes are from Miranda Barrett’s The Food of Life: The Versatile Vegetable.

Donna recommends ¼ to ½ cup of cultured vegetables with every meal. I add a little Bragg’s apple cider vinegar and a healthy omega oil like flax, hemp or pumpkin seed oil, which boosts the health benefits as well as enhances the taste. I also add a little stevia sweetner. I kinda got out of the habit of eating these the last few months. At best, I was eating a ½ cup serving after my evening meal. I’m convinced eating cultured vegetables reduced my reflux symptoms.

 

Don’t Gain Weight or Wear Tight Clothes

Another common recommendation for clients with reflux is to avoid weight gain.  Like any of us gain weight on purpose if we’re already on the “fluffy” side!  Before my reflux was diagnosed, recall my sleep was interrupted for 9 months.  This impairs metabolism, particularly carbohydrate metabolism, and I gained weight.  This causes additional pressure on the stomach, with the abdominal organs pressing upward toward the diaphragm.  This increases reflux symptoms. 

Of course the weight gain also made my BDUs (military uniform) too tight.  This creates a banding effect with the trousers, further aggravating symptoms. 

 

Don’t Eat Before Bedtime

Experts typically recommend not going to bed for 2 to 3 hours after eating dinner.  I would say at least 2 to 3 hours, since I usually have some kind of meat with dinner, and meat takes 4 to 5 hours to digest.  So 4 to 5 hours would be even better, but 2 to 3 hours is okay.  When I was still working full time, I usually got home pretty late, therefore ate pretty late.  When I went to bed less than 2 hours after eating, I had a lot more nasal secretions on waking.  This is consistent with laryngotracheal reflux.  According to Dr. Barrett (see intro), the production of mucous is the body’s attempt at protection, to prevent acid from getting to the lungs while laying down to sleep. 

Bragg's Apple Cider Vinegar with the Mother
Bragg's Apple Cider Vinegar with the Mother | Source
Aloe Vera
Aloe Vera | Source
Arm & Hammer Baking Soda
Arm & Hammer Baking Soda | Source

Things You Can Take for Symptom Relief


There are things you can take for relief of reflux symptoms such as heartburn and indigestion. My problem, is nothing seems to work for me long term, so I tend to rotate remedies.



Apple Cider Vinegar

Many sources endorse taking anywhere from 1 teaspoon to 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar with meals to fortify your stomach acid to aid digestion. This too is based on the premise that reflux is caused by deficient stomach acid. I started keeping ACV in my office. If I had heartburn or other reflux symptoms after eating, I would take a tablespoon of ACV.

With implementing just these two strategies, being more careful of my fluid intake around meals, and taking apple cider vinegar after meals, I was able to get off the Prilosec completely!


Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera is often recommended for the treatment of reflux. You can find capsules, but the juice is better. There are numerous brands and varieties. The flavored ones aren’t bad, but plain is tolerable. There is one I don’t care for, I think it is the “inner fillet”, and it has a lumpy texture that I do not like. For me personally, I don’t get immediate symptom relief from aloe vera. I think it’s better for long term use effects. I try to drink 2 oz at least once a day.


Baking Soda

Baking soda is my “when all else fails” reflux treatment. I think it’s better to prevent the symptoms through natural strategies, but…When I have bad heartburn, especially at bedtime, I make myself a “GI cocktail” with ½ teaspoon of baking soda and 8 oz of water. Baking soda is a buffer, meaning it can adjust whether your stomach pH is too acidic or too alkali. I have used this remedy for over 20 years. It works better for me than Alka Seltzer, Rolaids, or Tums. It also works for intestinal discomfort.


Celery Seed

My naturopath recommends celery seed for reflux symptoms. I get Solaray celery seed, 505 mg, and take two after meals, per my naturopath when I have symptoms. Celery seed is convenient to carry in my bag, and seems to help.


Pulsatilla

My naturopath (also a homeopath and herbalist) also recommends pulsatilla. I get this homeopathic remedy from his office. It is a liquid, so not as convenient to carry with me as capsules, but I do tend to carry a small bottle of this in my purse. I use 9 drops after meals. Currently, this is one of my favored remedies.


Carrot Juice

Carrot juice is my other favored remedy right now. My chiropractor told me to try it, and it really does work for me. I drink two to four ounces after meals, especially my evening meal, or when I have eaten meat, or mixed meat and starch in one meal.



Kangen Water

About a year ago, I bought a Kangen water ionizer. There are plenty of nay sayers, but the Japanese use water ionizers in their hospitals. Ionizing microclusters the water molecules, making the water easier to absorb on a cellular level. Ionizing also gives water antioxidant properties, which helps neutralize free radicals and helps fight disease. Finally, with an ionizer, you can produce alkaline water. Drinking alkaline water makes your internal environment more alkaline, and less acidic, and therefore a less inviting place for diseases including cancer.

Kangen proponents report numerous and diverse health benefits, including resolution of reflux symptoms. My reflux was better, but I still had episodes that made me want to make a baking soda cocktail. After discussion with my naturopath, he asked me to try an "experiment" of using the acidic 6.0 pH water for my reflux symptoms. This seems to do the trick!

Elevate the head of the bed.  Put a wedge or books between the mattress and springs.
Elevate the head of the bed. Put a wedge or books between the mattress and springs. | Source

Elevate Head of Bed

Most experts recommend elevating the head of the bed. I can’t swear it makes any difference for me, but intuitively it makes sense. I never liked the idea of putting wood blocks under the headboard legs, which is commonly recommended. This always seemed like it would stress the bed frame. A physical therapist colleague told me to put phone books and other thick books between the mattress and box springs, which I did for a couple years. When my sister moved to Texas, she built me a wedge to put between the mattress and springs.

Sleep on Left Side

I recall from my training as an x-ray tech that lying on the left side is better for digestion. It is a common recommendation for reflex sufferers to sleep on the left side. I can’t really say that I can tell a difference with which side I sleep on.

 

 

Chiropractic Adjustment

Chiropractic adjustments to the thoracic region is supposed to have a beneficial impact on gastrointestional function.  When I have had consistent chiro adjustments every one to two weeks, I think my reflux symptoms were not as bad. 

 

Take Your Vitamins

This is my way of saying:  Do everything you can to maintain your overall health.  Take care of your “temple”.  I have been on a supervised comprehensive program of natural supplements for over 3 years.  It takes a lot of effort to organize my daily supplements, and to take them correctly.  Sometimes I go AWOL.  When I’m not following my program, skipping one or more weeks of supplements, my reflux symptoms are worse.  My thyroid symptoms are worse.  My knee pain returns.  You get the idea. 

Sometimes I’m convinced my reflux symptoms have little to do with what I do or don’t eat.  On these occasions, I think my symptoms are more related to my general health and imbalances in my system. 

Disclaimer

This article relates my personal experience with reflux. I should probably also say I have had extensive medical workup over time, including 3 endoscopies and a couple CT scans. Also, my B12, iron, and potassium deficiences have long since resolved under the care of alternative health providers and lots of non-prescription, natural and whole foods supplements.

This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You take full legal responsibility for whatever decisions you make regarding your own health care.

If you are frustrated with Western Medical care and prescription medication, consider consulting a specialist licensed in an alternative medicine discipline for individualized evaluation and treatment strategies.

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23 comments

DiamondRN profile image

DiamondRN 6 years ago from Charlotte, NC USA

Keep a bottle of just about any liquid antacid around. A big swig taken early on, as soon as you feel the discomfort, can work wonders -- quickly.


rmcrayne profile image

rmcrayne 6 years ago from San Antonio Texas Author

No thanks Diamond! I've sworn off prescriptions and OTCs. I'll just hit my Arm & Hammer.


Princessa profile image

Princessa 6 years ago from France

Not eating before bedtime is a good one. I know that if I go to bed too soon after eaten I'll wake up with raging heartburn if I manage to sleep at all.

My granny also swears by Bicarbonate of Soda, she gave us that when we were young and now I take it everytime I need it. It is super efficient -the best solution so far- but it taste like toilet water :-(


rmcrayne profile image

rmcrayne 6 years ago from San Antonio Texas Author

Princessa I had a friend once that didn't eat after 2 pm! At the time I thought he was crazy. But now when I think about it, he didn't have surgery, he wasn't taking medicine, and he seemed healthy.

I've been doing the baking soda so many years, I don't think about the taste anymore. I always thought of it as slimy.


CassidyS profile image

CassidyS 6 years ago from OK

Thanks for the information. Just this week, after years of being sick, I found out I have a bacteria called H.Pylori and one of the symptoms is reflux. I'll definitely be trying some of these home remedies.


rmcrayne profile image

rmcrayne 6 years ago from San Antonio Texas Author

Cassidy I sent Veronica Allen your way. She has an interest in gluten free living.

I have H.Pylori too. I use a Beaumonte Bio-Med spray I order through my Naturopath/Homeopath. You do a saliva test. The spray is not very expensive but you have to use it 9 months.


elisabethkcmo profile image

elisabethkcmo 6 years ago from Just East of Oz

great hub! I used to be a GI nurse. One thing we taught our patients was to chew food slowly, don't wash your food down with fluids, and let your natural saliva do some of the digesting.


rmcrayne profile image

rmcrayne 6 years ago from San Antonio Texas Author

Thanks for stopping by elisabeth. I'm glad your group told patients not to wash down. So simple, but in all that medical care, no one ever told me that. I had to read it in The Bottom Line.


Money Glitch profile image

Money Glitch 6 years ago from Texas

Wow RM, I see why this one made the list. There is a lot of great information here. I knew about the apple cider, baking soda, and it definitely works when all else fails. Great job, and good luck on the winning, my fellow Texan. :)


charlyquintana 6 years ago

I was diagnosed with reflux and I also was diagnosed with h pylori bacteria. Two rounds of antibiotics and also taking the little purple pill, (which back in 1995 averaged about $108.00 for 15 pills), didn't help. A chiropractor told me to juice an apple, 1/3 of cabbage, 1 stick of celery and 2 carrots, twice a day. I did this for about 6 weeks, and along with this I took 1 oz. of Noni Juice twice a day. I believe the cabbage juice may have healed a stomach ulcer, which the h pylori caused and I believe the noni juice may have killed the bacteria. To this day, I rarely have any sysmtons of reflux. In the past I also have done a liver cleanse, (Dr. Hulda Clark's Cleanse), which takes out liver stones, also known as gallbladder stones, because when they start to cause problems, they are in the gall bladder. This helped immensely with a friend of mine's reflux. He was so impressed he has given this recipe for a cleanse to his friends. You might find this cleanse on the Cure Zone or on Herbal Healer's site. You will be amazed by this. It is simple to do, but you must accurately follow the cleanse.


rmcrayne profile image

rmcrayne 6 years ago from San Antonio Texas Author

charly those are some great references! And just in time too. I had a friend tell me just last week she had been under MD care for months for H.pylori, and was not making progress. I'll have to forward this to her.

I've done a number of cleanses, including the coke, olive oil, lemon juice GB cleanse. My naturopath definitely is all over the liver/GB connection.

Again, thanks for the references.


neemanene profile image

neemanene 6 years ago

Have you tried Mangosteen juice? It is highly anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant and a whole lot more. My neighbor had acid reflux and he used Mangosteen juice. See web site www.NeemaNene.MyMangosteen.com and www.pubmed.gov government web site where research on this fruit from Thailand yield amazing results.(enter Mangosteen and acid reflux for search)


rmcrayne profile image

rmcrayne 6 years ago from San Antonio Texas Author

Thanks for the reference neemanene. Though slow, it's refreshing that more scientists are starting to recognize the healing powers of nature.


davidjames37 profile image

davidjames37 6 years ago

I did the cabbage juice too and it definitely helped in healing my ulcer. I also went on a raw foods diet which also helped. I talked to some friends of mine who are into alternative medicine and they suggested some vitamins too which I take on a daily basis. Since then I rarely have problems. I was taking 3 different medications that different doctors prescribed me and nothing was working until I began using natural remedies.


tmbridgeland profile image

tmbridgeland 6 years ago from Small Town, Illinois

I read this hub after writing one on acid reflux. You might want to read mine, there are a couple points of difference, though most of the basic advice is the same. In my case the culprit was frozen foods, too much crushed ice drinks and ice cream when I lived in a very hot climate. Frostbite on the esophageal sphincter. It took several years to heal, once I figured it out.


rmcrayne profile image

rmcrayne 6 years ago from San Antonio Texas Author

tmbridgeland, thanks for sharing. This kind of info is fascinating to me. Not sure about the frostbite, but clearly cold foods and beverages were a trigger for you. I've been an avid water drinker my whole life, and I usually like it with ice. Hmmm... Something else within my means to control.


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 5 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

Very interesting information. Sometimes the old remedies are best. My mother swore by ACV and always kept it in the house. Good luck keeping healthy.


rmcrayne profile image

rmcrayne 5 years ago from San Antonio Texas Author

Thanks Gypsy Willow. I think we were much healthier when we weren't in the mindset of prescription drugs for every little symptom.


dsmith1 5 years ago

Chewing gum after a meal can actually help prevent acid reflux. The action of chewing gum stimulates your mouth to produce more saliva, which is an important digestive enzyme that will make your digestion run more effectively. Voted up.


Deb Welch 4 years ago

rmcrayne - Voted this Fantastic Hub Up, Useful, Awesome and Interesting. You wrote,(I always say, if the same thing worked for everyone, we’d only need one of everything.) How true - Our shelves would be overflowing.

I have had GERD - whenever I have it - I take Tums, Alka Seltzer, or teaspoonfuls of Apple Cider Vinegar. My brother reads The Bottom Line and he used to share it with me - a thin magazine but thick with great information. Do you think stress can bring on this condition? There is a tremendous amount of Stress being in the Military Service the pace is twice as fast as Civilian life as my personal knowledge goes. Are you handling Acid Reflux better since being Retired? Have you tried Aloe Vera pills? Enjoyed reading - plan to read more of your Hubs. Thanks.


Joseph Griffith profile image

Joseph Griffith 3 years ago from Monroe, Louisiana

I am curious what form of b12 and iron you are taking I heard that the pill form is not useable by the body, at least if it was not absorbed into a form we can use by plants?


rmcrayne profile image

rmcrayne 3 years ago from San Antonio Texas Author

Joseph, I use Standard Process. You can read about these products in another of my hubs:

http://hubpages.com/health/Standard-Process-Whole-...


rmcrayne profile image

rmcrayne 3 years ago from San Antonio Texas Author

Deb Welsh, sorry I never got back to you. My stress definitely went down after retiring from the military. This in part because I have chosen to remain part-time, instead of jumping back into the rat race of a 40 hour a week job, that invariably takes me 60, or 70, or 80 hours to do. I'm not sure my retirement had a huge effect on my reflux. I think my naturopath's notion about relationship to the Chinese calendar, is a good an explanation as any.

As far as aloe vera, when use it I use the liquid.

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