If you experience heartburn or acid reflux, there are a number of surprisingly simple ways you can help prevent the unpleasant symptoms recurring without reaching for strong antacid medications.
Sleep on your left side
The stomach’s natural position is on the left side, where it can digest food more effectively. Gravity helps the waste travel from the small intestine to the large intestine. Research has shown a higher likelihood of acid reflux from sleeping on the right side. In fact, one major issue with back sleeping is acid reflux as this position allows acid to travel back up the throat.
The theory that left-side sleeping aids digestion and waste elimination was born from Ayurvedic principles, but modern research also supports this idea. Studies have found a relationship between lying on the right side and increased cases of heartburn than when lying on the left side. If we lie on the left side, the stomach and its gastric juices remain lower than the oesophagus while we sleep.
Chew your food properly
This is such an under-rated practice, but one of the essential tools in helping to prevent acid reflux. Chewing your food properly is essential for adequate digestion. It is the first step in digestion. Chewing helps the stomach metabolise food by breaking larger food particles into smaller fragments. Chewing also increases saliva production so that it can be swallowed without aggravating the oesophagus. If food is not chewed properly, larger particles enter the digestive tract causing digestive problems such as gas, bloating, constipation, food reactions, headaches, and lowered energy levels.
As you chew your food more digestive enzymes are produced. These help to break down food further to assist digestion. The process of chewing also triggers the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach, this further aids digestion, by regulating the pH to increase acidity levels assisting with food breakdown.
No water with meals
Ideally, you should aim to drink no water half an hour before and half an hour after a meal, as you risk diluting your stomach’s reservoir of hydrochloric acid, which is essential to break down food properly. Excessive liquids during meals can lead to bloating, indigestion, and even nutrient malabsorption. Ideally, your stomach likes to maintain an acidity level of 1 to 2 on the pH scale, which helps break down proteins, stimulates the release of digestive enzymes, aids in the absorption of vitamins like B12, and otherwise helps turn food into a slurry-like solution that makes digestion easier. But when you drink during meals, you slow down the entire process, which can lead to bloating and less-than-optimal digestion.
Don’t eat when you’re stressed
There is some evidence to suggest that stress and anxiety may provoke acid reflux or make the symptoms worse. Anxiety may reduce pressure in the lower oesophageal sphincter, which is the band of muscle that keeps the stomach closed and prevents acid from leaking into the oesophagus. Stress responses and anxiety may cause long lasting muscle tension. If this affects the muscles around the stomach, it could increase pressure in this organ and push the acid-drenched food up into the oesophagus, burning it.
Eat before 6pm
Depending on the size and quality of the meal, eating too late may increase your risk of acid reflux, especially if you go to bed shortly after the meal. Try to eat your last meal of the day at least 3-4 hours before you go to bed.
There are lots more helpful tips on how to manage acid reflux and heartburn naturally on my informative fact sheet.
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