Gastroesophageal reflux is a very common condition. For example, it is estimated that it can affect as many as 30% of the American population and that half of the world's adult population will have symptoms related to reflux at some point in their lifetime. Reflux can lead to pain, fatigue, a burning sensation that radiates from the stomach to the mouth, but also hoarseness, sore throat, asthma and chronic cough (Clarett et al, Mo Med, 2018 - Badillo et al, World J Gastrointest Pharmacol Ther, 2014). However, since these are symptoms common to other conditions a diagnosis can only be made by a doctor. Once we know it's reflux, what can we do to alleviate the symptoms? In fact, there are some tricks and lifestyle changes that we can put in place right away to counteract heartburn and reflux, let's see them.
Reflux and lifestyle
Reflux can be favored by some lifestyles and conditions, fortunately modifiable, such as smoking, heavy alcohol consumption, very large evening meals, a high-fat diet, overweight, anxiety and low physical activity. The latter in particular proves to be decisive. In fact, a moderate physical exercise results protective, except when performed immediately after eating, then in that case it can lead to a worsening of reflux, if present. Another effective action against reflux is to keep your head raised when you sleep, for example by adding a pillow. In this way, the time in which the esophagus is in contact with acid is reduced (Clarett et al, Mo Med, 2018). Diet can also help relieve reflux as can some herbal remedies. Let's try to understand better.
Reflux and nutrition
Almonds are traditionally a remedy used to soothe the burning sensation in the stomach. In this case, you can eat 5-6 almonds as a snack. Not only that, including probiotics in one's diet has also been shown to improve reflux symptoms, especially heartburn and acid regurgitation (Cheng et al, Nutrients, 2020). Eating fast can also increase the risk of developing heartburn and other reflux-related symptoms. So, taking your time, eating calmly and chewing well is certainly a good choice to counter this condition (Yuan et al, Therap Adv Gastroenterol, 2019).
Reflux and natural remedies
Extracts of olive leaves, Olea europea, have shown a gastroprotective action, helping to prevent the formation of lesions of the gastric mucosa caused by stress (Alecci et al, Evid Based Complement Alternat Med., 2016). Against reflux you can drink an herbal tea prepared with olive leaves. Add a handful of fresh leaves or twenty dried leaves to a liter of boiling water, remove from heat, leave to infuse for ten minutes, filter and drink. Ficus carica glycerine macerate is also useful in relieving heartburn. In fact, the fig is anti-inflammatory, hepatoprotective, protects the stomach and is a precious ally in case of difficult digestion and loss of appetite (Mawa et al, Evid Based Complement Alternat Med, 2013). In this case, 30 drops of ficus macerate are taken in a little water a quarter of an hour before main meals. Licorice is another remedy for sour stomach (Cheng et al, Nutrients, 2020). You can chew a stick of licorice or even eat sugar free bonbons of pure licorice, but be careful if you suffer from high blood pressure, in this case it is better to limit or even avoid licorice.
Reflux, mint and chocolate
If you suffer from reflux, beware of mint. It has been observed, in fact, that in some people, high amounts of mint, taken as a spice or tea, can worsen the symptoms of reflux. However, this effect was not observed for moderate doses of this plant nor for all people tested (Newberry et al, J Thorac Dis, 2019). As for chocolate, to date there is no evidence that it can worsen reflux symptoms (Kaltenbach et al, Arch Intern Med, 2006).