An introduction to the treatments of acid reflux
Acid reflux is common. Most of us will have experienced the odd bout after eating too much, but some people have more recurrent and persistent symptoms.
For most, symptoms of acid reflux can be influenced greatly by lifestyle and dietary choices – what we eat and how we eat. Many people with mild symptoms will find that a few simple alterations to dietary and lifestyle habits can make a great deal of difference.
For those who need a bit more help, herbal remedies can play a role – they have been used for decades and centuries to help with a variety of digestive problems. However, some people with moderate to severe symptoms may require help from their doctors in the form of prescription medication or even surgery.
Diet, lifestyle and home remedies
Acid reflux is often influenced by what you eat, so making changes to your dietary habits should be the first step to consider. Certain types of food aggravate the condition but on the other hand, there are foods that can help.
Although not the best remedy for long term use, people have found relief from acid reflux symptoms with baking soda (sodium bicarbonate). Dissolve half to one teaspoon in a glass of water – this helps to neutralise acid in the stomach.
Ginger has been used since ancient times to help treat gastric problems, and many people find that this spice can help to ease digestive symptoms, including reflux.
Finally, there is some research to suggest that liquorice sweets can help ease general digestive symptoms. However, if you suffer from high blood pressure, take liquorice with care and only in small amounts.
Many herbs have been used over the years for their ability to help with digestive symptoms.
With acid reflux, stomach bitters are usually the first port of call. This class of medicinal herbs includes artichoke, dandelion and boldo and work by stimulating the correct balance of stomach acid and enzymes, helping the stomach digest (break down) food more efficiently.
Ali's TOP TIP: Digestisan is a licensed herbal remedy containing a mixture of bitter herbs. Take 15 minutes before a meal. It is important to taste the bitterness as this makes the herbs work better.
Medicines from your doctor or pharmacy
Antacids are the most popular conventional treatment for acid reflux and have been used for many years. They work to neutralise the acids already present in the stomach, but in doing so, can hamper the proper digestion of food in the stomach as the enzymes present require an acidic state to work well.
More recently, a class of drugs known as proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs) have become available, first as a prescription only medicine and more recently, from your pharmacy. They work by reducing the acid produced.
Although necessary when symptoms are severe and do not respond to lifestyle changes or herbal remedies, neither are ideal solutions as stomach acid has several important functions, such as helping the absorption of magnesium, calcium and iron.
In severe cases of acid reflux, doctors may suggest a number of surgical procedures. However, these are now seen as the last treatment to be considered, after all other non-surgical methods have failed.