Approximately 1 in 5 Americans experiences acid reflux, a condition that develops when stomach acid travels back into the esophagus. Before starting medication, it is worth trying a few lifestyle changes.
Acid reflux is a common digestive condition that develops when the stomach acid travels backwards into the esophagus.
Some drinks may help relieve the symptoms of acid reflux, while other drinks and foods can aggravate them.
Some of the best drinks that can help manage acid reflux include ginger, chamomile, and licorice tea.
Certain drinks and herbal remedies may help alleviate symptoms associated with acid reflux.
About acid reflux
The esophagus is not designed to be exposed to acidic substances, and it only takes small amounts of stomach acid to irritate its lining. As a result, acid reflux leads to symptoms like heartburn, burping, nausea, regurgitation, and bad taste in the mouth. Some people may experience chest pain, dental erosions, chronic cough, and asthma.
Long term acid reflux is also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a common digestive condition that affects an estimated 20% of Americans.
Some factors that increase the risk of acid reflux include hiatal hernia, consumption of certain foods (such as spicy foods or caffeine), eating large meals, smoking, excess weight, snacking before bedtime, taking medications like non-steroid anti inflammatories (NSAIDs), and pregnancy.
Standard treatment for acid reflux includes acid blockers and, in severe cases, surgery.
Ginger has a long history of use in folk medicine for several digestive issues, including indigestion, bloating, gastritis, ulcers, upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, and constipation. Some scientific studies have validated these uses. Ginger tea may help soothe the irritated esophagus and relieve heartburn due to its ability to reduce inflammation and protect the lining of the digestive tract. Ginger is available as a food, tea, essential oil, or a supplement in capsule form.
Licorice has been used in traditional Chinese, Greek, and Middle Eastern medicine for thousands of years as a digestive aid and a remedy for cough and colds. Most modern studies have evaluated licorice capsules rather than licorice tea. Although more research is needed, some studies have found that licorice capsules help relieve symptoms of heartburn, upset stomach, and bloating.
A small study found deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL), which is available as a capsule or tablet, more effective than traditional antacids at decreasing the symptoms of GERD. Another herbal that also showed benefits in this study was a combination of slippery elm and peppermint.
It is important to note that licorice root can cause high blood pressure due to one of its main ingredients, called glycyrrhizic acid. DGL is a derivative of licorice root which has glycyrrhizic acid removed, and it has a safer profile.
Chamomile tea is made from German chamomile or Roman chamomile, which are flowering plants from the daisy family. Chamomile also has a long history of use as an herbal remedy, especially for digestive and sleep problems. Chamomile is found in different preparations, the most popular of which is in the form of herbal tea – more than one million cups per day are consumed worldwide.
Chamomile is rich in antioxidant plant compounds. Based on some research studies, chamomile either alone or in combination with other herbs shows anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, sedative and antibacterial properties. Chamomile helps reduce stomach acidity and bloating, reducing the irritation of the esophagus. In addition, it promotes better sleep and helps reduce stress – two factors that can aggravate acid reflux.
Drinking water can help
Plain water can help move the food from the stomach into the small intestine and aids digestion. In addition, the water pH is higher than the stomach acid and therefore may reduce the irritation of the esophagus. Alkaline water, which has a higher pH than plain water, may also neutralize stomach acid and help relieve heartburn and upset stomach, according to some research. In Japan, certain alkaline electrolyzed water machines have been tested for health benefits and are approved as medical devices. The recommended daily dose of alkaline water is 500 mLs (16.9 fl oz) daily for 4 weeks.
Other tips to manage acid reflux
According to Harvard researchers, it's worth trying a few lifestyle changes before resorting to medication to control acid reflux:
Limit intake of foods and drinks that can aggravate heartburn: spicy and fried foods, coffee and energy drinks that contain coffee, alcohol (especially hard liquor), citrus and tomato juices, vinaigrettes and other acidic dressings, onion, and garlic. Some people report aggravation of symptoms when taking fish oil supplements, peppermint and chocolate.
You may feel better if you drink flat water instead of sparkling water. This is because sparkling drinks make you burp, and burping sends acid from the stomach into the esophagus.
Eat multiple small meals rather than three large meals a day. Eat at regular times and avoid eating 3–4 hours before bedtime.
Eat at the dinner table, in an upright position, and avoid snacking when lying on a couch or in bed.
Keep your head elevated while sleeping.
Avoid intense exercise soon after eating, especially workouts that involve bending over. Consider a light walk after a meal.
Maintain a healthy weight. Extra pounds have a negative impact on the muscles that support the sphincter of the lower esophagus. This leads to acid reflux and heartburn because there is reduced pressure and lower ability to keep the sphincter closed.
Herbal teas like chamomile, ginger, and licorice are widely available in many grocery and nutrition stores. They are great home remedies that may help alleviate heartburn and other symptoms associated with acid reflux. For optimal benefits, it is best to talk to a healthcare provider to learn more about the correct dose and safety of these remedies. Keep in mind, these herbal teas are not approved by the FDA to prevent or treat any medical condition. Adopting a healthy lifestyle can further help manage acid reflux.
- Harvard Medical School. 9 ways to relieve acid reflux without medication.
- Molecular Medicine Reports. Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with a bright future (Review).
- Medical Gas Research. Daily ingestion of alkaline electrolyzed water containing hydrogen influences human health, including gastrointestinal symptoms.
- Journal of the Australian Traditional-Medicine Society. Prevention of symptoms of gastric irritation (GERD) using two herbal formulas: An observational study.