Heartburn and Acid Reflux

How to Stop Suffering From Heartburn and Acid Reflux

Here’s what we did that helped us effectively deal with the discomfort of heartburn, indigestion, and acid reflux.

Heartburn and Acid Reflux
Photo by Anastasia Shuraeva

Have you ever had this experience? You just ate dinner and you’re sitting on the couch watching Netflix when you start to feel it. The burning sensation begins somewhere around your midsection or lower chest. So you get up and pop open the Tums (or Rolaids, or whatever your over-the-counter antacid preference happens to be). Chewing a couple of tablets helps. For a while. Until you go to bed and wake up in the night with terrible acid reflux. Now it’s burning up your esophagus and into the back of your throat. You take a couple more antacids, and it kind of helps, but not really. And it seems like the antacids make you feel sick in a different way. You resign yourself to the fact that you’re not going to sleep well tonight and vow to never overeat unhealthy foods again.

Not so long ago, this was our experience all too frequently. It got to the point where the acid reflux was so bad for me, it was sometimes painful to swallow my food. I could feel it burning as it went down my digestive tract.

Last fall, our daughter told us about the Whole 30 program. Whole 30 is an elimination diet that helps you determine which food groups affect you negatively.

For thirty days, you don’t eat any sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, or dairy. After the thirty days is up, you begin reintroducing them back into your diet one at a time to pinpoint your sensitivities.

Bob and I tried the program with our daughter. We started too close to the holidays and didn’t make it to the reintroduction period. But the results of cutting those things out for thirty days were amazing. Not only did we stop having the digestive issues, but we felt better in general. After only a few days, I noticed a difference in the amount of joint pain, eczema, fatigue, and headaches I experienced. It was truly a life-changing experience to see how what we are eating (or not eating) affects us so profoundly.

We started researching more about all of this, and we were astonished to learn how widespread digestive problems are.

An article from the Cleveland Clinic states that millions of people around the world suffer from recurring heartburn or GERD, including school-age children. Apparently, it gets worse with age. But most sources we’ve seen agree that the food we eat is a major factor. I want to try the Whole 30 program again and see it all the way through, but in the meantime, we’ve made some positive changes in the way we eat.

Another helpful resource I came across recently is the Glucose Goddess.

Author and biochemist Jessie Inchauspe says we should aim to keep our blood sugars level and minimize spikes and crashes throughout the day. Incorporating some of her “hacks” for managing glucose has also helped us minimize the digestive issues and feel better overall.

So here are ten things we’ve done over the past few months that have helped us stop suffering from heartburn and acid reflux:

Smaller portions to control heartburn and acid reflux
  1. Cut down our portion sizes. We made changes like using smaller plates for our meals and sharing an entree when we go to a restaurant. Eating less is one of the most helpful changes we’ve made.
  2. Stopped eating (as much) sugar. While on the Whole 30 program, we learned that cravings for sweet things go away fairly quickly when you stop eating sugar. And what a difference it makes in how we feel when we do!
  3. Stopped eating (as much) dairy. Going without cheese or ice cream is not that hard for us, but giving up butter is more of a challenge. Especially when I bake a fresh loaf of sourdough bread. We try to use it in moderation.
  4. Cut back on grains and legumes. Sometimes we miss rice or pasta, but we haven’t really consumed a lot of those for a long time. We substitute spaghetti squash or zucchini for pasta, and use potatoes or riced cauliflower for a side.
  5. Switched to sourdough bread. Since we created our sourdough starter and started baking our own fresh loaves, this is almost the only bread we use. It’s not only healthier, we think it’s more delicious.
  6. Cut back on adult beverages. Alcohol consumption can relax the valve that stops stomach acid from entering the esophagus. So we limit ourselves to an occasional glass of wine or cocktail to avoid the painful effects.
  7. Eat only savory breakfasts. This is one of the Glucose Goddess’s hacks to keep your blood sugars level. We have found it starts our day off better to follow this rule.
  8. Start meals with veggies and vinegar. There is some amazing research on why eating vegetables before the rest of your meal helps regulate blood sugar levels and makes you feel fuller. And there are numerous health benefits from vinegar. We like it mixed with olive oil on our salads.
  9. Take a shot of kombucha for minor digestive issues. The health benefits of kombucha may be somewhat controversial, but I’ve found it is helpful when I’m feeling a twinge of indigestion.
  10. Try to practice moving for ten minutes after we eat. The Glucose Goddess Method says that if you move after you eat, some of the glucose gets used up by your muscle cells, flattening the glucose curve without increasing insulin levels. My sister has long believed you can counteract the effects of overindulging by just going for a walk. We know exercising is a good thing to do, whatever our motivation might be.
Sourdough Bread

It can be hard to give up the (less than healthy) foods we love to indulge in. But if that’s what it takes to stop suffering from heartburn and acid reflux, it’s worth it.

Have you experienced frequent heartburn or acid reflux? How do you deal with the problem? Tell us if you’ve made any changes in your diet or lifestyle as a result in the comments.

Disclaimer: We are not medical professionals, and this post is not intended to provide medical advice. We are sharing our personal experience for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician regarding any medical condition or treatment.

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