Soothe the Burn: Non-Medical GERD Therapies

nutrition Dec 07, 2021
Soothe the Burn: Non-Medical GERD Therapies


Work on your lifestyle

The biggest bang for your buck is to work on your waistline. Obesity and subsequently loss of body fat will assist greatly in improving your reflux (SEE MACROS and our diet/fitness programming). Along the same lines, stress will greatly affect your gut function. The same signaling hormones in your body that control stress (serotonin, dopamine), also control the way your GI tract moves and shakes. If you manage your stress this will help manage your gut. 

Gravity is also a large part of keeping your food down into your stomach. With this in mind, if you have a weak LES or too much acid, lying down within 3 hours after a meal will likely lead to your stomach contents coming back up into your esophagus and leading to GERD symptoms, yuck! To combat this issue, wait at least 3 hours after your last meal before lying down. 



Now that you have TIMED your food properly, let’s COMPOSE it correctly. Trigger foods in GERD include 1) things that damage the lining (see below tobacco and alcohol), 2) acidic foods, 3) foods that open up the LES. I am sure you can tell ME what food bothers you, but let’s run through them together.

Acidic foods include things with citric acid (lemons, limes, oranges, pineapple, grapefruit) and tomato. Spicy foods cause a deep burn by capsaicin and also the pH of the food itself, usually in the acidic range. Many foods with caffeine have an acidic pH, but they also can open the LES directly. A similar effect is caused by peppermint and chocolate. 

Am I telling you to avoid all of these foods??? Well, no…Mexican food is too delicious to live without. What I am telling you is, know your food triggers and either avoid them if your symptoms are unstoppable or know that when you eat them, your symptoms will worsen. Likely also if you lose some weight, you may be able to eat more of these foods you enjoy. 

Along the same lines, eating certain foods if you have intolerances or food allergies can make your symptoms worsen. It may be worth it to try avoiding lactose (milk, cheese, ice cream, yogurt) and/or gluten (wheat, rye, barley). A trial of life without lactose or gluten, though tough may help your symptoms and is worth a try.

Other lifestyle changes you can enact, involve eliminating your vices…alcohol, and/or tobacco. Tobacco smoke has many poor effects on the gut. The nicotine leads to changes in blood flow that can damage tissue. Nicotine in the esophagus can also open up the doorway between the esophagus and stomach allowing for acid to take on free reign. The tobacco itself is a carcinogen, meaning it can damage the DNA of your gut cells. This damage can lead to cancer in the esophagus, stomach, and really anywhere in the body. If you smoke…stop…STOP NOW! Other interventions for your overall health will be less than getting rid of the tobacco in your life. 



Marijuana does not impact the gut in the same way as tobacco smoke, however, it can make your stomach emptying slow, leading to food sitting longer in the stomach and therefore acid working overtime to digest it. This will also lead to more food that can come back up into your food pipe, leading to GERD. You also may make poor food choices with those munchies.

What about vaping? We do not know the effects of vaping on the gut and barely on your health. If someone told you to walk through a door into a dark room and said “walk in there. Something bad may happen to you or it may not, but just walk in there because you look cool.” Would you do it…I wouldn’t. Stay tuned for more unfolding on this…in particular cancer risk as cancer usually takes time to occur. The jury is out, proceed cautiously.

Alcohol also can affect digestion and GERD by damaging your gut mucous barrier making your body more susceptible to esophageal sensitivity. It is mostly digested in the stomach and therefore can alter the movement of food/digestion of food in the gut and increase acid production. Cut back, eliminate or eat before you drink, and this will help with GERD.

How else you can fix GERD?

In addition to lifestyle alterations, there have been supplements that may show some mild benefit in this condition. I will say that without the supervision of a physician many of these interventions could have the potential for risk.

As we discussed earlier, non-acid reflux is a subset of GERD. Some people have benefited from using ox bile acid to shift their bile acid pool and digestive enzymes (pancreatic enzymes) to change pancreas juice composition. Acidic foods such as apple cider vinegar (1 teaspoon – 1 Tablespoon in 8 ounces of water prior to meals) and hydrochloric acid may benefit for non-acid reflux. However, in the case of acid reflux and ulcers, giving an acid is actually a classic diagnostic test for diagnosing this condition and not a remedy. My advice steers away from most of these interventions, but if you want to try one, just use apple cider vinegar as it is the safest…even if the taste is less than enjoyable. 



Moving onto herbals, the first group can assist with increasing the mucus barrier in your gut.

Examples include:

  1. Licorice
  2. Slippery Elm
  3. Marshmallow root
  4. Mastic Gum

A classic example is a licorice (deglycrrhizinated licorice or DGL). Taking these tablets, usually in chewable format 20 minutes prior to meals may help certain people with GERD. It may also assist those people with ulcers.

Similar to healing your protective lining, slippery elm and marshmallow root may also have some benefits. Marshmallow root is typically brewed in tea format 30 min before breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It possesses mucous-building properties useful for many intestinal problems, which often co-exist with GERD. 



Finally, mastic gum in doses 1-5 grams daily can lower inflammation and may benefit bacterial infections in the stomach (Helicobacter Pylori) and potentially heal ulcers in the stomach. No ill effect has been described to my knowledge.  

Traditional therapies

In the spirit of our message here at @maximalbeing, we have given you a road map toward success and empowerment toward getting rid of the GERD. Mediations, minimally invasive procedures, and surgeries can also be used in GERD and some people require these treatments along with their lifestyle changes. Partner with your healthcare provider to tackle this issue and find out if one of these more traditional treatments is the right pick for you.


GERD is a complex combination of conditions affecting the upper GI tract. Determine your diagnosis, make sure you have no red flags, and partner with your physician to work on the health elements which can keep you stuck in the cycle of discomfort. With a combination of weight loss, proper diet, stress relief, avoidance of vices, along potential holistic remedies, you can conquer this condition that interferes with the lives of so many people.

(that Your Doctor Won’t Tell You)

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