Alternative Medicine for Acid Reflux

Instructor: Alyssa Campbell

Alyssa is an active RN and teaches Nursing and Leadership university courses. She also has a Doctorate in Nursing Practice and a Master's in Business Administration.

Acid reflux is a common, yet painful, condition affecting the upper digestive tract. Read this lesson to learn more about some alternative methods used in the treatment of this condition.

What is Acid Reflux?

Acid reflux is a condition affecting the mouth and upper digestive tract, consisting of the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum. Reflux occurs when stomach acid creeps up the esophagus and sometimes, into the mouth. Alice, a young and healthy woman, suffers from acid reflux. Her condition is characterized by several symptoms:

  • Heartburn, or burning in the chest, especially when laying down after eating
  • Sour liquid in the back of the mouth
  • Regurgitation of food particles when burping

Now that Alice's acid reflux has gotten progressively worse, despite the use of conventional medications, she seeks alternative methods of controlling the reflux.

Conventional Methods

Alice has been experiencing acid reflux for a long time and has been taking over the counter and prescription medication for years to control her symptoms. When her symptoms first began, Alice tried chalky antacids, or chewable tabs to neutralize the acid in her stomach. This worked for a little while but did not provide her with long-term relief. When her painful symptoms returned, she sought the advice of a medical professional.

Alice is introduced to a few other medications used to control acid reflux symptoms, known as:

  • H2 Blockers (H2RAs)
  • Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs)

Alice's healthcare provider explains that these medications are helpful in blocking the production of acid in the stomach, and can help prevent the development of gastric ulcers.

Alternative Methods

While the idea of trying medication held some potential relief for Alice, she remains curious about other nontraditional or alternative methods to control her acid reflux. Alice's provider is well-versed in alternative medicine to treat common conditions like acid reflux, and she shares a few options with her.

  • Decreasing stress: Stress can be the cause of excess stomach acid production. Alice can try light exercises like yoga or meditation to help reduce the amount of stress in her life and promote a healthier digestive process.
  • Traditional Chinese remedies: The use of acupuncture and herbs have been used in Eastern medicine for thousands of years. Acupuncture, the use of needles placed into key points of the body, are meant to stimulate a healthy flow of energy within the body. The use of special herbs like ginger, slippery elm, and chamomile, have been made into teas and tinctures that are orally ingested to decrease stomach upset and indigestion.
  • Kitchen pantry items: Items found in typical pantries like baking soda, apple cider vinegar, and cayenne powder can be incorporated into foods and drinks to help manage indigestion and maintain a healthy level of acid within the stomach.
  • Lifestyle modifications: Alice's provider also recommended several lifestyle changes that could really impact her acid reflux. Alice learned that her long-term overweight status and smoking habit may be contributing to her condition. She also learned that loose-fitting clothes help to reduce the amount of pressure on her upper digestive tract, causing less pain and discomfort throughout the day.

Choosing the Best Option

While Alice's provider explains that both conventional and alternative methods to treating acid reflux are acceptable, it is recommended that Alice:

  • Remain receptive and open to trying different treatments
  • Try one treatment at a time to determine its effectiveness
  • Choose treatments that fit her preferences and lifestyle the best, as she will be most likely to adopt the treatment into her daily schedule

Alice learns that over time, she can combine many conventional and alternative treatment modalities to help manage the symptoms of acid reflux.

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