Typically brought on by food triggers and accompanied by indigestion and heartburn, acid reflux is a common condition that affects almost all of us at least once in our lives.
Stomach acid or bile flows into their food pipe, irritating the lining and causing symptoms like heartburn.
As many as 20% of Americans suffer from this condition every day.
After a few hours, acid reflux should disappear on its own or with the aid of over-the-counter (OTC) medicines.
Some people who suffer from acid reflux try to ease their symptoms with herbal remedies, including ginger. But does it work?
In this article, I’ll provide some more detail on acid reflux, including its causes and symptoms.
I’ll talk about ginger as a potential treatment for acid reflux, and how to take it.
I’ll also outline other treatments for acid reflux, And I’ll tell you when you should talk to your doctor or another healthcare provider.
What is Acid Reflux?
Acid reflux can occur if you have eaten too much, too quickly, or a food that triggers acid production in your stomach.
It’s unpleasant, tastes horrible, and you may feel like there’s no way to relieve your symptoms—since lying down tends to make it worse.
Acid reflux occurs when stomach acid or bile enters the lower esophageal sphincter and irritates the esophagus lining, causing chest and throat burn, upper abdominal pain, an unpleasant taste in your mouth, and sometimes gassiness or belching.
If you’ve ever felt these uncomfortable symptoms after eating a plate of greasy food, a large meal, or drinking orange juice, you likely experienced acid reflux.
You may experience any or all the following symptoms:
- Upper, central abdominal pain
- Dyspepsia (indigestion): An upset stomach that can be categorized by burping, belching, bloating, and heartburn.
- Dysphagia: A feeling of food being stuck in your throat.
- Heartburn: Burning pain that can travel from your stomach up to your chest or throat.
- Regurgitation: A sour or bitter taste in your mouth or throat that you may experience as wet burps or dry heaving.
Acid reflux can be brought on by any of the following health-related issues:
- Hiatal hernia: This is when the upper part of the stomach bulges through your diaphragm (the muscle that separates your stomach from your chest). Your diaphragm helps keep acid in your stomach. If you have a hiatal hernia, acid can move freely into your esophagus triggering acid reflux.
- Pregnancy: You are also more likely to get acid reflux from the pressure put on your stomach.
- Obesity: Being overweight increases the pressure on your stomach.
In addition, acid reflux can be caused by a range of food triggers, including:
- Fried, greasy, or fatty foods
- Spicy foods
- Acidic foods such as citrus fruits and juices
- Tomatoes and red sauces
- Carbonated beverages
- Coffee (both regular and decaf) and caffeinated beverages
Can Ginger be Used to Treat Acid Reflux?
Ginger has been found to have several benefits for gastrointestinal health: It helps with stomach emptying and may provide nausea relief.
But there is no medical evidence that specifically ties ginger to acid reflux relief.
How it works
While there is no scientific evidence that ginger relieves acid reflux, and several studies showed that ginger does not relieve acid reflux symptoms, research does show that ginger can be beneficial for nausea relief– as effective as some over-the-counter and prescription nausea medications.
How to take It?
Consider steeping ginger root in hot water or buying pure ginger tea.
Drink a cup as needed for nausea.
Other Treatments for Acid Reflux
In most cases, acid reflux will go away after a few hours on its own.
It may subside even faster with medications.
You can treat your acid reflux with other home remedies, lifestyle changes, and over-the-counter medications.
- Chew gum: According to a 2005 study, chewing gum when experiencing acid reflux could induce increased swallowing frequency. This helps the esophagus clear out the acid.
- Lose weight if you are overweight
- Stay well hydrated
- Quit smoking
- Avoid food triggers such as citrus fruits, spicy foods, and greasy foods
- Eat smaller meals
- Don’t eat a large meal within three hours of lying down or going to bed
- Sleep with your head elevated
- Avoid coffee and caffeinated beverages
- Avoid clothing that is restrictive around the waist or abdomen
- Antacids: OTC antacids are usually the first-line recommendation for acid reflux and heartburn because of their availability and low risk of side effects. They work by neutralizing acids in your stomach and can provide fast, short-term relief. You can find them in a variety of forms—including chewables, dissolving tablets, and liquids. Some examples of antacids include calcium carbonate (Tums), simethicone (Mylanta, Maalox), and sodium bicarbonate (Alka-Seltzer).
- Histamine-2 (H2) Blockers: H2 blockers are available by prescription and OTC. They can reduce the amount of acid your stomach produces to help alleviate heartburn. H2 blockers don’t work as quickly to reduce heartburn as antacids, but the effect can last longer. Examples include famotidine (Pepcid AC), nizatidine (Axid AR), and ranitidine (Zantac 75).
- Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs): PPIs also work to reduce stomach acid. They can be especially effective when antacids or H2 blockers haven’t worked. Recently, some PPIs have become available OTC, including esomeprazole (Nexium) and omeprazole (Prilosec). Other PPIs, like rabeprazole (AcipHex), are only available with a prescription. Research shows that long-term use of PPIs can lead to kidney problems, including kidney failure. Experts recommend using PPIs only when necessary and not as a regular medication.
When to See a Doctor
If you’re experiencing ongoing symptoms of acid reflux and have explored your treatment options with home remedies, over-the-counter medications, and lifestyle changes, talk to your doctor or primary care provider.
Your healthcare provider will be able to determine if acid reflux is part of a more serious health condition.
Mild cases of acid reflux can be treated with most over-the-counter medicines, but recurring symptoms or severe symptoms could indicate a more serious health condition.
Your doctor or primary care provider can help you figure out if a referral to a gastroenterologist is needed- they can perform studies such as endoscopy or esophageal pH monitoring, if appropriate for your condition.
In some cases, your doctor may also want to do a blood, breath, or stool test to determine if your recurring GERD is the result of a bacterial infection that requires antibiotics, or due to a food allergy or sensitivity
If you are unsure about whether you should see a doctor or not, consider any of the following symptoms as signs you should seek medical attention immediately:
- Severe chest pain
- A choking sensation in your throat or difficulty swallowing
- Pain in the neck, jaw, or arm,
- Vomiting blood or dark brown material
- Dramatic weight loss
- A chronic cough
- Black, tarry stools
In rare cases, when your symptoms are prolonged and do not respond to other treatments, a gastroenterologist may recommend a surgery called fundoplication to tighten and reinforce the lower esophageal sphincter.
How K Health Can Help
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Frequently Asked Questions
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.
K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
Acid Reflux (GER & GERD) in Adults. (2021).
What is GERD? (2021).
The effect of chewing sugar-free gum on gastro-esophageal reflux. (2005).
Phase II study of the effects of ginger root extract on eicosanoids in colon mucosa in people at normal risk for colorectal cancer. (2011).
Ginger in gastrointestinal disorders: A systematic review of clinical trials. (2018).