Acid reflux, and the resulting heartburn, has been steadily on the rise over the past two decades. In fact, as many as 60 million Americans suffer from this uncomfortable post-meal sensation on a regular basis. But you might be surprised to learn that experts still can’t agree on the cause of the disorder—or the best way to treat it.
For starters, acid reflux—also known as gastroesophageal reflux—is the expulsion of stomach contents back into the esophagus. And that’s about as fun as it sounds: The acidity of this fluid burns the esophageal lining causing a painful burning sensation in the chest. Repeated exposure to stomach acid can cause serious damage to the esophagus and increase the risk of developing esophageal cancer.
Unfortunately, while there are over-the-counter and prescription medications to treat acid reflux, they can be expensive and come with a host of long- and short-term side effects, like increased risk of nutrient deficiencies, osteoporosis, and dependency (more on that in a bit). The good news is, there are many lifestyle changes and natural remedies that might offer relief and even target the underlying causes of acid reflux.