You’re walking home from dinner on your long-awaited vacation and that nagging burning sensation in your chest from acid reflux begins to bubble up. You instantly have flashbacks of those nights spent awake because the burning was so awful. You begin to fear eating anything because it could trigger the reflux. The rest of your trip must be doomed….
Wait! Let’s stop the negative tailspin right here because acid reflux, whether you’re traveling or not, is NOT something you should have to put up with. In fact, it’s very easy to overcome!
I used to have acid reflux like no other, to the point that every other month my doctors were upping my acid blocking medication dose or trying me on new ones because it kept getting worse. Come to find out, it wasn’t high stomach acid levels that were causing this, it was actually dangerously low levels. By using acid blockers, it was only making the issue worse. No wonder no medication was helping!
Since then, I discovered ways to rebalance my stomach acid levels and was able to come completely off the medications. Now, I can live and travel without acid reflux by implementing the tools I’m giving you in this post. These are the same tools I studied during my extensive functional nutrition training and that I now give to my clients. Pick out one or a few from the below to try now and on your next trip.
Make a Lemon Water Elixir Every Morning
Lemons are a magical fruit in the world of functional nutrition. Not only are they great for detoxing the body, but because they’re acidic, they can help boost low stomach acid levels and combat acid reflux. Every morning before and during your trip, mix the juice of ½-1 lemon in a cup of water.
Optionally, you can add a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar for an added boost. The day I arrive wherever I’m staying for vacation, I head to a local grocery store or fruit stand to get a few lemons to use throughout my trip. It’s one of the cheapest and most effective ways I’ve found to keep reflux at bay when traveling.
Last year, I traveled to the land of lemons, Italy, where lemon stands were on every corner. I bought this one big lemon that lasted me four whole days!
If, however, you’re traveling somewhere void of lemons or don’t want to deal with cutting and squeezing lemons on vaca, another trick is to bring lemon essential oil with you. Add 1-2 drops to a glass of water upon waking and before each meal. I carry the oil bottle around with me in my purse so I can even have it on-the-go.
Lemon and apple cider vinegar was the drink that single-handedly did the trick for me and my acid reflux and I’m forever grateful for it!
Don’t Overeat or Eat too Late at Night
As I mentioned in my post on travel tips to avoid constipation, overeating or eating soon before bedtime can isn’t good for a number of reasons. When it comes to acid reflux, eating too much can keep food lingering further up in your digestive tract which can push acid levels upwards and cause the sensation of heartburn. Similarly, eating and going to bed soon thereafter can keep food stuck further up in your digestive tract and cause stomach acid, which is trying to break down the food, to travel too high up, too, causing acid reflux.
Aim to eat only what you know your body needs and don’t eat within two hours of going to bed to allow food to get further down your digestive tract before laying horizontal.
Pictured above, I’m eating dinner in Alcudia Old Town, a beautiful little town on the island of Mallorca, Spain.
Don’t Eat Spicy or other Triggering Foods
If you know it’s going to bother you or has bothered you in the past, don’t eat it — even if you are on vacation! This includes foods like spicy peppers and inflammatory foods like wheat, pasteurized dairy, and refined sugar. If you have trouble digesting these food items, or they cause inflammation or stress in the body, that can put a strain on an already depleted acid or enzyme store.
Image courtesy of Medical News Today
Some other known contributors to acid reflux include alcohol, chocolate, carbonated beverages, fatty and fried foods, garlic, onions, mints, tomatoes, oranges, and other acidic foods and drinks. If you know that any of these trigger you, take them out of your diet not only when traveling but for a few months to allow your system to heal.
Nothing is worse than pushing through a hike or day on the beach with your stomach burning, so those few bites aren’t worth it! Instead, listen to your body and eat what you KNOW will work for you and keep acid reflux at bay.
Eat Calming Foods that Don’t Trigger Acid Reflux
There are many awesome foods that can support your efforts to resolve acid reflux.
These include kefir, bone broth, fermented vegetables, kombucha, dark leafy vegetables, artichokes, asparagus, cucumbers, pumpkin, squash, wild caught fish, healthy fats like avocado, almonds, and honey. Because they’re non-spicy and anti-inflammatory, these foods will not only keep acid reflux at bay but can help to calm the body down and promote healing in the digestive tract.
Take HCL to Boost Low Acid Levels
IF and ONLY if you have ruled out h.pylori (a nasty stomach bacteria that breeds in acidic environments), which you can test for using the GI-MAP ordered through a practitioner like myself, you can take HCL (hydrochloric acid) to boost stomach acid production. That is, if you’ve also verified you have low stomach acid (you don’t want to add MORE acid to a high acidic environment).
Here’s an at-home test you can do to get an idea of how low or not your levels are. If you determine HCL is right for you, it can both boost digestive capacity AND lessen the feelings of acid reflux.
Check in on Sleep and Stress
Is your sleep all out of sorts due to travel? Feeling stressed at all? Both of these factors can have a big impact on acid reflux. Lack of sleep stresses the entire body out and makes it harder to perform regular functions, including producing stomach acid and breaking down food. And stress can cause your body to under or overproduce things like stomach acid.
Get your sleep in order as soon as possible (here are my tips on how to do so) and prioritize a quick daily meditation or deep breathing practice to balance your central nervous system and maintain a healthy stress response.
Massage Your Upper Abdomen
If your acid reflux is caused by too much acid reflux or delayed emptying of acid and food from the stomach, that can cause acid to creep up into the lower esophagus, causing the feeling of heartburn. To calm down and strengthen the valve that separates the stomach and esophagus, you can gently massage it at the base of your rib cage right in the middle of your chest.
Image courtesy of Healthline
Using your pointer and middle finger, rub this area in a circular motion for a minute or so, taking a few deep breaths in the process. Afterward, you should feel some relief.
Use Baking Soda in a Pinch
Baking soda can be a really effective immediate remedy for acid reflux. Because it’s a base, not an acid, it can help to neutralize stomach acid even if you have low production. But since it can lower stomach acid, it should only be used sparingly.
Image courtesy of Healthline
To take it, mix ½ tsp of it in ¼ cup of water. If after several minutes you still feel a burning sensation, repeat this drink until the feeling is gone. Baking soda is a far more natural and healthy alternative to heavy antacid medications, but should only be used in urgent scenarios, and ideally alongside other acid boosting or balancing strategies like the ones above.
Avoiding the Burn on Vacation: Your Action Plan
Speaking from experience, acid reflux can ruin not only your meals but every minute of the day as well as interrupt your sleep. And because you’re reading this post, chances are you’re not about to give in and get a bottle of Tums or Pepto Bismol, so use these tips instead. I use them on every trip I go on and many of them are the reason why my acid reflux is no longer an issue at all.
Give one or two of these tips a try now and on your next trip and let me know which you liked best by commenting below!
Be sure to also check out my post on how to avoid and address constipation when traveling (it happens to so many of us!)