HOUSTON - About 70 million Americans suffer from acid reflux. Many of them are trying to find a natural way to relieve their pain.
You may have experienced the heartburn, indigestion, nausea -- and the holiday season diet of high fat food and alcohol can make it worse.
It can be aggravated by things like high-fat foods, chocolate and alcohol, which are often part of the diet this holiday season.
Relief often comes with costly prescriptions, but chronic use can cause dangerous side effects. That's why more and more people are looking for natural remedies.
In 2007, Kelli Minson was jarred awake by her husband, Dr. Matthew Minson.
"Matt woke me up really, really early in the morning to ask me to take him to the hospital and he said he couldn't breathe," she told our sister station KPRC in Houston.
Matt explained, "(The feeling) was rapidly progressing, so I went into the study and wrote a quick note should paramedics arrive and I wasn't able to communicate with them."
He was diagnosed in the emergency room.
Matt said, "(The doctor) came back and said, 'You've got reflux, a progressive case of reflux, and I was surprised."
He has what's called Silent Reflux. There are often no symptoms until it's too late.
Gastroesophogeal Reflux Disease, or GERD, is very common.
Food or liquid in the stomach leaks back up into the esophagus, causing irritation or heartburn.
Matt was given a prescription and asked to sleep head elevated.
He said, " If I would go into a recumbent position or lie down flat, I'd start to feel this fullness in my throat and start to experience the same sort of problem I had initially. Once you've gone through that and know what you're dealing with, you're like, 'Here it comes again.'"
When they couldn't find anything readily available, Kelli invented The Gravity1st Elevated Sleep Systems™ mattress. It fits on top of a regular mattress and has a seven inch incline. The cost ranges from $249 to $379.
Kelli explained, "We tried really, really hard to get the cost of the largest mattress we make within the range of a one-month supply of medication that was out of pocket, and I think we came within about $25, so we're pretty pleased about that."
Matt said, "Probably within a week, I was dramatically sleeping better."
UTHealth gastroenterologist Dr. Drew Dupont practices at the Digestive Disease Center at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center. He said sleeping with the head elevated has been shown to decrease the acid level in the esophagus.
"It definitely works. It doesn't really prevent reflux, but it increases the emptying from the esophagus. So you still may get the reflux, but it clears out faster, so you get less of the problems at night," said Dupont.
Dupont said if you're having problems with acid reflux more than twice a week, you'll want to see a doctor.