Acid reflux is a common complaint among all adults at some time. A good number of these people will actually suffer quite regularly. It is likely that they are suffering from a disease known as GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease. This is a chronic disease which causes acid to be regurgitated into the esophagus on a regular basis, causing heartburn, breathlessness, nausea, anxiety, postnasal drip and difficulty swallowing. If GERD is left untreated, it can eventually lead to erosion of the lining of the esophagus and cancer.
It is important to find out what the cause of your acid reflux is. Quite often, a medical practitioner will perform and endoscopy and, occasionally, a biopsy to find out whether it is being caused by an underlying condition. If this is found to be the case, it becomes a priority to treat the primary condition first. One common cause of chronic acid reflux is hiatus hernia, which can be treated with surgery. This can also include repairing the opening of the stomach and removal of damaged tissue.
There are a number of over-the-counter treatments available for short-term relief. Becoming reliant on such treatments, however, can cause further complications. Antacids ease the symptoms of indigestion, but when used regularly over a long period of time, actually result in increasing the amount of acid the stomach produces, causing symptoms to get worse. H2 blockers and proton pump inhibitors (PPI) can be used in the same way – again, long-term regular use is not recommended.
Quite often, the root of the problem lies with our diets and lifestyle. A person who is overweight, eats heavily processed foods, drinks coffee and alcohol, smokes, doesn’t exercise, has an irregular sleep pattern and who sleeps on a full stomach, has a very high probability of developing GERD. If this describes your lifestyle, GERD is actually going to be the least of your worries – apart from suffering from acid reflux, you are already at high risk from heart disease, diabetes and a whole array of cancers. The good news is that if you allow GERD to motivate you to change your lifestyle, you might just be in time to ward off the other threats.
Lifestyle changes that can benefit all GERD sufferers include avoiding smoking, alcohol, caffeine and processed foods. Eating smaller meals at regular intervals reduces the stress placed on your stomach by the tradition ‘three meals a day’ system. Try eating five smaller meals and definitely avoid overeating. Consider preparing raw ingredients in some of the meals with the tools from somewhere like Mrs. Foodprep – it can be convenient when you are on the move, and it’s much easier on your digestive system.
Have your final meal several hours before you go to sleep in the evening. Try to go for a walk around the block or a stroll in the park, rather than lounging in front of the TV – which crushes your stomach and makes it likely that acid will be regurgitated.
If you are carrying extra weight around your midriff, this can be a major contributor to acid reflux. The extra pressure that your belly puts on your esophagus and stomach, especially when seated, forces acid back up the throat. If you can lose this weight, you have a very good chance of getting rid of your reflux problem with it.
Other lifestyle changes you can make include things like raising the head of your bed, or adding more pillows to raise your head and neck. This adds gravity to the forces fighting your acid reflux – it’s much more difficult for it to be regurgitated upwards than when you are lying flat.
Try to wear loose clothes, day and night, especially around the waist. Tight belts, ill-fitting shirts, pants and bras can all constrict the organs. When this happens to your stomach and esophagus, it can interfere with the digestive process and cause acid reflux.
There are also a number of foods which are known to provoke acid reflux in certain people. You may be intolerant to dairy products or gluten, for example. In this case it’s likely that you have other symptoms in addition to your reflux, such as those of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Try avoiding these products for a week to see if it has any effect on your symptoms.
Other foods to watch out for include chocolate, mint, citrus fruits, onion, garlic and fried food.