Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) commonly known as acid reflux or heartburn is a very common digestive disease. It happens when acid from the stomach escapes into the esophagus, the aftereffect is felt as heartburns, pain, and inflammation.
The condition is noticed when the barrier between the stomach and the esophagus becomes impaired, causing the acid and food in the stomach to flow back into the esophagus. If not treated over time, the reflux of stomach acid into the esophagus through the lower esophageal sphincter can result in a more serious condition including throat cancer.
Acid reflux, unlike many other medical conditions, can be almost completely preventable – that is if you do the right thing. Acid reflux can cause sore throats and hoarseness and may literally leave a bad taste in your mouth. The following steps will help you reduce your symptoms of acid reflux.
1. Avoid Going to Bed After a Meal
Sleeping immediately after a meal one sure way to trigger acid reflux. Why? When you lie down (horizontally that is), you create a somewhat level field for the stomach acid and all that you’ve eaten to move freely into the esophagus. However, when you sit or stand, gravity help keeps the stomach acid in the stomach, where it belongs.
To prevent this, eat your meals at least two to three hours before lying down. This will give food time to digest and get out of your stomach. Furthermore, by this time, the acid level would have also gone down.
2. Get to Know Your Triggers and Run from Them
For every person living with acid reflux, there are certain foods which trigger this condition. Onions, peppermint, chocolate, beverages with caffeine, citrus fruits or juice, tomatoes, high-fat and spicy foods are some known culprits. The list of triggers is relative, as what can cause an explosive heartburn for one may just be digested normally in another.
To help with this, we advise that you get a list of foods and how you react with them. You can rank the heartburn effect you feel after eating them using a scale of 1 to 5 or 1 to 10 or even 20. The lower numbers on the list should represent the foods that leave mild heartburn symptoms.
It may take quite some time to get a comprehensive list when you finally do, it becomes easier to control your heartburn.
3. Reduce Your Mealtime Portions
Eating smaller meal portions is also another way of controlling acid reflux. When you overstuff your stomach, you give acid in the stomach no space – looking for where to stay, they move into the esophagus. If you cannot manage the small meals three times a day, you can eat up to four or five times a day. Just don’t overstuff your stomach.
4. Eat a Little Bit Slower
Even if it is not your thing, you may need to consider eating more slowly to control your acid reflux. By slowing down your eating you will end up with less food in your stomach at any one time. It takes time for the chemical messengers in our stomach to let the brain know we’re getting full. Give those messengers time to work, and your body will better tell you when you’ve had enough.
If you are a vigorous eater, you can mix food with conversation to spend more time on each meal. As a final resort, you can begin eating with your non-dominant hand. Unless you are ambidextrous or created to eat with both hands, this can be an easy way to slow down.
5. If You Do, Stop Smoking and Drink Moderately
While these are habits some consider cool and normal, they would worsen your heartburn. Cigarettes contain nicotine which will weaken the esophageal sphincter – the muscle saddled with the responsibility of controlling the opening between your esophagus and your stomach. When it’s closed, it keeps acid and other things in your stomach from going back up.
While alcohol may be a great way of blowing off steam after a stressful day, we recommend exercising, walking, meditation, stretching, or deep breathing instead of turning to the bottles. Alcohol increases the production of stomach acid and also relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), allowing stomach contents to reflux back up into the esophagus.
Taking alcohol may not leave the same effect on everyone. If some people, a bottle is more than enough to trigger reflux, others may be able to tolerate two, maybe three before the symptoms surface. The important thing is that you know how much you can take before reflux, and stick to it.
6. Use Medication
There are great medications to help with your acid reflux. First are antacids which will typically work very quickly on heartburn – but for a short period of time. Mylanta, Rolaids, and Tums, are common Antacids. Next up are H2 blockers. These group of drugs will work for a longer period of time, usually up to 12 hours. Cimetidine, Famotidine, nizatidine, and ranitidine.
Finally, we have proton pump inhibitors, and Omeprazole is one of the most popular of these. Omeprazole works by reducing the amount of acid that your stomach produces and so helps to reduce the symptoms associated with acid reflux. Omeprazole is an effective and established medicine for the treatment of acid reflux.
As a part of your medication, your doctor may advise that you drop some weight. Many experts believe that extra belly fat increases pressure on the stomach, forcing food and acid back up through the esophagus. Please, do this only after your doctor has recommended.
7. Sleep on an Inclined Plane
To put it simply, elevate your bed – the bedposts to be exact. By raising your bedpost up to six or eight inches, you give gravity the chance to keep gastric acid down in your stomach. Avoid using pillows as this can put your head at an angle that can put more pressure on your stomach and make your heartburn worse.