For those who suffer, acid reflux is no picnic. If you’re prone to the condition, you know how its effects can spoil your impressions of a great meal. If acid reflux is chronic – called gastroesophageal reflux disorder, or GERD – you may deal with the burning pain several times a week. The problem traces back to a valve at the top of your stomach, called the esophageal sphincter, which leaks stomach contents backward into your esophagus.
There are ways to treat acid reflux with medication, or with surgery in extreme cases when the esophageal sphincter becomes too weak. However, if you suffer from mild to moderate, occasional reflux, you can make relatively minor changes to your lifestyle that, in turn, reward you with big results. Take a moment to look at these eight ways you may be able to reduce the effects of acid reflux without resorting to medication.
Acid reflux is yet another reason to give up the nicotine habit. Smoking may cause the esophageal sphincter to relax when it should seal tightly. The old myth about cigarettes helping digestion is just that – a myth.
Whether you’re carrying a little or a lot of excess baggage, working to achieve a healthy weight is a gift to yourself that keeps on giving. The muscles that support your esophageal sphincter may be spread out when you’re overweight, reducing the pressure necessary to hold your sphincter closed.
Certain foods tend to be acid reflux triggers, and these may vary between sufferers. Once, only the blandest of diets was recommended to combat reflux, but that’s not the case anymore. Identifying your triggers is far more effective, and it keeps eating pleasurable. Among the most common food triggers are:
- Spicy foods
- Tomatoes, onions, and garlic
- Coffee, tea, and other caffeinated beverages
- Fatty foods
Carbonated beverages exert pressure on the esophageal sphincter, causing you to burp when sufficient pressure builds. Guess what? That’s the sphincter opening to let the carbon dioxide out. If you’ve ever had a “wet burp,” you’ll know the leakage isn’t always restricted to gas. If you’re a big fan of fizzy drinks, try choosing non-carbonated drinks to get a break from reflux.
The fast pace of modern society creates a need for rushed eating to such an extent that some of us forget how to truly enjoy the foods we eat. It’s very easy to eat faster than our hunger urges respond, and therefore easy to overstuff our stomachs. Too much food may create back pressure on the esophageal sphincter. Avoid overfilling by chewing slowly and reducing portion sizes.
Perhaps there’s no greater pleasure than lying down on the sofa after a large and delicious meal. That pleasure comes to a quick end, however, if acid reflux flares up. Get an assist from gravity and remain upright immediately after eating. Avoid eating before bed, and if you wake during the night, skip the midnight snack.
When it comes to sleep, keeping your head about six to eight inches higher than your feet is another way you can avoid undue strain on your esophageal sphincter. Add height to the head of your bed or use foam wedges designed for this purpose. Building a ramp made of pillows won’t give you reliable support.
Watch your meds
There’s a chance that lifestyle choices aren’t contributing to acid reflux as much as some prescription and non-prescription medications. Some medications known to relax the esophageal sphincter include:
- Estrogen for postmenopausal hormone therapy
- Anti-inflammatory pain relief
- Bone density medications such as alendronate, ibandronate or risedronate
- Tricyclic antidepressants
If acid reflux persists despite trying any or all these suggestions, or if you have difficulty swallowing due to chronic irritation in your throat, don’t hesitate to call or request an appointment online to see me at GastroDox, PLLC. Together, we can make mealtime pleasant again.