Maansi Healthy Living
How to prevent acid reflux
Acid reflux is one of the most common disorders, affecting people all over the globe. As per an estimate, around 20% of people in the United States suffer from GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disorder). When acid reflux causes chronic symptoms, it is termed GERD. In this blog, we will discuss what acid reflux is, what triggers and causes it, and how you can prevent it in a natural way.
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What is acid reflux?
Acid reflux is one of the most common digestive disorders, which leads to irritation in your food pipe due to the backflow of acid present in your stomach or bile juice. As a result, you may get bloated, burp, cough, have heartburn, and have a sour taste in your mouth. Acid reflux occurring twice a week is known as a gastroesophageal disease (GERD). It occurs when the esophageal sphincter (the valve that controls the passage between the esophagus and stomach ) does not close completely and leads to the backflow of stomach acid into the esophagus. Acid backflow is termed “acid reflux.”
Acid reflux may also lead to sore throats, hoarseness, or a bad taste in your mouth. Persistent acid reflux causes GERD with symptoms like heartburn and pain in the upper abdomen and chest. The conditions that may lead to acid reflux are poor clearance of food from the esophagus; delay in emptying the stomach; or too much acid in the stomach.
What are the causes and triggers of acid reflux?
Acid reflux is caused when acid or food from the stomach gets back into the esophagus through the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). In normal conditions, the LES allows food to enter the stomach but prevents the backward flow by closing the passage. But sometimes the LES becomes weak and contents from your stomach get back into your esophagus, leading to acid reflux-related symptoms.
The following are the foods and other factors that may trigger acid reflux:
- Carbonated drinks
- Citrus fruits
- Fatty foods
- Tomato-based foods like ketchup, pasta sauce
- Spicy foods
- Certain medications, like antihistamines, antidepressants, painkillers, sedatives, etc.
- Obesity or being overweight
- Hiatal hernia (A condition known as a hiatal hernia occurs when a portion of the stomach pushes through the diaphragm muscle).
- Abdominal pressure due to pregnancy
How to reduce the chances of acid reflux?
Acid reflux may lead to discomfort and pain. At night, it can disturb your sleep, which is essential for your good health and recovery. Acid reflux can be prevented by making changes in your diet and lifestyle. The following are a few suggestions that can help you prevent acid reflux:
- Avoid eating for two to three hours before going to bed.
- Avoid foods that may trigger acid reflux.
- Consume a balanced diet rich in proteins, vegetables, and fruits. (Around 60% to 70% of your diet should come from vegetables). Eat a diet that is freshly prepared (at least 2 to 3 hours before consuming).
- Maintain a healthy BMI.
- Avoid lying down after consuming food. A walk after every meal can help a lot.
- Quit smoking
- Sleep on an incline with your head elevated 6 to 8 inches higher than your feet.
Certain over the counter medicines can help you prevent acid reflux, but their long-term use should always be consulted with your healthcare provider. The following are the few types:
Antacids can provide immediate relief from symptoms by reducing the amount of acid in your stomach.
H2 blockers: they reduce the amount of acid in the stomach. H2blockers work within an hour after consumption and are effective for 8 to 12 hours. A few examples are Ranitidine, Famotidine, Cimetidine, etc.
Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs): They block the production of acid in the stomach and are used in cases of frequent or chronic acid reflux. A few examples are Lansoprazole, Omeprazole, Pantoprazole, Rabeprazole, and Esomeprazole. They are available on prescription from your doctor.
Preventing acid reflux the natural way
Acid reflux can be prevented by making lifestyle changes and adopting healthy eating habits. The following are a few suggestions:
Eat small and frequent meals.
Mostly, acid reflux symptoms appear after consuming meals. which indicates that when the stomach is full, it may lead to acid reflux. Consuming small and frequent meals with proper chewing may help you prevent acid reflux. For more reading (reference), click here. “ Effect of liquid meals with different volumes on gastroesophageal reflux disease“
The above study concluded : “Larger meals are associated with distension of the gastric fundus and an increase in gastroesophageal reflux when compared with smaller, more frequent meals.“
Avoid foods that trigger your symptoms.
There are certain foods that may trigger your symptoms of acid reflux. These foods may include: mint, fatty foods, spicy foods, tomatoes, onions, garlic, coffee, tea, chocolate, and alcohol. Individual responses may vary from person to person. You may add these foods to your diet one by one and then look for the symptoms. Avoid foods that lead to a worsening of symptoms.
Avoid carbonated drinks.
Carbonated drinks may worsen your symptoms of acid reflux. Prefer plain water in place of sparkling water.
As per a study, it was observed that consumption of carbonated drinks may increase acid reflux symptoms like heartburn, burping, and fullness. Carbon dioxide in carbonated drinks may cause burping, which leads to leakage of stomach acid into the esophagus.
Consume dinner two to three hours before bed.
It is suggested that you consume your meals at least 2 to 3 hours before going to bed to prevent acid reflux. After consuming food, lying horizontally impacts digestion and leads to increased chances of symptoms related to acid reflux. As per a study, it was stated that consuming food and going to bed increases your chances of acid reflux by 5% in comparison to people who consume food 2 to 3 hours before bed. More studies are needed.
One more study on 817 people with type-2 diabetes indicated that consuming dinner late at night is associated with an increased risk of acid reflux. For more reading (reference) click here “Eating Behaviours and Prevalence of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease in Japanese Adult Patients With Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: The Dogo Study“
Make a habit of walking after every meal.
Make a habit of walking for at least 15 to 30 minutes after every meal (if possible). It is advisable not to indulge in vigorous exercise for a couple of hours after meals, especially if it involves bending. As bending forward may lead to acid passage in the esophagus from the stomach.
Elevate the head of your bed.
In ideal conditions, your head should be 6 to 8 inches higher than your feet, while sleeping. It can help you prevent acid reflux. To raise the head of your bed, you can use extra-tall bed risers. And if your partner feels uncomfortable, use a foam wedge instead. Do not use pillow stacks, as they do not provide uniform support.
Maintain a healthy BMI.
The diaphragm is a muscle located above your stomach. The primary function of the diaphragm is to assist in respiration. A secondary function is to strengthen the lower esophageal sphincter, which prevents the entry of stomach acid and food back into the esophagus.
However, excessive belly fat may create pressure in your abdomen which may lead to the pushing up of the esophageal sphincter. The condition is called hiatal hernia and is considered one of the leading causes of GERD. Some studies suggest that shedding at least 10% of your body weight can reduce symptoms of GERD. For more reading (reference), click here: “Voluntary and controlled weight loss can reduce symptoms and proton pump inhibitor use and dosage in patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease: a comparative study“
Thus, maintaining a healthy BMI (body mass index) can help to prevent acid reflux. Consult your healthcare provider about losing extra weight in a safer way.
Smoking may have a negative impact on your digestive health. Nicotine may lead to an increase in symptoms associated with acid reflux. It can weaken your lower esophageal sphincter, which can cause backflow of stomach acid and food into the esophagus. It may also cause a reduction in saliva production and an increase in stomach acid.
Certain medications may cause acid reflux.
Certain medications may increase the symptoms of acid reflux. Therefore, consult your healthcare provider before using it. Medicines like postmenopausal estrogen, anti-inflammatory painkillers, tricyclic antidepressants, iron supplements, anti-anxiety drugs, etc. can trigger acid reflux.
A few studies suggest that chewing gum may help reduce symptoms related to acid reflux. The bicarbonate present in gum may help reduce acidity by neutralizing it. Chewing gum may also help in increasing saliva production. However, more studies are needed. For more reading (reference), click here. “Walking and chewing reduce postprandial acid reflux“
Prefer to lay on your left side
A few studies suggest that lying on your left side reduces acid reflux symptoms. For more reading, click here. “A Novel Sleep Positioning Device Reduces Gastroesophageal Reflux: A Randomized Controlled Trial“
It was observed that lying on your left side reduces acid exposure by around 71%. When you sleep on the left side, the esophagus enters on the right side of the stomach and the esophageal sphincter gets above the level of the stomach. which may help to prevent acid reflux. Sleeping on the left side may not be comfortable for the whole night. But changing the position after the initial few hours may help.
Avoid consuming raw onions.
Consuming raw onions may increase your symptoms related to acid reflux. One study suggests that people eating meals with raw onions experienced an increase in symptoms of acid reflux in comparison to people not consuming raw onions. However, cooked onion can be a better option.
Limit your alcohol consumption.
Alcohol consumption may aggravate symptoms related to acid reflux. Alcohol drinking may help in increasing stomach acid and relaxing the lower esophageal sphincter, which is responsible for preventing the backflow of stomach acid and food. For more reading (reference), click here. “Tobacco smoking, alcohol consumption and gastro-oesophageal reflux disease“
Limit high-fat food consumption.
Studies suggest that consumption of fatty and fried foods may act as triggers for GERD and heartburn. Foods like potato chips, pizza, bacon, sausage, and other fried foods may aggravate acid reflux symptoms. For more reading (reference), click here for “Effect of high-fat, standard, and functional food meals on esophageal and gastric pH in patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease and healthy subjects “
In a study, it was stated that more than half of the total participants who consumed high-fat foods had reported GERD symptoms. Moreover, when the triggering foods were removed from their diet, the heartburn reduced from 93% to 44%. More study is needed.
It is also to be noted that fats are one of the essential parts of our food. Therefore, it is important to consume healthy fats. For more reading, click here Fats- one of the most important part of our food.
What happens next if my acid reflux remains untreated?
Acid reflux, if left untreated for the long run, may lead to serious health complications. Prolonged untreated acid reflux may cause irritation, hemorrhaging, swelling, and ulcers in the esophagus. A few conditions may include:
Erosive esophagitis: Erosive esophagitis is caused by inflammation in the esophagus. It may lead to bleeding and ulcers in the lining of the esophagus.
Esophageal stricture: the esophagus becomes narrow and causes swelling difficulties with a feeling that there is food stuck in your throat.
Barrett’s esophagus: It happens when the cells and the tissue lining your esophagus become more like intestinal cells. Later on, it may develop into adenocarcinoma (a type of cancer).
If you feel the following symptoms, consult your healthcare advisor:
- If you do not get relief from over-the-counter medicines and by changing your lifestyle and eating habits,
- feelings of persistent nausea and vomiting.
- experiencing unexpected weight loss.
- having difficulty swallowing.
- There is blood in your stool.
Your healthcare provider will suggest you the possible treatment options.
For awareness purposes only.
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