Has acid reflux taken the joy out of eating? If so, you’re not alone. It’s estimated that about half of Americans had heartburn in the past week.
Unlike many health problems, acid reflux can usually be prevented by changing your diet and other habits.
What is acid reflux?
Before we talk about preventing it, a little background on acid reflux might be helpful. Acid reflux happens when acidic digestive juices from the stomach flow backward into your food pipe (esophagus.) Usually, there’s a valve at the top of the stomach that keeps these acids from going up into the esophagus. When you have acid reflux, this valve no longer works properly.
When this acid from the stomach comes in contact with the sensitive tissue in the esophagus, it creates a painful, burning feeling in the middle of your chest and abdomen. This is commonly known as heartburn.
Acid reflux is closely related to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Many people have acid reflux from time to time, but if you have it 2-3 times a week, every week, you may be diagnosed with GERD.
While heartburn is the most common symptom of acid reflux, not everyone has heartburn. Other common symptoms include:
- Painful or difficult swallowing
- Bad breath
- Respiratory problems
- Wearing away of your teeth
What causes acid reflux?
Most of the reasons you feel these uncomfortable symptoms are mechanical or related to how your body works.
Common causes of acid reflux and GERD include:
- Increased pressure in the abdomen from being pregnant, overweight, or having a hiatal hernia
- Certain medications may change the amount of acid in your stomach or alter the way your gastrointestinal system works
- Smoking or inhaling second-hand smoke
Five tips to decrease the burn of acid reflux
Simple changes to your diet and other habits can improve or even resolve all of your symptoms. Dr. Modlin recommends these five tips to avoid acid reflux:
Eat small, frequent meals
Overeating increases the pressure on the valve at the top of your stomach, which may cause acid to leak up into the esophagus. By eating small, frequent meals, you can alleviate pressure on your stomach, so the digestive juice stays where it belongs.
Avoid certain foods
Some foods are more likely to cause acid reflux. Try to avoid greasy or spicy foods and alcoholic drinks. Some people find that avoiding coffee, soda, citrus juices, raw onion, mint, or chocolate helps prevent or lessen their symptoms.
If you smoke, quitting may help lessen your acid reflux. Smoking may cause the valve between the stomach and esophagus to weaken. As the valve loosens, more stomach acid flows backward into the esophagus. When you stop smoking, this valve will function better, limiting the amount of acid that escapes into your esophagus.
Watch your weight
Controlling your weight is the first step to a healthy lifestyle. If you’re overweight or obese, losing weight may improve your acid reflux symptoms. Changing your diet and increasing your activity can get you on the right path for weight loss.
Limit late-night eating
Going to bed on a full stomach increases the pressure in your abdomen. Don’t eat late at night. If you can’t avoid late night eating on occasion, raise the head of your bed 6-8 inches to allow for proper positioning.
Acid reflux can be an annoying and painful health problem. The good news is that it’s preventable and treatable. If you’re suffering from acid reflux symptoms more than you’d like, come in to see Dr. Modlin and take advantage of his advanced techniques in diagnosing acid reflux. Call the office or use the online booking tool to make an appointment.