Living With Acid Reflux: 7 Tips For Managing the Symptoms
Digestive problems such as acid reflux, heartburn, and gas affect millions of Americans. These problems can be caused by a stomach producing too much acid or by the stomach producing too little acid. It is important to see your doctor and find out what is really wrong with your stomach and digestive system and then gets advice on how to make it better. People with stomach ulcers, serious acid reflux, Hiatal hernias, or an inflamed esophagus will need medical treatment and lifestyle changes to get relief and healing.
Acid Reflux Causes
Acid reflux is a condition where stomach acid travels upward through the opening at the top of the stomach into the esophagus causing a painful burning sensation. When this becomes a chronic condition, it is called GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease. People suffering from acid reflux on a regular basis can experience real pain and discomfort that is hard to control. Chronic acid reflux can cause damage to the esophagus that affects a person’s overall health.
But, what causes this acid reflux? Acid reflux is caused by abnormal relaxation of the lower esophageal valve or sphincter that allows stomach acid to rise into the esophagus. This valve is supposed to close tightly keeping the contents of the stomach down where digestion can take place. When stomach acid rises into the esophagus, it can burn the walls of the esophagus, causing damage.
Acid reflux can be caused by too much or too little acid in the stomach. It takes testing by a doctor to determine which level of acid is a problem and how to correct the imbalance. Popping antacids and PPIs will give temporary relief but will not cure the problem. Taking too many over-the-counter stomach medications can actually make problems worse.
Once a person knows what the cause of their acid reflux is, they can take steps to live with it and improve their condition. Prescription medications may be needed to begin healing. There are enzyme supplements that can help people who have too low a level of stomach acid. There are lifestyle changes that improve the acid reflux outlook.
If a person has too high a level of stomach acid, they will need to avoid certain foods and take medications aimed at lowering the stomach acid level. There are helpful lifestyle changes to consider.
Living With Acid Reflux Disease or GERD
It is no fun to live with acid reflux and this condition does not go away quickly. A person suffering from acid reflux needs to be under a doctor’s care. It may take several months or longer to overcome acid reflux disease. There are good medications but they can not be taken indefinitely because of possible side effects. A change of diet and other lifestyle changes have been found to be effective. Doctors often give these 7 tips for living with acid reflux with less pain and discomfort.
- Change your diet.
Medical science has found foods that can trigger acid reflux in different people. Foods trigger heartburn in different ways. Foods can increase stomach acid, relax the LES valve, directly irritate the esophagus lining, or involve a combination of those items. The stomach and digestive specialist will often give patients a list of foods to avoid or limit the amount eaten. Each person can have different food triggers, so they might be asked to keep a heartburn journal keeping track of foods that caused heartburn and how serious the heartburn was. Avoid any carbonated drinks, including water, soda, beer, or alcoholic drinks.
- Eat smaller meals more often.
When the stomach is less full, it does not make as much stomach acid and there is less gastric pressure on the valve between the stomach and the esophagus. Specialists recommend eating six smaller meals equally spaced throughout the day.
- Eat slowly.
People who eat quickly are more at risk of overfilling their stomachs. When you eat slowly, it gives the stomach time to signal your brain that you are full so you don’t overeat.
- Forget the Bedtime Snacks.
Don’t eat within three hours of going to bed. This helps the stomach be emptier and have less chance of acid reflux during the night.
- Elevate your head to sleep.
The head should be six inches higher than the feet. Purchase a foam wedge under your pillow or raise the head of the bed with blocks or bricks. This elevation allows gravity to help reduce pressure against the LES and avoid acid reflux. Avoid sleeping on your back without this elevation.
- Avoid vigorous exercise for a couple of hours after eating.
But, keep exercising using doctor-approved exercises. Losing weight can come from exercising and modifying your diet. Losing weight helps reduce pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter.
- Quit Smoking and reduce the number of alcoholic beverages.
Both smoking and alcoholic beverages can cause acid reflux by relaxing the esophageal sphincter allowing stomach acid to flow back into the esophagus.
In addition to the above tips, some medical experts advise avoiding tight clothing over the stomach and chest area. Tight clothing can put pressure on the stomach area. Practice stress-relieving habits to help relieve the symptoms of acid reflux. Though stress does not cause acid reflux, it can make GERD symptoms worse. By relaxing, a person can make their acid reflux symptoms end sooner.
There is hope for people with GERD or acid reflux to get relief from the symptoms by using a combination of medical help, medication, diet changes, and lifestyle changes. Giving up certain trigger foods temporarily will be worth the sacrifice if it allows a person to overcome GERD symptoms. Finding out whether the acid reflux is caused by too much acid or too little acid in the stomach will help determine the treatment options.
When acid reflux is left untreated, serious health problems can result. Some of these include stomach or esophageal ulcers, Hiatal hernias, an inflamed esophagus, and even stomach or esophageal cancers. But, for most people, the discomfort of acid reflux is enough to convince them to seek medical help.