What is acid reflux disease, you ask? Let’s start with a quick biology lesson. Your lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is the valve that allows food to travel from your esophagus to your stomach, but not back up. Acid reflux disease, or GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), develops when the LES is damaged.
Your stomach contains hydrochloric acid which serves to break down foods and fight bacteria. While your stomach lining protects your stomach against this potent acid, your esophagus is not protected. When your LES is faulty, stomach acid is pushed up into your esophagus, causing acid reflux or heartburn. If you suffer from acid reflux at least twice a week, you may be suffering from chronic acid reflux disease.
Around 60 million Americans suffer from acid reflux at least monthly, while 25 million people may experience acid reflux as regularly as on a daily basis. Acid reflux disease is more common in Western countries, affecting between 20 and 30 percent of the population.
Lifestyle choices to fight acid reflux disease
While there are a variety of medications available to treat acid reflux disease, there are several lifestyle changes that may effectively combat acid reflux disease. Let’s have a look.
1) Eat smaller meals
Eating large meals put pressure on your stomach, causing food and stomach acids to regurgitate through your LES. By eating smaller portions of food, you reduce the pressure on your stomach.
2) Quit smoking
Smoking affects the LES to function properly. The nicotine in cigarettes and other tobacco products relaxes your LES, making it easier for stomach acids to push back into your esophagus. In addition to that, a smoker’s cough puts additional pressure on your stomach, worsening the symptoms of GERD.
3) Sleep with your head raised
By sleeping with your head raised, you let gravity do all the work regarding keeping food and stomach acids from pushing back into your esophagus. It is recommended that you lift the head of your bed with at least six inches by placing blocks under the feet of your bed or a wedge between your mattress and the box spring board. Don’t try to use additional pillows only as this has been found to be ineffective. Furthermore, consider taking your afternoon nap in a chair rather than on your bed.
4) Don’t eat before sleeping
Avoid lying down two to three hours after eating. It will also help to avoid late evening snacks too close to bedtime.
5) Avoid tight fitting clothes
Tight fitting clothes and belts put extra pressure on your stomach which can cause food and stomach acids to push back into your esophagus. Wear loose fitting clothes to relieve the pressure on your stomach.
6) Lose weight
Obesity is one of the main causes of acid reflux disease. It’s important to lose weight so that you can reduce the pressure on your stomach. Being overweight can aggravate acid reflux. Consulting with your doctor before attempting a diet is important. Don’t be tempted to follow a fad diet that promises instant weight loss. Try to lose weight gradually by following a healthy diet and a healthy exercise regime.
7) Follow a healthy diet
Several types of food can aggravate acid reflux. These include:
- Fried and fatty foods,
- Acidic foods like citrus and tomatoes
- Creamy foods and whole milk
8) Consult your doctor
Talk to your local gastrointestinal specialist about acid reflux disease. He will be able to advise medications that you can take and on lifestyle habits that will reduce the symptoms of acid reflux disease. He will also be able to tell which of the medicines that you are currently taking can worsen the symptoms of acid reflux disease.