Acid reflux occurs when the contents of your stomach–food, acid and digestive juices–return from your stomach into your esophagus.
At the bottom of your esophagus, there is a circular band of muscle known as the lower esophageal sphincter (LES).
The LES is responsible for blocking the backflow of food, liquid and stomach acid into the esophagus. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always do its job as effectively as it should.
1. Eating the Wrong Foods
Most people experience acid reflux from time to time. But if your heartburn is frequent and medications don’t seem to help, then you may have developed gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). GERD is a chronic condition that may lead to other issues like irritable bowel syndrome, asthma, laryngitis and dental erosion.
One way to minimize GERD symptoms is by eating nutritiously. Here are a few helpful tips:
1. Eat small meals frequently throughout the day to prevent food from remaining undigested in your stomach for too long.
2. Limit Fatty Foods.
Fatty foods can make your esophagus more sensitive to stomach acid, increasing the likelihood of reflux.
3. Hydrate often.
Water is an excellent source of saline, which can help neutralize stomach acid and protect your esophagus from becoming irritated.
4. Sleep soundly and comfortably.
To reduce the likelihood of acid reflux occurring, make sure all meals are finished and avoid eating within three hours before bedtime.
5. Exercise in the morning.
It’s essential to start your day off right by eating a nutritious breakfast so you don’t feel tempted by an unhealthy snack during lunchtime.
6. Limit spicy foods and alcohol intake.
It may seem counterintuitive, but certain spices and types of alcohol can actually aggravate reflux symptoms.
7. Smoking cigarettes increases your risk for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and cancer of the esophagus.
To improve your overall health, it’s important to stop smoking, consume little or no alcohol and eat a balanced diet that includes fresh fruits and vegetables. Doing these things will help boost your immunity and lower the likelihood of experiencing heart attacks or other serious medical problems in the future.
2. Not Getting Enough Sleep
Lack of sleep can have a negative effect on your mood, concentration and performance at work or school. Furthermore, getting adequate rest helps strengthen the immune system so you’re better equipped to fight off illnesses when they strike.
In general, most adults require 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. If you frequently get less than that amount, it could indicate health problems or a sleep disorder such as insomnia or obstructive sleep apnea.
Numerous factors can cause sleep deprivation, such as personal choice, illness or medical issues, caregiving duties, shift work and poor daytime habits like drinking too much caffeine, not exercising and watching screens before bed. Furthermore, having a bedroom that’s too warm, bright or noisy may contribute to having poor quality rest.
Younger Americans (Millennials and Gen Xers) tend to struggle with getting enough sleep, reporting feeling stressed about it. Furthermore, they’re more likely than Boomers and Matures to say they become irritable and depressed when not getting enough rest.
If you experience acid reflux on a regular basis, it’s best to visit a doctor to identify what’s causing it and your treatment options. In mild cases, lifestyle changes like avoiding certain foods that aggravate acid reflux or losing weight may provide temporary relief.
However, severe cases of acid reflux may require surgery to repair or tighten the esophageal sphincter. If you experience acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease more than twice a week, consider getting an upper endoscopy – which uses a thin tube to look inside your stomach and part of small intestine. It’s the most accurate way to detect whether you have acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease; however it can be uncomfortable and more expensive than other treatments available.
3. Eating at the Wrong Time
Acid reflux, commonly referred to as heartburn, is the sensation of stomach acid seeping into your esophagus. It usually gets worse after eating, in the evening or while lying down.
Acid reflux is often due to a weak lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which normally keeps food and stomach acid inside your stomach. When this LES weakens, food and stomach acid can flow back up into your esophagus, resulting in heartburn.
Another possible explanation for why your LES may be weak is due to distended stomach. When this happens, there’s less pressure on it to close properly, leading to hiatal hernia – an uncomfortable condition in which one’s food becomes trapped between their two stomachs.
If you have a hiatal hernia, it can make it more difficult for stomach acid to enter your esophagus and irritate the lining of your esophagus, leading to symptoms like acid reflux and chest pain.
Acid reflux can be avoided by eating at the proper time and avoiding foods that aggravate it. To do this, keep a log of what you eat and how it makes you feel afterwards.
For instance, if you find that eating low-acid fruits like bananas or melons helps relieve stomach acidity, then try eating those frequently. Vegetables and high-fiber complex carbohydrates like oatmeal also contribute to this reduction of stomach acid production.
Decrease your acid reflux symptoms by avoiding fatty foods like red meats and cheese, reduce alcohol consumption, and abstain from smoking cigarettes.
Finally, Dr. Chowdhury recommends that you finish all your meals and snacks at least three hours before going to bed. This will give your body enough time to digest what you’ve eaten.
Prescription-sized acid-reducing medications before bed may also aid in your sleep. But if you are having difficulty sleeping due to acid reflux, speak to your healthcare provider.
4. Drinking Alcohol
Alcohol can relax the lower esophageal sphincter muscle, allowing stomach acid to back up into your esophagus – leading to heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Alcohol can irritate the delicate lining of your stomach and esophagus, potentially making any existing acid reflux symptoms worse.
To avoid acid reflux, the ideal strategy is to abstain from alcohol altogether. Instead, opt for non-alcoholic drinks like water, herbal tea or low-acid fruit juice instead.
If you enjoy drinking, try to limit it and only have a few drinks at a time. Furthermore, dilute your beverages in order to reduce their alcohol content.
Studies have demonstrated that alcoholic beverages, such as beer and wine, may lead to acid reflux. It’s essential to note that different types of alcohol cause different reactions in different individuals.
For example, white wine may be more suitable for some GERD patients than red wine. Furthermore, some people may find beer to be safer than liquor or other alcoholic drinks.
In addition to acid reflux, alcohol can also put you at greater risk for other serious health issues such as liver disease and esophageal adenocarcinoma (cancer of the esophagus). Therefore, if you suffer from GERD or any condition that causes acid reflux, it’s best to limit alcohol consumption.
To determine whether alcohol can aggravate your GERD symptoms, research what alcohol-containing drinks and foods trigger it for you. Some people find that certain meals and drinks are worse for them than others.
5. Eating Too Much
Eating too much can lead to acid reflux, heartburn and other unpleasant health effects. Eating excessively also promotes bloating and weight gain over time which is not beneficial for either your wellbeing or weight.
Everyone experiences heartburn from time to time. However, if the discomfort lasts more than a few days, it could be indicative of acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Symptoms may include chest pain and pressure, a burning sensation in your throat, nausea, vomiting and extreme fatigue. They may also make it difficult to sleep.
The key to getting enough rest is managing symptoms. That means avoiding foods that trigger symptoms and focusing on healthier eating.
Avoiding fried, fatty and spicy foods can help alleviate reflux symptoms. These all put more strain on your lower esophageal sphincter by delaying stomach emptying, increasing pressure on its release.
Eat meals that are low in fat, such as chicken and fish. Lean meats and low-fat dairy products can help fill your stomach without triggering acid reflux.
*Eating smaller meals more frequently is essential. Aim to eat something every 3 hours or so.
Eating slowly and chewing your food thoroughly is recommended. Doing this helps avoid digestive issues in the future.
People who are overweight have an increased likelihood of acid reflux and GERD, which could eventually lead to Barrett’s esophagus — a condition in which the cells lining the esophagus are replaced by different kinds of cells.
Obesity is a major risk factor for both conditions. Excess abdominal pressure and hormone changes that could aggravate acid reflux or GERD are two potential effects of being obese, plus an enlarged esophagus puts those who are overweight at an even greater likelihood for developing these issues.