Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease Self-Care

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a common disorder that affects many people. It occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter does not close properly and stomach contents and acid flow back up into the esophagus.

There are several lifestyle changes that you can make to help relieve GERD symptoms. These include:

1. Eat smaller meals.

There are several self-care measures that can be incorporated into your daily routine to prevent and/or reduce the symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease. One of the most important is eating smaller meals more frequently.

Eating a large meal causes the stomach to expand and the muscular valve at the top of the stomach known as the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is less likely to close properly. This allows stomach contents to flow back up into the esophagus, which causes heartburn and other symptoms of GERD.

Many people believe that eating fatty or high-protein foods can worsen their GERD symptoms. This is partly because these foods take longer to digest, and they sit in your stomach for a prolonged period of time. However, there is no consistent research to support this claim.

2. Drink plenty of water.

Drinking plenty of water helps your stomach empty faster, decreasing reflux. It also keeps you hydrated and prevents dehydration, which can irritate the lower esophageal sphincter and lead to heartburn.

The lower esophageal sphincter is a ring of muscle that stops food from coming back up into the esophagus. It relaxes when you swallow and closes again as you breathe in.

GERD occurs when this sphincter doesn’t work properly. It can be triggered by certain foods and drinks, alcohol, smoking, stress or certain medicines.

It’s important to find out what triggers your symptoms, so you can make changes that will help relieve them. But remember that there’s no one-size-fits-all treatment, and different people respond differently to specific foods or dietary choices.

3. Avoid fatty foods.

GERD occurs when stomach acid backs up into the tube that carries food from your mouth to your stomach, called the esophagus. This can cause a burning sensation in the chest and other symptoms like trouble swallowing, coughing and chest pain.

Symptoms can be worse when you eat fatty foods or fried or greasy dishes. Fatty foods also cause your lower esophageal sphincter (LES) to relax and open more often, which allows stomach acid to flow up into the esophagus.

A diet low in fatty foods can reduce symptoms. Other foods that may aggravate reflux symptoms include caffeine, citrus fruits, tomatoes, garlic, onions and spicy or tangy foods.

4. Avoid alcohol.

Alcohol, when abused over time or in large amounts, can have a negative impact on many health conditions including gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Drinking alcohol can negatively affect the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which is responsible for keeping food and liquids in your stomach.

It may also irritate and trigger inflammation in the stomach lining. This can lead to a condition called esophagitis, which is a common complication of GERD.

Consuming alcoholic drinks can also increase the risk of developing Barrett’s esophagus, which is a rare complication of chronic GERD that results in severe damage to the tissue of the esophagus. It can be a precursor to esophageal cancer.

5. Avoid smoking.

Smoking, as it turns out, has a direct effect on gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). It can relax the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), allowing acid to back up into the esophagus.

It also can damage cells in the esophagus and stomach, which is why it’s so important to quit. If left untreated, GERD can lead to inflammation of the esophagus (esophagitis) or to a condition called Barrett’s esophagus, which increases the risk of esophageal cancer.

Alcohol, coffee and fried foods are also triggers for GERD. Drinking them can worsen symptoms. So it’s best to choose a low-pH alcohol, like gin or non-grain vodka, if you can. Likewise, avoid alcoholic beverages that are high in sugar or fatty content.


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