Self-care practices can be successful in managing acid reflux
Acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux (GER), occurs when stomach acid flows back into the esophagus. This can lead to symptoms such as heartburn, regurgitation, chest pain, and discomfort. Chronic or severe acid reflux may be referred to as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
How does acid reflux typically respond when we modify our habits?
Let’s talk about the food first;
The impact of food on acid reflux varies, but certain factors can influence symptoms. To manage this condition, prioritize foods that are low in acidity and fat, avoid spicy or citrus-rich items, and consider smaller, more frequent meals. Additionally, maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding late-night eating can contribute to better acid reflux management.
Here are some additional considerations regarding how food affects acid reflux and factors to prioritize when selecting foods:
- Low-Acidity Choices: Opt for foods that are less acidic to reduce the likelihood of triggering acid reflux. This includes avoiding citrus fruits, tomatoes, and vinegar.
- Low-Fat Options: High-fat foods can relax the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), allowing stomach acid to flow back into the esophagus. Choose lean meats and low-fat dairy products to minimize this effect.
- Avoiding Spicy Foods: Spices and strong Flavors can sometimes exacerbate acid reflux symptoms. It may be helpful to limit or avoid spicy foods and condiments.
- Smaller, More Frequent Meals: Consuming smaller, well-balanced meals throughout the day can be easier on the digestive system and may help prevent overloading the stomach, reducing the likelihood of acid reflux.
- Limiting Carbonated Beverages: Carbonated drinks can contribute to bloating and increase the pressure on the LES. Choosing non-carbonated beverages may be a better option.
- Maintaining a Healthy Weight: Excess weight, especially around the abdomen, can increase pressure on the stomach and contribute to acid reflux. Adopting a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise and a balanced diet can help manage weight.
- Avoiding Late-Night Eating: Consuming meals close to bedtime can increase the risk of acid reflux symptoms during the night. Try to finish meals at least a few hours before lying down.
- Elevating the Head of the Bed: Raise the head of your bed by about 6 to 8 inches by placing blocks or using a wedge pillow to help prevent stomach acid from refluxing into the esophagus while sleeping.
- Limiting Alcohol and Caffeine: Reduce or eliminate alcohol and caffeine consumption, as they can relax the LES and increase the risk of acid reflux.
- Quitting Smoking: If you smoke, consider quitting, as smoking can weaken the LES and contribute to acid reflux.
- Taking Time to Eat: Chew food thoroughly and eat slowly to aid digestion and minimize the risk of swallowing excess air, which can contribute to bloating and reflux.
- Wearing Loose Clothing: Avoid tight-fitting clothing, especially around the waist, which can increase abdominal pressure and worsen acid reflux symptoms.
- Chewing gum: Chewing non-mint-flavored gum can help relax the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), stimulate saliva production, and decrease acid in the esophagus.
- Have a walk: An even more effective choice is to stand up and take a short walk after eating, facilitating the proper flow of gastric juices.
Numerous studies, documented in reputable global journals, have explored the intricate link between anxiety, depression, and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). Both medical professionals and individuals grappling with GERD are aware that heightened anxiety, stress, and depression can exacerbate symptoms such as heartburn and upper abdominal pain. Interestingly, it’s not a direct increase in acid production under stress; rather, research indicates that stressed individuals with GERD maintain similar stomach acid levels as their non-stressed counterparts. The key issue lies in stress-induced reductions in the Lower Esophageal Sphincter’s (LES) motility. Stress appears to disrupt the normal regulation of LES contractions, making them less coordinated and more erratic in individuals experiencing heightened stress levels.
Effectively managing stress is crucial for overcoming GERD, and general stress reduction strategies apply:
- Exercise: Incorporate regular, low-impact exercises like walking to aid in weight management and promote healthy digestion. Ensure an upright position during exercise to prevent worsening GERD symptoms.
- Stress-Management Techniques: Experiment with meditation and yoga to identify what works best for you. Create a regular regimen around these techniques to alleviate stress and contribute to overall well-being.
- Deep Breathing and Pranayama: Dedicate just 10 minutes daily to deep breathing exercises, as they have shown positive effects on GERD symptoms.
- Quality Sleep: Prioritize good sleep every night to reduce blood pressure and stress, ensuring proper regulation of Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES) movements. Quality sleep not only addresses GERD but also helps prevent or mitigate conditions like sleep apnea, insomnia, daytime sleepiness, and restless leg syndrome (RLS).
Experiencing occasional acidity or acid reflux is common, but when it becomes chronic as in the case of GERD, it should be treated seriously. If left untreated, GERD can lead to complications such as esophageal stricture (narrowing of the esophagus), esophageal ulcer (an open sore), and Barrett’s esophagus (precancerous changes). It’s crucial not to ignore symptoms, and if you or someone you know is displaying signs of GERD, seeking the expertise of a qualified gastroenterologist or gastrointestinal specialist is essential. Consulting a reputable hospital will allow specialists to precisely diagnose the condition and devise an effective long-term treatment plan for recovery and rehabilitation.
Nizamiye Hospital, situated in Abuja, stands ever-prepared to provide its esteemed clientele with specialized treatment across a spectrum of health issues. Our dedicated team of medical professionals, boasting an extensive repertoire of over 24 specialized departments, ensures the successful, cost-effective, and efficient management of various healthcare concerns. Located at Plot 113, Sector S, Cadastral Zone, Life Camp, Abuja, Nigeria, we extend a warm invitation for your visit. For inquiries or appointments, feel free to call or text Veno from Public Relations at 08166666023 – 08056339444