Five Habits that Can Alleviate Acid Reflux

If you’re dealing with acid reflux, also known as heartburn, you’re aren’t alone. More than 60 million people in the United States experience heartburn at least once a month and an estimated 15 million Americans have daily bouts of acid reflux. 

Without treatment, heartburn can cause serious health complications over time. Fortunately, we have effective ways to treat acid reflux, and a few lifestyle changes can help bring some relief. Our experts discuss habits you can adopt to ease acid reflux symptoms.

What is acid reflux?

Recurrent bouts of acid reflux are a symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). When you have GERD, the acidic contents of the stomach flow backward into the esophagus, causing a burning sensation in your chest and throat. 

Almost everyone experiences heartburn at some point in their lives. However, if you notice frequent episodes of heartburn, it’s more likely that you have GERD, and you should be treated to relieve your symptoms and prevent complications.  

What causes acid reflux?

A band of tissue called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) functions as a valve that prevents stomach contents from going in the wrong direction. When the LES is weak or damaged, it doesn’t function as well as it should. Instead of closing tightly to prevent backflow of stomach acid, it fails to close all the way, or opens when it shouldn’t.

To help you manage GERD, our experts share 5 habits that can alleviate acid reflux.

1. Eat small meals

Large meals increase the pressure in your abdomen and raise the risk of acid reflux. If you’re experiencing heartburn with regularity, it helps to shrink your meal size and avoid eating until your stomach feels full. Try using smaller plates and eating less food more frequently, instead of three large meals.

2. Have dinner well before bedtime

The habit of eating right before you go to bed is a common trigger for heartburn. When you lie down, gravity favors stomach acids flowing upward into the esophagus. Adopting a habit of eating your last meal of the day at least three hours before bedtime can ease heartburn.

3. Steer clear of trigger foods

Certain foods and beverages increase stomach acid and are known for either causing acid reflux or making it worse. 

Red-flag foods and beverages for reflux are:

Steering clear of these foods can go a long way in relieving your acid reflux symptoms.

4. Adopt a smoke-free lifestyle

If you smoke, kicking the habit can help keep acid levels down. If you’ve tried to quit smoking in the past, speak with your provider about programs and medications that can help you quit for good.

  1. Stay hydrated

It’s a good idea to have a bottle of water at your desk or carry one with you when you run errands. That’s because drinking plenty of water helps quell acid reflux. If you have a habit of failing to drink enough water, you could be making your GERD symptoms worse.

Complications of untreated acid reflux

You shouldn’t ignore the symptoms of GERD. Over time the exposure to the acidic contents of the stomach causes damage to the esophagus and can cause chronic esophageal inflammation, narrowing of the esophagus, and respiratory problems. Ongoing damage can also cause abnormal tissue in the esophagus, a condition known as Barrett's esophagus

Persistent heartburn is more than a nuisance; it can lead to something more serious. When acid reflux happens frequently, our gastroenterologists at Illinois Gastroenterology Group can help you get relief.  We have offices in Elgin, South Elgin, and Lake in the Hills, Illinois. Contact the nearest office to schedule an appointment or request a visit online.

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