Do You Have Acid Reflux?
If you’ve ever felt that burning feeling in your chest known as heartburn, you’ve experienced acid reflux. It occurs when stomach acid travels up the oesophagus, which is the tube connecting your stomach to your throat. Heartburn is just one of the symptoms of the condition. Acid reflux can also induce:
- Recurring cough & hiccups
- An unpleasant sour taste in your mouth & bad breath
- A hoarse voice
- A bloated, nauseated feeling
Acid reflux is actually very common, but for most of us it’s a temporary uncomfortable moment, typically alongside indigestion. But if you’re experiencing the symptoms frequently, you could have a condition such as GORD (Gastro-esophageal Reflux Disease). If you do suffer from GORD, you’ll know how painful and irritating dealing with your symptoms can be. Help is available in the form of medication and even surgical procedures, but how can you cope with acid reflux at home on a day to day basis?
Let’s look at some simple home remedies and lifestyle changes that can help deal with acid reflux at home.
Eating Habits and Acid Reflux
In the Western world at least, eating is generally divided into three large meals spaced throughout the day. Of course this works for most of us, but some people with acid reflux might want to consider changing it up. In studies looking at acid reflux in GORD sufferers, high volumes of food consumed at once tended to exacerbate symptoms – in other words, the larger the meal, the more likely you are to experience symptoms such as heartburn and bloating .
Of course, we can’t just stop eating meals! We need to strike a balance between eating well and reducing symptoms. One option is to stick to your standard meal plan, but consume smaller portions. If you’re looking to lose weight this is a great option, as obesity is a strong risk factor for acid reflux .
If you’re not looking to cut calories, you can try changing your meal plan to accommodate multiple smaller meals throughout the day. It might be best to avoid eating before bedtime, as some claim having dinner within 3 hours of sleeping is associated with nighttime acid reflux .
Diet and Acid Reflux
Ok, so eating too much in one sitting leads to acid reflux. But what about the content of our meals? Is it true that some foods can cause heartburn? The research is mixed, and in many ways it comes down to individual ‘trigger foods’. But there are some elements of our diet more likely to cause symptoms than others.
Carbs could be the culprit. Specifically, undigested carbohydrates in your gut lead to bloating, elevated pressure on the abdomen and belching, probably due to the creation of gas-producing bacteria. People suffering from acid reflux have tried switching to low-carb diets in order to combat the condition, and report some success . However, more research needs to be done in this field in order to reach firm conclusions.
People who frequently suffer from acid reflux complain that spicy meals such as curry can trigger their condition. The root cause could actually be the common ingredient of onion, and particularly raw onion. The fermentable fiber found in the food could possibly cause belching and may also irritate the oesophagus which worsens the sensation of heartburn. A study found that a meal containing onion was more likely to worsen heartburn than a meal without .
These Drinks Can Worsen Acid Reflux
Unfortunately, it’s not just food we need to watch. These common drinks could be a source of pain for acid reflux sufferers.
If fizzy drinks like carbonated water or cola are causing you to burp, then they could be giving you heartburn too. Burping frequently can increase the chances of stomach acid entering your oesophagus. It could also be that carbonated soft drinks temporarily weaken your lower oesophageal sphincter in comparison to still drinks like tap water . Take a break from them and see how you feel.
Coffee could be a big one. Caffeine itself has been linked to an increase in acid reflux, but it could be a combination of compounds present in coffee that make the drink particularly irritative to the oesophagus. Studies have shown that drinking coffee could compromise oesophagus strength in a similar way to fizzy drinks, causing or aggravating heartburn . However, most of the stigma around coffee comes from self-reporting rather than studies demonstrating a relation. So, it’s down to tracking personal experience – try a week with coffee and without coffee, and see if you notice any difference in your symptoms.
What about alcohol? This one is more clear cut, as alcohol can definitely increase the symptoms of acid reflux, even for people who don’t suffer from GORD. Drinking alcohol increases both the production of stomach acid and reduces the body’s ability to clear acid from the esophagus . Yet another motivation to cut down on the drinking!
Other drinks that have been claimed to exacerbate acid reflux symptoms include citrus juices such as grapefruit and orange .
Sleeping Habits and Acid Reflux
If you’re experiencing reflux symptoms during the night, you’ll know how disruptive it can be to a good night’s sleep. Strangely, one of the most effective home remedies for combating acid reflux is to raise the head of your bed while sleeping. Lying and sitting postures tend to make heartburn and other symptoms worse, whereas sitting up in bed reduces the intensity of the symptoms, reducing the frequency and clearing the acid . Try raising the pillow end of the bed upward by around 10 – 20 cm so that your head and chest are above your waist to prevent the stomach acid from travelling up your throat.
Another tip is to sleep on your left side instead of your right. When resting or sleeping on your right side, acid reflux symptoms tend to last longer . The definitive reason for this is unknown, but may be due to the positioning of the esophagus on the right side of the stomach.
So remember, in order to reduce night time reflux: Avoid eating before bed, position in a more upright posture, and try falling asleep on your left side instead of your right.
Can Medication Treat Acid Reflux?
Yes, prescription medication is used to effectively treat persistent acid reflux. Some of the most common medicines used to alleviate symptoms are Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs) such as Omeprazole Capsules, Lansoprazole Capsules, and Losec MUPs.
- Gastro-oesophageal Reflux Disease (GORD) | NHS Inform
- Total Diet, Individual Meals, and Their Association with Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease | PubMed
- Risk Factors Associated with Symptoms of Gastroesophageal Reflux | PubMed
- Association Between Dinner-to-Bedtime and Gastro-esophageal Reflux Disease | PubMed
- Improvement of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease after Initiation of a Low-Carbohydrate Diet | PubMed
- The Effect of Raw Onions on Acid Reflux and Reflux Symptoms | PubMed
- Response of the Lower Esophageal Sphincter to Gastric Distention by Carbonated Beverages | PubMed
- The Effects of Alcohol Consumption Upon the Gastrointestinal Tract | PubMed
- Relationships Between the Acidity and Osmolality of Popular Beverages and Reported Postprandial Heartburn | PubMed
- Effects of Posture on Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux | PubMed
- Body Position Affects Recumbent Postprandial Reflux | PubMed
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