Acid reflux and its symptom heartburn are a common problem for many people, young and old alike. Over-the-counter drugs such as Mylanta, omeprazole, tums, and Rolaids may offer quick relief; however, other mechanisms such as a change in lifestyle can also prove effective in preventing acid reflux. Acid reflux is often characterized by hoarseness and soreness of the throat, and when the symptoms are chronic, it is called gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD). If left untreated, over time, it can cause damage to the oesophageal lining resulting in many illnesses such as cancer of the throat.
Acid Reflux: What is it, and what are the symptoms?
The stomach content is often acidic due to many acids present there for digestion, nutrient absorption, and killing of pathogens. These acidic contents are often restricted from flowing back to the oesophagus by a muscle valve called the lower oesophageal sphincter (LES). Whenever the sphincter weakens and opens, it allows the acidic stomach content to backwash to the oesophagus and regurgitates there, resulting in heartburn, chest pain, sore throat, and vomit. This backwash process of stomach liquid to the oesophagus is called acid reflux. Though acid reflux is uncomfortable and painful, most of them are normal. The most common type of acid reflux is heartburn which causes a burning feeling in the throat and chest. If one regularly experiences heartburn, the correct diagnosis will be GERD which is considered a digestive disorder.
Home remedies for acid reflux
Several home-based remedies can help prevent acid reflux from occurring to avoid medicating. The remedies involve a change of lifestyle on things to do and those to avoid.
The lower oesophageal sphincter often stays closed if one is not belching, swallowing, or vomiting to prevent the stomach content from flowing back to the oesophagus. Too much pressure on the stomach’s inside forces the acid to squeeze through the muscle opening. Large meals will exert more pressure causing acid reflux symptoms. The solution would be to eat moderate meals that exert less pressure on the stomach walls.
Since the diaphragm muscle is above the stomach, it naturally strengthens LES in healthy people, preventing excess stomach acid from leaking to the oesophagus. However, for obese individuals, the excess belly fat often exerts too much pressure on the abdomen, causing a condition called hiatus hernia. This a condition in which the belly fat upwardly pushes the lower oesophageal sphincter away from diaphragm support and losing the strength to prevent acid reflux. Hiatus hernia explains why pregnant women and people with obesity often have increased acid reflux and GERD problems. Therefore, losing weight can help in compacting acid reflux in obese people.
Eat a low-carb diet
Carbs are often digested in the stomach, and scientists now suspect that the undigested carbs result in bacterial overgrowth, causing pressure in the stomach. An accumulation of undigested carbs results in fermentation that causes gas and bloating, putting a lot of pressure on the stomach wall. Research also shows that it results in a lot of belching, which leads to the constant opening of LES. Antibiotics can reduce the gas-producing bacteria as a result of undigested carbs. A study conducted on individuals with GERD by giving them prebiotic fiber supplements engendering the growth of gas-producing bacteria showed that their reflux conditions worsened. Eating low-carb data will reduce the number of unprocessed carbs meaning less gas and fewer acid reflux instances.
Reduce the coffee you drink
According to some studies, coffee weakens the LES, thus increasing the chances of acid reflux. Substituting your coffee with decaffeinated drinks will significantly reduce the occurrence of acid reflux. Research is still trying to determine which component in coffee contributes to acid reflux; nevertheless, avoiding coffee when you are a victim of regular attacks is the best course of action.
Do not eat raw onions.
Eating meals with raw onions often leads to frequent belching, which signifies excess gas production from the fermentation of onion fiber. Onions contribute to heartburn and acid reflux. They are also known to irritate the oesophagus lining, hence worsening the heartburn effect.
Avoid carbonated drinks
Some studies show that carbonated drinks contribute to increased acid reflux symptoms, explaining why doctors often advise GERD patients to limit their consumption of these drinks. These drinks temporarily weaken LES that in turn opens for the stomach acid to backwash to the oesophagus. Carbon dioxide from carbonated beverages results in frequent blenching, which increases the quantity of acid leaking from the stomach to the oesophagus.
Reduce your chocolate intake
One study, though not conclusive, suggested that taking 120ml of chocolate can weaken the lower oesophageal valve that leads to increased acid in the oesophagus tube. Studies need to be centered on this theory to establish how chocolate worsens acid reflux symptoms.
Limit the intake of too much citrus juice
Studies have found that oranges, lemon, or grapefruits juices worsen acid reflux conditions. Some of the content of citrus juices are responsible for the irritation of the oesophagus lining and temporarily worsening heartburn.
Raise the head of your bed
Experiencing acid reflux at night can be annoying and very uncomfortable as it deprives you of sleep. Elevating the head of the bed can significantly reduce the acid reflux episodes at night. The raised bed means that the stomach fluid does not have an easy flow back, and the stomach is not pressed to cause acid reflux.
Avoid eating within three hours of bedtime.
Some observational studies have found that eating close to the time you sleep impacted acid reflux symptoms when one is sleeping. Though there is no conclusive study to substantiate this claim, eating many hours before bed has been found to boost several health benefits.
Avoid sleeping on your right side.
A couple of studies suggest that those sleeping on their right-side experience increased acid reflux symptoms. Though the explanation is not clear, anatomy could help explain this conclusion. Sleeping on the left side allows the oesophagus to lie on the right side of the stomach, enabling LES to be above the stomach acid level. Lying on the right side will make the lower oesophageal sphincter submerge in the stomach acid, increasing the risk of an acid leak.
The bottom line
Many studies show that dietary factors cause acid reflux. Therefore, examining what one is eating that may exacerbate the situation and avoiding it may cause relief. Trying out these lifestyle and diet changes is essential in putting acid reflux to rest and preventing the corrosion of the oesophagus lining.