Acid reflux is no laughing matter. 20% of Americans suffer from acid reflux at some point in their lives. It is one of the most common medical disorders in the country.
It is not a fatal condition, but it can be extremely painful. You need to know about acid reflux prevention so you can eat right and take care of yourself. Thankfully, you can take the first steps toward prevention right now.
What is acid reflux, and where does it come from? How can you know you have acid reflux? How can you prevent and treat your symptoms?
Answer these questions and you can have a healthy digestive system for years to come. Here is your quick guide.
The Basics of Acid Reflux
Your lower esophageal sphincter is a ring of muscle around the opening to your stomach. When food passes through the opening, the sphincter closes so the food does not travel back into your esophagus.
If your sphincter does not close properly, stomach acid can move into your esophagus. This is acid reflux.
You may have heard of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This is when you have acid reflux multiple times a week. You can have acid reflux without having GERD.
Signs of Acid Reflux
The main symptom of acid reflux is heartburn. You may feel heartburn in your chest behind your breastbone or ribcage.
The pain may travel up or down your chest, and it may feel very intense. Some people believe they are having a heart attack or inflammation due to their heartburn.
Stomach acid can travel up to your throat. It can taste bitter or sour, and it may make you gag.
Some people experience a dry cough due to stomach acid irritating their throat. You may feel nauseous or vomit after significant episodes of acid reflux. You may encounter difficulty when you are swallowing, which can make you feel like your throat is closing.
Your diaphragm separates your stomach from your chest, helping to keep acid in your stomach. A deformity in your diaphragm can cause acid to rise into your esophagus.
A hiatal hernia is one type of diaphragm abnormality. The upper part of your stomach and your esophageal sphincter move upward, sending acid into your esophagus.
But acid reflux can also be caused by the position of your body. Acid is more likely to travel into your stomach when you lie down or bend over at the waist after eating a meal.
Certain foods like tomatoes can cause the body to produce more stomach acid. Spicy and acidic foods and alcoholic beverages can also upset your stomach and bring more acid into your esophagus.
People who smoke tend to be at a higher risk for acid reflux. Cigarette smoke can make muscles weak and inflame the stomach. People who are obese are also at higher risk because stomach fat places pressure on the sphincter and stomach.
Acid Reflux Prevention
You can take a few different steps to reduce acid reflux or prevent it entirely. Don’t eat large meals, and limit your consumption of acidic and spicy foods.
When you eat foods that irritate your stomach, you should eat other foods that counteract the irritation. Protein can soothe your stomach, so try eating some nuts or lean meat. You can also soak up spices in your food with starches like potatoes and rice.
After you eat, you should remain seated or stand upright. Wait at least 30 minutes for the food to pass into your stomach and for your sphincter to close. If you feel any irritation while you are sitting, you can stand up or walk back and forth.
When you need to sleep, you should lie down on your left side. Your esophagus enters on the right side of your stomach, so sleeping on the left puts your sphincter above your stomach acid.
You should lose belly fat and try to maintain a moderate weight. Talk to your doctor about a diet and exercise plan that will trim your belly fat down.
Treatment for Acid Reflux
If you have acid reflux already, you can start managing acid reflux right away. You can take medications that soothe your stomach, such as peppermint extract.
You should read more now about peppermint pills before you decide to take them. They can have side effects, and there are different products you can take, including liquid extract.
PPIs and H2 blockers decrease the production of acid in your stomach. You should talk to your doctor about taking omeprazole and esomeprazole.
You can try stretching your stomach to strengthen the muscles and encourage food to travel downward. You can sit upright and flex your stomach out, then you can pull your stomach back in.
You should go to your doctor to see if you need surgery or stronger measures to correct your sphincter and stomach. Stomach acid can cause ulcers or tissue damage if it sits in your esophagus.
The Essentials of Acid Reflux
Acid reflux prevention is possible. Reflux occurs when stomach acid passes out of the stomach into the esophagus.
An easy way to prevent it is to reduce your meal sizes. After you eat, you should avoid lying down or slouching over.
Medications are a treatment option if you are dealing with GERD or significant cases of acid reflux. Talk to your doctor before you take any medications, even basic ones like peppermint oil.
The more you know about your digestion, the better you can manage your acid reflux. Read more digestion guides by following our coverage.