Heartburn and GERD
A muscular valve at the bottom of your esophagus normally keeps corrosive digestive juices where they belong – in your stomach. But if you have heartburn, this valve sneaks open at inopportune times, like after a big meal, letting acid go where it doesn’t belong and causing pain that can be mild or so bag you may think it’s a heart attack. Weakening or relaxation of lower esophageal sphincter, the muscular valve at the bottom of your esophagus. Normally, LES keeps digestive juices and food in your stomach. But smoking, alcohol, lying down too soon after a meal, some foods, and some medications can weaken or partially open the LES, allowing stomach acids to backwash into your esophagus. Over time, heartburn becomes gastro esophageal reflux disease (GRED), a more serious condition that may raise your risk of esophageal cancer. Take it seriously – and try these strategies to discourage acid backwash.
Put On A Few Pounds Since High School? Slim Down
Shedding 27 pounds cut reflux episode 40 percent in one study reviewed by researchers from Stanford University. Why it helps: losing weight may lower pressure at the valve that keeps stomach acid put, known as the lower esophageal sphincters (LES). It also reduces the body’s output of acidic digestive enzymes.
Catch The Early Big Special
When Japanese researchers tracked the bedtimes and GERD symptoms of 441 women and men, they found that those who went to bed within three hours of finishing dinner were 7.5 times more likely to have acid indigestion than those who turned in four or more hours later. If you go to bed at 10:30, aim to finish dinner no later than 6:30.
Prop Up The Head Of Your Bed
Raising the head of your bed about 11 inches with bricks or wood blocks could cut reflux episodes dramatically and make the ones you do have shorter.
Recline On Your Left Side
In one study, people who slept on their left sides had only as much reflux as right-side sleepers. Due to the location of your stomach and esophagus, lying on your right side puts more pressure on the LES.
Take The Pepperoni Pizza Text
There’s plenty of controversy about which food demons trigger heartburn. The truth is, what bothers you may be no problem at all for the guy in the next booth at the pizza parlor. (He, on the other hand, may be in agony after a few chocolate-covered after-dinner mints.)
When researchers found Stanford University reviewed more than 100 studies of lifestyle remedies for acid reflux, they found that avoiding chocolate, mint, spices, grease, and late-night noshing doesn’t help most people. But plenty of other research, and the experience of digestive disease specialists, suggests that for some people, these are exactly the things they should avoid.
The take-home lesson? Figure out what you personal trigger foods are, then steer clear of them. Possibilities include citrus fruits; chocolate; coffee and tea; alcohol; fatty and fries foods; garlic and onions; mint flavorings, spicy foods; and tomato-based food such as spaghetti sauce, salsa, chili, and pizza.
Avoid Sleeping Pills
According to a large health survey, people who tool benzodiazepines such as diazepam (Valium), alprazolam (Xanax), and triazolam (Halcion) in order to fell a sleep were 50 percent more likely to have GERD at night than those who didn’t take the drugs. Other research has shown that these drugs loosen the LES, lowering your chances of comfortable night’s sleep.
A Swedish study of more than 43,000 people found that long-time smokers 70 percent higher risk of heartburn and GERD than nonsmokers. Smoking raided risk four ways: It may make you cough more, which puts pressure on the LES; it can weaken the LES; it reduces production of saliva, which normally neutralizes stomach acids that find their way into your esophagus; and it boosts production of corrosive digestive acids.
Pop That Gum
No antacid on hand? Heat of heartburn with a stuck of chewing gum. A small British study found that chomping on gum for 30 minutes after a big fatty meal doubled saliva production and saliva swallowing; researcher estimate that 10 extra swallows could cool mild heartburn by pushing acids back where they belong. Other research shows that gum chewing neutralizes the acids in stomach backwash for up to three hours after a meal.
Take A Relaxation Break
Science has yet to uncover the link between stress and acid indigestion, but plenty of heartburn suffers know it exists: in one survey conducted by the National Heartburn Alliance, 58 percent of people who had frequent heartburn said hectic lifestyle maid their pain worse. Stress may prompt you to smoke more, drink more alcohol, eat the foods that trigger acid backwash, or simply fell discomfort more intensely. Pay attention on your own stress levels, and when they get too high, look for ways to relax, such as deep breathing
Three out of four people with asthma also have acid reflux. The connection? Coughing and difficulties exhaling may trigger the backwash of stomach acid into the esophagus. Asthma drugs that widen airways in the lungs may also relax the LES. Keeping your asthma under control can help, but if you still have acid reflux, tell your doctor.
Keep Blood Sugar With A Healthy Range
Over time, high blood sugar levels that come with type 1 and type 2 diabetes can damage nerves throughout your body, including those that regulate the emptying of your stomach. If food sits in your stomach, it can be regurgitated more readily into your esophagus. Some studies suggest that better blood sugar control can help, but it’s still important to use the other lifestyle strategies mentioned here.
Ask If Any Of Your Pills Are Culprits
Many prescription and over-the-counter drugs and supplements can keep the LES from staying tightly shut. These include some antibiotics, antidepressants, calcium channel blockers, opioid pain relievers like codeine and hydrocodone, osteoporosis drugs, sedatives and tranquilizers as well as over-the-counter pain relievers and supplements such as iron, potassium, and vitamin C. if you have heartburn or GERD, ask your doctor if any of these could be contributing to your discomfort and whether you should switch to another drug or remedy.
Up Your Fiber Intake
People who ate high-fiber breads (think whole grain) had half the risk of GERD compared to people who ate low-fiber breads (think white) in one large Scandinavian study. Fiber may help by soaking up excess nitric oxide, a compound that relaxes muscle in the digestive system. When researchers at the Houston Veterans Affairs Medical Center scanned the esophagus of 164 people, they found that those who ate more fruits, veggies, whole grains, and beans were 20 percent less likely to have signs of erosion of delicate esophageal tissue caused by reflux. At higher risk: people who took in more fat, protein, and calories.
Skip The Cola
When researchers from the University of Arizona Collage of Medicine polled more than 15,00 people about their lifestyle habits and history of GERD, they found that those who drank more than one carbonated, caffeinated drink per day were 24 percent more likely to have sleep-disturbing nighttime reflux than those who drank less soda. Many bubbly drinks have a high acid level, which may explain the connection, they say.
Add Acupuncture If Your Prescription Drug Isn’t Working
When 30 people with persistent heartburn received either a double dose of proton-pump inhibitors or twice-weekly acupuncture plus their regular dose for four weeks, the acupuncture group that simply got more drugs didn’t see much improvement at all, report University of Arizona researchers.
New research shows that nearly 40 percent of heartburn GERD sufferers who use an acid-stopping PPI drug once a day still get heartburn symptoms two to four times a week. Many wind up popping antacids, which can stop pain but may not protect the esophagus from damage. If you’re talking medication for heartburn or GERD and are still in pain, ask your doctor about upgrading your treatment plan.