Our overall health can be influenced by lifestyle choices to a surprising degree. Acid reflux is one of those areas, and if your doctor has diagnosed this condition, you will want to investigate how you can control the symptoms as much as possible to live more comfortably. The disease won't easily go away, unfortunately, but its effects can be tamed and sometimes prevented by making a few lifestyle changes. The following seven tips are a great place to start.
1. Eat Smaller Meals
Most people eat three large meals a day, but many experts suggest that consuming 5-6 small meals is better. Doing so can help prevent overeating. With a full stomach, gastric pressure also increases. So one of the main causes of acid reflux incidents is overeating. Sticking to smaller meals can give your stomach a break, and reduce discomfort, as can eating more slowly.
2. Stop Bedtime Snacking
For at least two hours before retiring to bed, do not eat or drink. If you are one of the lucky ones who enjoy an afternoon nap, you can try doing so in a chair. Lying down with a full stomach can cause the contents of your stomach to be pressed against your lower esophagus, which increases the chances of acid reflux.
3. Choose Foods Carefully
Acid reflux can be triggered by a host of common foods and beverages. They either increase acid production, and thus gastric pressure, or relax the lower esophagus muscle, leading to the reflux. Foods that trigger your own heartburn should certainly be avoided. Write down a list of what you know cause this in you, perhaps spicy foods, juice or citrus foods, coffee, and so on. These irritate the esophagus lining in many people. Especially at dinner, avoid these foods and you can avoid nighttime heartburn. If you don't have a list of heartburn suspects, keep a record for a couple of weeks to keep track of foods to avoid.
4. Quit Smoking and Reduce Alcohol
Alcohol consumption should also be avoided in your efforts to reduce acid reflux. Alcohol not only creates excess stomach acid, it also relaxes the lower esophagus muscle. When this muscle is relaxed, the contents of your stomach tend to reflux back up into the esophagus. If you do plan on consuming alcoholic beverages, do so in very small quantities. If complications arise, stop drinking alcohol altogether. Smoking is another poor choice for those with digestive problems. In addition to the seemingly endless list of health concerns caused by smoking, it also stimulates the production of stomach acid, leading to an increase of acid reflux symptoms.
5. Sleeping Patterns
The acid in your gut responds to gravity, so keeping your head higher than your waist will help to some degree in keeping the acid down. You might want to purchase a big, wedge-shaped pillow, which will help elevate your shoulders and head. Some people also purchase an adjustable bed, which allows them to incline the head of the bed. A cheaper (though slightly risky) alternative is to prop up your current bed's legs.
6. Wear Loose Clothing
Tight-fitting clothing will constrict the area around your stomach. As a result of this squeezing action, the food in your stomach is forced up against the lower esophagus, and acid reflux will likely occur. Choose comfortable clothes with loose or adjustable waistlines.
7. Get More Relaxed
Stress may not have a close relationship with heartburn, at least researchers have not found one yet, but it still may be implicated in acid reflux. Stress may be more of a precursor to the problem. In any case, it is a good idea to use relaxation techniques to help reduce stress, and help you avoid heartburn inducing behavior.
So, that was not so bad, was it? Those seven tips can do a lot for relieving acid reflux symptoms. Although there is no single known cause, a variety of small contributing factors can result in problems. So why not take these small steps, as you are able, and see how far they can help you in relieving your problems.
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Author Fallon Cullerne is a guest columnist for a few well-known magazines, on alternative health care as well as health product topics.
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