Healthy Halifax Fall 2018: Steps to prevent acid reflux

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Feeling the Heat?

Take steps to prevent acid reflux

We have a national love affair with food. So it should come as no surprise to learn that tens of millions of Americans experience heartburn at least once a month, with as many as 15 million suffering daily.

That burning pain in the lower chest is commonly known as acid reflux. The culprit is stomach acid going the wrong way. Reflux happens when the ring of muscle fibers that separate the esophagus from the stomach, called the sphincter, doesn’t close. When reflux occurs more than twice a week, it is often diagnosed as the more serious gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Risk factors for developing GERD include being overweight or obese, having diabetes, being pregnant and continuing to smoke.

As many as 15 million Americans experience heartburn every day.

 Some medications can contribute to acid reflux. These include postmenopausal estrogen, tricyclic antidepressants,
anti-inflammatory painkillers and some drugs to increase bone density. Ask your pharmacist if any of your medications fall into these categories.

Aside from avoiding a diet high in spicy foods and controlling risk factors, there are other steps you can take to lessen the frequency of mild attacks. These include wearing loose-fitting clothing, raising the head of your bed 6 to 8 inches, eating smaller meals more frequently and avoiding carbonated beverages including sparkling water.

Surprisingly, vigorous exercise soon after eating can contribute to reflux. An easy walk is OK, but activities that are more energetic can increase the chance of experiencing heartburn.

You should check with your doctor if these steps aren’t effective, especially if you have severe pain or difficulty swallowing. In addition to lifestyle changes, your doctor may prescribe medication to control reflux.

4 Food Options to Avoid

Because what we eat and drink plays such a huge role in the production of stomach acid, it may be a good idea to look at the top contributors to acid reflux. High fat and spicy foods come to mind first, but the following rank even higher.

1:   Alcohol: That same alcoholic beverage that may relax you after a hard day has the same effect on the sphincter, opening the door to heartburn. Plus, alcohol stimulates the production of acid.

2:   Other Drinks: Carbonated drinks, such as sodas, expand inside the stomach and contribute to acid reflux. Sports and energy drinks also are reflux culprits.

3:   Chocolate: Chocolate’s main ingredients, including cocoa, fat and caffeine, help it rank higher than any other food as a cause of reflux.

4:   Big Meals: Because overeating overstretches the stomach, the sphincter has a hard time staying shut. You may be surprised at how much avoiding a big meal in the evening can reduce your symptoms.

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