Acid reflux is a painful condition that happens when the stomach’s contents move up into the esophagus. If this happens more than twice a week, you might have acid reflux disease or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
There is a valve with a ring muscle at the stomach entrance called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). As soon as food passes through LES, it usually closes. However, if it opens too often or doesn’t fully close, the acid produced by the stomach can move up into the esophagus, causing acid reflux. The most common symptom of acid reflux is heartburn or chest discomfort.
Besides heartburn, other symptoms include:
• Black or bloody stools
• Bloody vomiting
• Wheezing, hoarseness, chronic sore throat, or dry cough
• Hiccups that don’t let up
How Acid Reflux Affects Lives
Acid reflux can affect people of all ages. The causes are not entirely understood but can be due to lifestyle or other health conditions. For example, a hiatal hernia can lead to persistent acid reflux due to the LES and upper part of the stomach moving above the diaphragm.
The diaphragm helps retain hydrochloric acid in the stomach, but with hiatal hernia, the acid can move up and bring about acid reflux or GERD symptoms. Below is how acid reflux negatively affects lives.
Acid reflux can affect your sleeping patterns. When lying flat on your back, you may experience burning pain when the stomach contents and acid creeps up the esophagus. It can, therefore, lead to a lack of sleep or waking up frequently during the night.
Sleeping on the left side is one way of combating acid reflux. For better results, consider wedging a pillow to elevate your body. It uses the force of gravity to keep the acid in check. For those with adjustable beds, lifting the head can allow you to sleep more comfortably. A recliner can also achieve the same results.
Risk of Cancer
Barret’s esophagus is a condition that can be caused by prolonged acid reflux. It occurs when the cells within the esophagus mutate to boost their chances of surviving in the highly acidic environment. Even though Barret’s esophagus isn’t a critical condition, frequent monitoring ensures that the risk doesn’t increase and lead to esophageal cancer.
When you are in pain, it’s hard to focus on work. With acid reflux, there are specific tasks like lifting and bending that can make the experience worse. Refraining from such tasks is necessary, and you can ask your physician to write you a note.
Your mealtimes can be unbearable if you have GERD or persistent acid reflux. Experiencing problems in swallowing, heartburn, and nausea can lead to difficulties while eating. You should consider following specialist diets, like DASH, to avoid any further causes of acid reflux. It’s also a good idea to keep some heartburn medication nearby at mealtimes.
Chest pain from acid reflux can, at times, mimic the symptoms of a heart attack. This is because the nerve responsible for the autonomic nervous system runs from the esophagus to the stomach. Even if you rush to a hospital shocked that it might be a heart attack, most emergency rooms have a GI cocktail as a remedy.
Foods to Manage Acid Reflux
Even with acid reflux treatment, you should assess all acid reflux prevention options. With proper dietary measures, you may not even need an acid reflux treatment. You can prevent acid reflux reoccurrence and ensure that you won’t need any medicine. Some of the foods to consider are:
• Healthy fats – Fats from walnuts, avocados, olive oil, sunflower oil, sesame oil, and flaxseed help reduce the intake of trans and saturated fats.
• Egg whites – Unlike egg yolks, the whites don’t have high-fat content and won’t trigger acid reflux symptoms.
• Seafood and lean meats – Poach, grill, bake or broil seafood and lean meats like turkey, chicken, and fish because they reduce acid reflux symptoms and have low-fat content.
• Noncitric fruits – These entail bananas, melons, pears, and apples.
• Oatmeal – High fiber diet is ideal for breakfast, and it negates the chances of acid reflux.
• Ginger – Add ginger to your meals and drinks since it has natural anti-inflammatory properties ideal for preventing acid reflux.
• Vegetables – They are low in sugars and fat, thus reducing stomach acid.