Acid reflux, or the backflow of stomach acid into the esophagus, throat or mouth, is the most noticeable symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Other symptoms include heartburn, coughing, post-nasal drip, difficulty swallowing, and even excessive erosion of tooth enamel. This chronic condition can have serious consequences if left untreated. Fortunately, most cases of acid reflux respond well to treatment with a combination of lifestyle changes and medication. Surgical procedures may also provide relief.
Eliminate foods that trigger excess production of stomach acid. If you experience acid reflux frequently, you may have noticed an increase in your symptoms when you eat certain foods. Try cutting back on the following foods to experience acid reflux less often:
- Spicy food
- Garlic and onion
- Fried or greasy foods
- Acidic foods such as tomatoes and citrus fruits
- Mint and peppermint
Lose excess weight. Obesity is a chief contributor to acid reflux. The extra weight puts pressure on the sphincter between your stomach and your esophagus, causing acid to rise back up. Diet and exercise may eliminate symptoms without requiring further treatment.
- Talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian to get advice on how to lose weight safely and effectively.
Avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages. Alcohol and caffeine loosen the sphincter that controls the passage of the esophagus into the stomach, allowing acid to flow backward. Avoiding them, especially before bedtime, can ease the symptoms of GERD.
- Drinking too much alcohol can also aggravate GERD by causing your stomach to empty more slowly and your intestines to work less efficiently.
Stop smoking. Smoking interferes with digestion and can damage the lining of the esophagus. Even if you can’t quit, it’s important to cut back as much as you can.
- If you’re struggling to quit, make an appointment with your doctor. They may be able to offer practical advice or prescribe medications that can help.
Wear loose-fitting clothes. Tight waistbands compress the internal organs and may block digestion. Wear pants and skirts with elastic waistbands. If you wear form-fitting clothes and heavy fabrics at the office, change into sweats or other comfortable clothing as soon as you get home.
Raise the head of your bed 4 or 5 inches (10.2 or 12.7 cm) higher than the foot.Simple gravity is a contributor to GERD, especially if you are overweight or have a hiatal hernia or other abnormality of the passage from the esophagus to the stomach. If your head is higher than your feet, stomach acid may not back up as easily.
- Use blocks to raise the whole head of the bed. Raising your head with pillows isn’t as efficient, because it exaggerates the bend in your waist.