Acid reflux or heartburn is a significant problem for many of us. 60% of the population have symptoms of reflux (burning in the chest, indigestion, or regurgitation) and one-third have these symptoms weekly. It can impede the quality of our life, affect the enjoyment of our meals, and interrupt our daily activities.
In this article, I want to share some tips about how to take care of reflux symptoms
What is reflux
Reflux is a chronic medical condition in which contents of the stomach backwash into the esophagus causing symptoms such as heartburn or regurgitation. It is usually caused by the failure of the lower esophageal sphincter, the valve between stomach and the esophagus, to close properly. That causes stomach contents to enter the esophagus, causing irritation leading to heartburn or indigestion.
What are the symptoms of acid reflux
Reflux can present in a number of ways. The most common symptoms include burning in your chest or regurgitation of food or saliva. Other symptoms include a feeling of something in your throat (called globus), chronic cough, throat clearing, indigestion or an upset stomach, or chest pain that feels like a heart attack.
What to do about acid reflux.
There are a number of things I typically suggest to help with your acid reflux. Above all remember to talk to your physician before implementing any new recommendations.
Avoid trigger foods. There are certain foods that commonly cause heartburn symptoms.
- Coffee (with or without caffeine)
- Citrus fruits and juices
- Carbonated beverages
- Peppermint, garlic, and onions
- Spicy or fried foods
Most of these foods relax the lower esophageal sphincter and can delay stomach emptying, therefore causing reflux symptoms. By avoiding these foods, you can hopefully get your symptoms controlled.
Another tip I give to patients is to keep a food diary so you can determine your trigger foods and change your diet accordingly.
Avoid late night meals.
We are getting in the habit of eating later and later in the night. Those late-night meals can make reflux a lot worse. Food tends to lay in the upper part of the stomach and when you lie down to sleep, the contents can easily move up into your esophagus causing heartburn. Try avoiding late night meals or wait at least 2-3 hour prior to laying down after your last meal.
Avoid carbohydrates or fats, especially for dinner. These foods stay in your stomach longer and cause the lower esophageal sphincter to relax, making reflux worse. If possible, avoiding or minimizing carbohydrates or fats may help out with reflux.
Take your meds right.
One of the most common mistakes people make when they are taking acid-reducing medicines (like Prilosec or Nexium) is that they don’t take them on an empty stomach prior to the meals. For most of the heartburn medicines (except Dexilant), they need to be taken on an empty stomach PRIOR to the meals (not after). By making this simple change, this could make a huge difference in your symptoms.
These are some of the tips I give to patients when they see me for reflux. Remember, if you have any new symptoms of heartburn after the age of 50 years, nausea or vomiting, black or bloody stools, weight loss, or poor appetite these may be signs of something more concerning. Also please be sure to talk to you doctor before implementing any new changes.