Even if you eat the best diet, you’ll probably experience a bout of acid reflux or heartburn from time to time. As its name implies, it’s an uncomfortable burning sensation in the chest, and it occurs when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus.
However, if this sensation becomes an ongoing issue, you likely have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and that can spell trouble.
Our skilled providers at AZZ Medical Associates are experts in diagnosing and treating numerous digestive disorders, including GERD. In this blog, they explain what GERD is and go over five simple lifestyle changes that can help you keep heartburn symptoms under control.
Your esophagus is a tube that connects your throat to your stomach. When you eat or drink something, it passes through your esophagus and into your stomach. However, there’s a valve at the end of your esophagus — called the lower esophageal sphincter — and it opens to allow food to enter your stomach, and then it closes to prevent the contents in your stomach from coming out.
GERD develops when this valve stops working properly. If it persistently doesn’t close as it should, acid from your stomach can flow back into your esophagus and sometimes back into your mouth. While your stomach can handle the effects of acid, your esophagus can’t. So as the acid burns your esophageal tissue, it causes GERD symptoms.
Heartburn is a common sign of GERD. Other symptoms can include the following:
Without treatment, chronic acid reflux can cause permanent damage to the esophagus and increase your risk for esophageal cancer.
If you suffer from GERD, doing the following things may help you keep symptoms at bay:
There are numerous health benefits to watching your waistline, including avoiding heartburn.
Carrying excess weight, especially in your abdomen, increases your chances of suffering acid reflux. That’s because it can prevent the muscles that support your lower esophageal sphincter from working properly. If the muscles don’t hold this tiny valve closed, stomach acid can flow back into your esophagus.
For people who suffer from chronic heartburn, there are often certain foods and beverages that trigger symptoms, such as the following:
However, your meal size can also play a role. Fortunately, you can often stop acid reflux before it begins by avoiding food triggers and eating smaller meals more frequently.
If you lie down immediately after eating, lie flat, or both, this can increase the pressure on your stomach and lower esophageal sphincter, which can increase your chances of suffering heartburn.
Instead, wait 2-3 hours to lie down after a meal, and choose a position that keeps your head and torso elevated. Sometimes, adding an extra pillow can do the trick, but you can also purchase foam wedges or raise the end of your bed where you keep your head.
It’s no secret that using tobacco can cause health problems, but did you know that nicotine can actually weaken the lower esophageal sphincter? And that’s not all. Smoking also stimulates acid production in the stomach. Together, it’s a perfect storm for persistent heartburn.
Suffering persistent feelings of stress can do more than take a toll on your mental and emotional health, they can affect your physical health, too. On top of that, feeling constantly stressed can trigger other behaviors that can lead to acid reflux, such as overeating or consuming excess alcohol.
You may not be able to avoid all of the stressors in your life, but you can take steps to reduce their impact, such as:
Exercise can also significantly reduce the feelings of stress, but wait at least two hours after eating before exercising.
Finally, if you have chronic heartburn, it’s essential to keep a record of your symptoms and seek expert care at AZZ Medical Associates. We can get to the bottom of what’s triggering your symptoms, and we can design a personalized treatment plan to reduce your symptoms and prevent permanent damage to the lining of your esophagus and stomach.
Do you have GERD symptoms? Get the help you need by calling 609-890-1050 or booking an appointment online with AZZ Medical Associates today.