If you suffer from heartburn, frequent regurgitation or bloating, you may have gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), also known as acid reflux.

Acid reflux often is brought on by excess mid-section fat putting pressure on the stomach, forcing the backflow of acid back up the esophagus. Acid reflux usually presents as a burning sensation in the chest and/or throat and may be accompanied by regurgitation of acid into the throat or mouth. Bloody or dark stools are also symptoms of the condition.

For those who have acid reflux, life is about managing symptoms and trying to avoid episodes. Here are some ways to live with acid reflux or. Or, better yet, overcome it!

Reasons for acid reflux

  • Laying down the Law. Lying down just after you’ve eaten, especially after a large or rich meal just before bedtime, can bring on the uncomfortable symptoms. But it’s not always a large meal that signals symptoms. Just consuming a snack before napping or bedtime can be an issue. If you must eat later, try to eat light, not-too-spicy or rich fare and, while resting, prop yourself up with a pillow so you are not lying flat on your back.
  • Carrying Extra Weight. Obesity or carrying extra weight is also a factor that can contribute to frequent acid reflux. That’s because extra weight puts pressure on the stomach. The best way to avoid acid reflux if you are overweight is quite obviously to lose the weight. While often easier said than done, the results will improve all aspects of life, not just acid reflux.
  • Pregnancy for some women is a blissful time; for others, especially for those who experience frequent bouts of acid reflux, it can be draining and unforgiving. Many moms-to-be carry with them a bottle of antacid, such as Tums, which not only neutralizes the acid, but also contain calcium.
  • Stress is a major contributor to acid reflux, and while there is no conclusive medical proof that connects the two, many people who suffer from GERD say their episodes are brought on by stress or anxiety.

Avoiding Symptoms

The best way to avoid symptoms related to acid reflux is to alter your lifestyle in such a way as to eliminate the behaviors that trigger the condition.

  • Instead of eating three square meals per day, alter the pattern by eating smaller meals more often. Replace your three squares with four or five smartly portioned meals that are low in fat; remember, foods with high-fat content tend to take longer to digest, staying in the stomach longer than foods that have a lower fat content. Opt for a high-fiber diet.
  • If you smoke, quit. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. That includes e-cigs and vaping.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol in excess, especially around meals that are known to cause acid reflux. Avoid acidic drinks (e.g., orange juice and lemonade), as well as carbonated drinks, coffee and caffeinated tea.
  • Sleep and Nap Times. Don’t lie down after eating. Plan your meals two or three hours prior to bedtime.  When lying down, raise your head higher than you might normally be accustomed. Raising your head 4 to 6 inches can help.
  • Exercise and Weight Control. Don’t exercise immediately after you eat. This can exacerbate acid reflux symptoms. If you’re overweight, speak with your healthcare professional about a diet plan to help you to shed pounds.
  • Neutralize! Neutralize acids in your stomach by chewing gum after meals. (Be careful, however; peppermint gum can aggravate symptoms.) Carry with you antacids such as Tums or Rolaids; ask your doctor or pharmacists about over-the-counter medications such Omeprazole (i.e., Prevacid) or esomeprazole (i.e., Nexium) which offer strong, prescription-strength effective relief.

Hiatal Hernias

A hiatus is a small opening in your diaphragm through which your esophagus passes before connecting to your stomachHiatal hernias occur when the stomach pushes up through that opening and into your chest. While the symptoms of a hiatal hernia include heartburn and acid reflux, it is not GERD. For small hiatal hernias, treatment usually involves eating smaller meals and taking either prescription or over-the-counter medications. For more severe cases, surgery is recommended, the most common of which are –

  • LINX Device. A ring called a LINX device is surgically implanted on the lower outside of the esophagus. The device prevents stomach contents from backing up. Because it is constructed of magnetic titanium, this device is not an option for those with metallic allergies.
  • An artificial valve is placed at the top of the stomach to eliminate acid reflux. The stomach is actually wrapped around the lower esophagus sphincter, thereby strengthening the stomach and repairing the hiatal hernia to prevent acid reflux. The surgeon completes the procedure by making an incision into the chest or abdomen or by inserting a lighted tube through an incision made in the abdomen.

While GERD and acid reflux for many seem like an inconvenience, left untreated, these conditions can lead to erosive esophagitis and cancer of the esophagus. Therefore, before you start to treat the condition at home, it’s best to get a proper diagnosis from a qualified medical professional like the experts at US Digestive Health, who will determine if your symptoms are aligned with acid reflux or another digestive issue. To request an appointment, call 717-245-2228.