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5 Tips to Prevent Acid Reflux

Find out what acid reflux is, why it should be taken seriously, and how you can prevent it.

By
Sanaz Majd, MD,
November 15, 2012
Episode #081

Page 2 of 2

 

  • Indigestion

  • Chronic cough

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Hoarse voice

  • Sore throat

  • Pain with swallowing

  • Sensation that something is “stuck” in your throat

  • Burping

  • Chest pain

  • Dental decay

What are the Serious Complications of Acid Reflux?

When the symptoms are severe enough, they can lead to an ulcer.  Ulcers can bleed, and can cause black or bloody stools, or bloody or coffee-ground appearing vomit.  If his happens, it’s really important that you don’t ignore these symptoms and tell your doctor right away.

In addition, if the reflux becomes chronic (typically years) it can erode the esophagus and cause the cells of the esophagus to become precancerous or even cancerous.  This condition is called “Barrett’s Esophagus,” and it is one of the reasons doctors don’t like to leave frequent reflux untreated.

What is a Hiatal Hernia?

There’s a variation of some people’s anatomy that is referred to as a “hiatal hernia,” in which the upper part of the stomach slips through the diaphragm (the part of the body that aids in breathing) and into the chest.  The diaphragm normally gives support to the sphincter and keeps it closed, but in those with a hiatal hernia, stomach contents more easily reflux past the sphincter since the stomach is displaced upwards through this weakened diaphragm.  Patients with hiatal hernias are at a higher risk of experiencing reflux throughout their lives.

5 Tips to Battle Acid Reflux

There are various over-the-counter antacids you can take to treat your mild acid reflux symptoms.  However, when your symptoms occur at least twice a week, you may need a prescription medication to relieve your symptoms.  Besides medications, I share 5 tips with all my patients who suffer from this:

Tip #1: Stop Smoking
Cigarette smoking causes relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter and increases acid reflux.

Tip #2:  Raise the Head of the Bed
Lying flat removes the benefit of gravity and allows stomach contents to reflux more easily.  Therefore, raising the top of the mattress 6 to 8 inches is helpful.

Tip #3:  Eat More Frequent Smaller Meals
Eating too large of a meal can predispose you to reflux.  When the stomach is overly packed with more content than it can handle, it causes pressure on the sphincter and opens it up to release some of the pressure.  Therefore, eating 5 smaller meals a day, rather than 3 large ones, will decrease your risk of reflux.  Also, refrain from eating within 3 hours of bedtime.

Tip #4:  Lose Weight
Increased abdominal weight places pressure over the stomach, causing its contents to more easily reflux.  If you are overweight or obese and experiencing acid reflux, losing some weight will bring you relief.

Tip #5:  Avoid Food Triggers
Various dietary components and foods trigger sphincter relaxation as well.  Avoid caffeine, alcohol, spicy foods, tomatoes or tomato sauce, mint, chocolate, blueberries, acidic foods (like lemons and oranges, or the juices of them), and greasy or fatty foods.

When To See Your Doctor

Please see your doctor if you have symptoms occurring twice a week or more, and immediately if you are experiencing:

  • chest pain

  • bleeding (blood or black contents in vomit or stool)

  • unexpected weight loss

  • difficulty swallowing

Please note that all content here is strictly for informational purposes only.  This content does not substitute any medical advice, and does not replace any medical judgment or reasoning by your own personal health provider.  Please always seek a licensed physician in your area regarding all health related questions and issues.


 

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