Living With Acid Reflux (GERD)
When we eat, food is pushed down through esophagus (food pipe) into the stomach. A sphincter is at the junction between the two, but it doesn’t always do its job of keeping the food and stomach acid in the stomach. That backwash is known as GERD (gastro-esophageal reflux disease); its most common form is heartburn.
Consider a water-balloon with its top tied by a rubber band. What will happen if this rubber band is loosened? The water will burst out. This is what happens in people with GERD. The only difference is that what bursts out is acid, and the esophagus bears the brunt of this eruption.
Also, gastric reflux is likely to occur when gastric volume is increased (after meals) or there’s pressure on the stomach as in when bending down, obesity, pregnancy, tight clothes and so on. In some cases, chest pain, coarseness and tightness in the throat, wheezing, problems in breathing, a bitter taste in mouth and bad breath accompany the acid reflex.
Going by the statistics, around 15 percent of the people around the world suffer from regurgitation (acid or food in the mouth) at least once a week, and around 7 percent suffer from it daily, which is surprising because the symptoms as well as the entire problem are controllable just by a few changes in your daily routine and lifestyle.
- Notice the difference between boredom and hunger. Don’t eat just because you’re bored.
- Avoid certain foods that trigger acid release in stomach: Onions, tomatoes, peppermint, grapefruit and oranges, even chocolate. Also, refrain from that extra cheese on your pizza.
- Don’t eat gas-forming foods like cauliflower and beans and raw vegetables like cucumbers, cabbages, radishes, etc.
- Don’t overeat. An excellent way to prevent the problem is to simply break the meals into small portions. It is best to eat several small meals rather than to have two or three heavy meals.
- Don’t eat large meals at night. Keep a gap of at least three hours in between your last meal and bedtime.
- A slow walk also aids in digestion after a meal but no heavy exercising or brisk walking immediately after eating.
- One more food to avoid: coffee. Coffee beans contain high level of proteins, which are like batteries for the acid-secreting pumps in the stomach. It’s not only coffee drinking you need to stop, but all coffee products for the severely afflicted. Add carbonated beverages too.
- Always sit up after you have a meal. This prevents gastric reflux. This tip would particularly help the individuals with lower esophageal sphincter (LES) problems.
- While sleeping, make it a point to raise the head of your bed by six to eight inches, but remember to support your back. This lets gravity influence the stomach’s gastric contents and prevent reflux. It would definitely reduce late night sleep interruptions.
From Fat to Fit
Losing those extra pounds not only makes you look better, but also, it’s good riddance to many health problems. Obesity is at the top of many risk factors of various diseases. The extra abdominal fat generates pressure on the stomach and may promote gastric reflux. Loss of even a small amount of weight has helped many people feel better.
Comfort or Fashion
Wearing comfortable clothes that do not put press on your abdomen will aid in the prevention of reflux. Always remember to slip into something comfortable at home. Avoid tight-fitting clothes around your waist. Remember, the less pressure you put on your stomach, the less are the chances of heartburn.
Alcohol compromises the LES tone, irritates the esophagus and stimulates the acid production in stomach. It’s best to start saying a strict no to alcohol if you want to save yourself from the heartburn.
As hard as it sounds, quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Smoking is a devil in disguise. Not only does it increase the risk to several carcinomas, but also causes innumerable health conditions. Smoking during meals often causes the smoker to swallow small amounts of air that create air pockets in the digestive tract with the added pressure of food. It even slows down the body’s digestion.
Along with these minor changes in lifestyle, you can also try the herbal way.
- Fennel seed is an aromatic herb rich in the compound anethole, which helps improve digestion. The seeds suppress stomach spasms. Chewing about half a teaspoon slowly after meals is sufficient to get the effects.
- Try taking cumin seeds with water to prevent gas formation in the stomach.
- Ginger in your food as well as in a cup of hot tea can combat digestion problems.
- Try a piece of clove or cardamom after meals to aid in the digestion process.
- Chewing some leaves of tulsi, an herb often found in Indian cuisine, or basil will relieve you from nausea and gastric problems.
- Aloe vera aids the digestion process, which is among the many qualities its proponents claim it possesses. It has a mild laxative property. Drink around five to six teaspoons of aloe vera juice with lukewarm water early in the morning as well as after the last meal of the day. Keep a gap of half an hour while taking anything after or before your daily aloe vera dose.
- Raw almonds (you can get them at a health food store) are very effective for avoiding heartburn. Munch them after each meal.
- An apple a day keeps the doctor away. An apple after meals will help in fast digestion and prevent acid formation. Papayas and bananas can also relieve heartburn. These fruits act as effective demulcents (they coat the area).
- Take two potatoes and wash them. Without peeling them, put them in a juicer to make juice. You can add some other juices to it to make it taste better. Potatoes also work like demulcents.
- A daily sip of a mixture of 1 teaspoon haritaki (chebulic myrobalan), a fruit native to southern Asia, and 1 teaspoon amla (gooseberries) juice will work wonders for your digestion-related problems.
- A glass of cold milk will work as an antacid and demulcent (forms a layer along the walls of your stomach), relieving you from the acidic abuse and protecting the stomach lining. You can try drinking milk every two hours after the onset of the symptoms of heartburn. A cupful of vanilla ice cream will sooth the palate as well as reduce GERD symptoms.
- Start drinking plenty of water if you start feeling the onset of heartburn symptoms.
Taking these precautions will help in overcoming the problems related to GERD and its vicious partner, heartburn. So just try to implement these simple lifestyle alterations and home remedies, and you will certainly be able to see the difference. Say goodbye to sleep problems, goodbye to indigestion and yes, in the end say good bye to GERD. Be GERD-free and remember, with health in your pocket age is nothing more than a number.