If you’ve been experiencing heartburn more than a couple times a week, acid creeping up into your throat, bloating, nausea or hiccups that don’t let up, you might be affected by acid reflux disease, which in chronic or severe cases is known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). And you wouldn’t be alone – acid reflux disease can affect anyone at any age with 1-in-2 Americans experiencing it.
Acid Reflux Explained
Simply put, acid reflux is a medical condition in which gastric fluid is regurgitated into the esophagus, which causes heartburn. In physiological terms, there is a valve at the entrance of your stomach. This valve’s job is to close as soon as food passes through it. If, for some reason, the valve doesn’t close all the way or opens too often, it can allow the acid produced by your stomach that aids in digestion to come up into your esophagus or even all the way up to the back of your throat. This can be a painful and uncomfortable condition that causes heartburn and can be a contributing factor in not sleeping well at night.
How to Alleviate Symptoms
To alleviate the symptoms of acid reflux, it helps to understand what can cause that valve at the entrance of your stomach to stay open. Medically, obesity and hiatal hernias have been identified as a contributor to acid reflux, so losing weight or having a hernia repaired may help.
Lifestyle habits also play a part in acid reflux. Smoking, eating a large meal or eating and then immediately laying down – these also contribute to acid reflux. So eat a few hours before bed and eat smaller meals throughout the day instead of a few large meals at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Some doctors recommend avoiding tight clothes, as this can make an uncomfortable situation even more uncomfortable. Smoking and drinking alcohol also have been linked to acid reflux. Cutting both of these out may help bring relief.
Foods to Avoid
There are certain foods and drinks you can avoid that might help to alleviate some of the symptoms of acid reflux. Reduce or eliminate your intake of:
- Citrus foods such as lemons, oranges or grapefruits
- Tomatoes or tomato-based foods and sauces
- Spicy foods
- Fatty foods
- Carbonated drinks
If you’ve tried these methods to curb acid reflux and don’t notice any improvement, contact your physician. They will examine you and either recommend an over-the-counter medication that helps control acid or give you a prescription medication.
Dr. Sahil Mittal is a board-certified gastroenterologist at Kelsey-Seybold’s Katy Clinic and Main Campus. His numerous research efforts have dealt primarily with liver cancer, viral hepatitis and fatty liver. Besides liver disease, his clinical interests are functional bowel disorders and gastrointestinal cancer screening.