Nothing ruins a happy evening more than a bloated, burning sensation that usually sets in after a hearty meal. We’ve all been through that, and know how frustrating and upsetting it could be. Though once in a while episodes of acid reflux are normal, frequent bloating and acid refluxes indicate an underlying health condition that needs immediate medical intervention.
What is Acid Reflux?
Acid reflux is an uncomfortable health condition that’s accompanied by persistent burning sensation in the chest, neck and throat, along with a bitter taste in the mouth. It happens when the stomach acid flows back into the food pipe. Medically known as GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease, acid reflux is a chronic condition that affects more than one-third of US adults each week. It mostly happens in people who have a weak esophageal sphincter (a muscular tube that allows food to pass into the stomach and blocks it from coming up). In such people, the sphincter relaxes, pushing food upward through the loosened opening, causing acid reflux.
Its symptoms include:
- Severe pain in the chest when you try to lie down or bend over
- Acidic or sour taste in the throat
- A burning sensation in the throat and chest
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Chronic cough or hoarseness
Acid reflux is a painful condition, which if not treated timely can damage the esophagus by scarring and narrowing the esophagus lining, leading to swallowing difficulties and may even cause esophageal cancer.
What Causes Acid Reflux or GERD?
Unhealthy food items and poor lifestyle choices are often the main culprits for most episodes of acid reflux. These include:
- Foods that’s loaded with carbohydrates and sugars
- Fried, fatty food items
- Processed food or one that are high in salt, sugar and spices
- Food loaded with sugar substitutes, which cause gassy reactions during digestion
- Carbonated beverages, beer, soda and other fizzy and alcoholic drinks
- Large meals
- Late night binge eating or laying down immediately after eating
Apart from these, stress, obesity and food intolerances can also increase your risk of GERD or acid reflux.
How to Prevent Acid Reflux?
While over-the-counter antacids and practitioner prescribed anti-reflux medications can help in significantly reducing the stomach’s acid production, ditching unhealthy eating habits and switching to healthy dietary and lifestyle practices can also help you relieve your symptoms.
To prevent GERD or acid reflux, here are the five lifestyle changes that you need to bring about:
1. Bulk Up on High Fibrous Foods
Fibrous food help you stay full for long, drastically reducing your chances of overeating – a major contributing factor toward bloating and heartburn. So load up nutrition dense, high fibrous foods including:
- Whole grains – oats, brown rice, quinoa, barley, buckwheat, millets, and popcorn
- Green vegetables – spinach, broccoli, asparagus, and beans
- Fruits – berries, pears, melons, and oranges
- Root vegetables – carrots, sweet potatoes, and beets
2. Choose Watery Foods Over Processed Items
As much as possible, prefer watery fruits and vegetables over fried and processed foods like chips, fries and more. Watery foods dilute the acid formed in the stomach, thus helping in preventing GERD. So, whether you’re eating at home or dinning out, opt for foods that include:
- Herbal teas
3. Prefer Alkaline Over Acidic Foods
Acidic foods like meat, dairy products, unsprouted beans, carbonated drinks, alcohol, coffee, etc., have low pH and if consumed in higher quantities, they tend to cause acid reflux. On the other hand, alkaline foods, with higher pH, help offset strong stomach acid and thus should be your go-to choice at most of the time. Alkaline foods include:
- Black currants
- Mineral soda water
4. Limit Your Caffeine Intake
Caffeine – a major component in both tea and coffee – has been identified as a major contributing factor in GERD in many people. Caffeine relaxes lower esophageal sphincter, leading to backward flow of content from the stomach. So, if you suffer from GERD or indigestion, you must limit your tea and coffee consumption to not more than two cups a day.
5. Ensure Low to Moderate Intensity Physical Activity
At least 30 minutes, every single day. Exercise has proven out to be highly beneficial in people suffering from acid reflux. Not only does exercise help you shed those extra pounds, it also ensures proper digestion of food. While high-intensity exercises like running, sprinting, and weightlifting are a strict No-No for people suffering with GERD, low to moderate intensity exercises have proven to be particularly beneficial in subsiding the symptoms of acid reflux. Walking, swimming, yoga, jogging or riding a stationary bike are all good exercise choices and must be incorporated in your daily routine.
At EPIC Health, we use multidisciplinary approach to treat patients suffering from GERD, bloating and indigestion. Our gastroenterologists, dieticians, and exercise physiologists work together to create a comprehensive treatment plan, which includes medicinal support and dietary and lifestyle changes, to treat even the most chronic cases of acid refluxes.