Managing Acid Reflux

Most adult Americans have experienced heartburn or acid regurgitation at some time in their lives; these are the most common symptoms of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). For at least 19 million Americans, this condition is chronic – they’ve been living with it for years.

What many don’t realize, however, is that GERD can create serious complications. Barrett’s esophagus, erosive esophagitis, esophageal strictures, and esophageal cancer are some of the conditions that may develop over time, even when symptoms are under control.

Luckily, there are a number of proactive steps you can take to lessen the severity of acid reflux (below).

  1. Eat smaller, more frequent meals. A full stomach can put extra pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which will increase the chance that some of this food and acid will reflux into the esophagus.
  2. Limit your intake of acid-stimulating foods and beverages. Certain foods not only contain acid but also can cause the LES to relax, leading to more reflux. Examples include citrus juices, alcohol, chocolate, mints, spicy foods, carbonated beverages, and caffeine.
  3. Don’t eat within two to three hours before bedtime. Lying down with a full stomach can cause stomach contents to press harder against the LES, increasing the chances of reflux.
  4. Elevate your head a few inches while you sleep. Lying flat also can cause stomach contents to press against the LES. With the head higher than the stomach, gravity helps reduce this pressure. You can elevate your head in a couple of ways. You can place bricks, blocks or anything that’s sturdy securely under the legs at the head of your bed. You can also use a wedge-shaped pillow to elevate your head.
  5. Maintain a reasonable weight. Obesity increases abdominal pressure, which can then push stomach contents up into the esophagus. At least 35 percent of overweight persons experience GERD symptoms with regularity. The good news is that for many people, as little as a 10 percent decrease in weight will improve GERD symptoms.

If you regularly suffer from GERD symptoms, talk to your doctor about the possibility of screening for complications. If you have developed complications, be assured that there are new, minimally invasive procedures that may reduce the risk of your condition developing into cancer.

For more information or to schedule an appointment with your gastroenterologist.