The new year is here! Now that we are almost two weeks in, how are those resolutions going? Where is the acid reflux on the list, and what have you done to resolve it?
From our personal experience, anecdotal evidence, and published medical research, we know that many times acid reflux is a disease of lifestyle choices or behaviour. Once the behaviour is corrected, the reflux heals simultaneously. Of course, this isn’t the case always, so keep reading to know more.
Here are some simple tips to get rid of acidity –
1. Improve diet
Most of the time eating too much leads to discomfort, as your stomach is distended and your digestive system cannot cope with a large amount of food intake. The sheer amount of food eaten is often enough to sacrifice the integrity of the lower oesophagal sphincter (LES) causing acid reflux and heartburn.
Certain foods are blacklisted for people who experience acid reflux, but trigger foods can be vastly different from person to person. Recent research has shown that reflux has little to do with what you are eating and more to do with how you are eating it! Chocolates, alcohol, coffee, fried or fatty foods, spicy foods, citrus foods and carbonated beverages are regarded as the most reflux triggering foods since ancient times.
While no proven “GERD diet” exists, the following foods may help you ease/avoid symptoms.
2. Fruits and Vegetables
- Fruits. Avoid citrus fruits and juices (oranges and lemons). Choose from a variety of non-citrus fruits such as bananas, melons, apples, and pears.
- Vegetables. Avoid or reduce sauces or toppings that are high in fat or other irritants like tomatoes or onions. Eat a wide variety of vegetables.
3. Lean Proteins
- Eggs. If eggs are a problem for you, stick to the whites and stay clear of the higher fat yolks, which are more likely to cause symptoms.
- Lean meat. High-fat meals and fried foods tend to decrease lower esophageal sphincter (LES) pressure and delay stomach emptying, increasing the risk of reflux. Choose lean meats that are grilled, poached, broiled, or baked.
4. Complex Carbohydrates
- Oatmeal, whole grain bread, rice, and couscous. These are good sources of healthy complex carbs. Whole grains and brown rice add fibre to your diet.
- Potatoes and other root vegetables. These are great sources of healthy carbs and digestible fibre, but make sure to avoid adding onion and garlic during preparation.
5. Healthier Fats
Generally avoid or reduce saturated fats (usually from meat and dairy) and trans fat (processed foods, margarine, and shortenings). Try replacing them, in moderation, with unsaturated fats from plants or fish. For example:
- Monounsaturated fats. Oils such as olive, sesame, canola, and sunflower oil, avocados, peanuts.
- Polyunsaturated fats. Oils such as safflower, soybean, corn, flaxseed, and walnut oil; soybeans and tofu; and fatty fish such as salmon.
6. Prioritize sleep
Proper sleep is critical and its relationship to reflux is multifaceted. Lack of sleep is linked to overeating as less sleep means more wake time, more wake time means more eating opportunities. Many people who have acid reflux experience more nocturnal episodes, which affects sleep quality. If you experience reflux at night, try sleeping upright in a recliner or elevating the head of the bed, and always try sleeping on your left side. If you have implemented and sustained the common reflux behaviour changes successfully, but are still experiencing reflux, several medical interventions exist to help you out.
7. Exercise regularly
When it comes to reflux, exercise can be a double-edged sword. If you have reflux and aren’t already exercising, rushing straight into a vigorous exercise program may possibly trigger reflux and can be dangerous. So before starting any exercise program, consult your doctor first. Low to moderate impact exercises, such as walking, yoga, and swimming, are beneficial and will help you lose weight, improve digestion, and reduce acid reflux.
Together, diet and exercise help reduce excess weight, reducing pressure on the stomach, which lowers the likelihood of reflux events.
- Doctors generally recommend weight loss as the first line of defence.
- High-impact exercise, such as running and weightlifting, may make your symptoms worse.
- Eating before a workout can also trigger acid reflux.
Sometimes lifestyle changes are simply not enough and you may need prescription therapy or other intervention.
If behavioural changes do not work out for you and you’re predisposed to acidity, take one of the acid-lowering medicines mentioned below.
Medicines to manage acid reflux and heartburn/ Managing acid reflux and heartburn with medicines
Lifestyle changes should be the first choice for managing acidity while some people may require medications to prevent/treat acid reflux and heartburn. Your doctor may suggest certain medications that provide relief from acid reflux, such as:
- Antacids that neutralise stomach acids: They provide quick relief but don’t heal an inflamed oesophagus damaged by stomach acid. E.g. Calcium carbonate.
- H2-receptor blockers that reduce acid production: They do not act as quickly as antacids, but provide longer relief and may decrease acid production from the stomach for up to 12 hours. E.g. Famotidine or Cimetidine.
- Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) that block acid production and heal the oesophagus: They are stronger acid blockers than H2-receptor blockers and provide time for damaged oesophagal tissue to heal. E.g. Omeprazole, Lansoprazole, Pantoprazole and Esomeprazole.
For serious acid reflux, proton pump inhibitors like Omeprazole are the most effective treatment and show the highest published evidence regarding its safety profile. All PPIs show similar efficacy, however, since past 25 years, Omeprazole has remained a valuable treatment for clinicians owing to its efficacy and safety in acid reflux and heartburn and remains the most used PPI globally with more than 40% prescription share worldwide.
Keep these tips and tricks in mind in case you end up with heartburn or acidity. Make a resolution to yourself to be acidity-free this year!!! Good luck and happy new year!
Know more about Omeprazole