Acid Reflux Diet & Lifestyle

Curing Acid Reflux Symptoms Can Be Easy – Adopt A Different Diet!

One of first things you can do to help relieve the symptoms of acid reflux is to change your diet. That way, you can avoid any foods which cause you problems.

One piece of great advice for settling up on an acid reflux diet is to eat low-fat and high-protein meals. You might also find that changing the combinations of foods that you eat can improve the symptoms you experience.

(By the way, this is not the same as Food Combining – an approach to diet that suggests if you combine foods in certain ways, you’ll experience much better health. The rationale for this is that they require different digestive environments. The simplest principle of food combining is not to mix carbohydrate rich food and protein rich food within the same meal. However, scientific studies of food combining suggests that there’s no benefit to the regime, and simply eating a balanced diet is just as effective in keeping you healthy.)

What you’re trying to do here is to simply eliminate the foods from your acid reflux diet that cause your symptoms to get worse. One of the easiest ways to do this is to keep a food diary, in which you record everything you eat, and any reactions you have to it. That way, you can simply eliminate anything that causes your heartburn, discomfort and reflux to get worse.

You may want to eat smaller meals more often, and to stop eating before you feel “full”. Another key piece of your acid reflux diet is not to eat within three hours of bedtime, because reflux is more likely when you’re lying down.

The classic foods and drinks to be avoided in a diet for heartburn are generally said to be:

  • Coffee and tea, both decaffeinated and ordinary
  • Anything else that contains caffeine
  • Any carbonated beverage or soda
  • Anything containing alcohol

And some foods that seem to trigger heartburn are:

  • Citrus fruits and juices
  • Other products high in acidity like tomatoes
  • Vinegar and other spices including chili and pepper
  • High-fat foods such as meat and fat dairy products
  • Mint or peppermint
  • Garlic and onions
  • Chocolate

And of course there will be others that have a particular effect on you – that’s why the food diary is such a good idea; in fact, it’s the only real way to establish what’s causing you to experience discomfort.

Both Lifestyle Factors And An Acid Reflux Diet Can Control Symptoms Of Heartburn

While we’re discussing this, let’s look at some lifestyle factors that other people have said were very helpful in eliminating symptoms of acid reflux. Other approaches to reflux are discussed here: acid reflux remedies.

High on the list is not smoking, because smoking is definitely known to increase the risk of reflux; it also increases the amount of acid secreted in your stomach, and stops the lower esophageal sphincter from working correctly.

You should raise the head of your bed between 4 and 6 inches so as to encourage the stomach contents to stay where they are and not flow upwards into the esophagus during the night.

Don’t use extra pillows, however, because unless you’re lying flat, you’re likely to increase the pressure on your abdomen (that increases reflux). You can lie flat in bed with the head of the bed raised.

Take naps in the daytime sitting in a chair, perhaps reclining slightly.

Remove pressure from around your abdomen by wearing loose clothes and belts.

If you’re overweight, definitely make an effort to lose weight by taking exercise and changing your diet, because the extra pressure on the abdomen definitely causes an increased amount of reflux.

Needless to say, getting fit and staying fit is a vital part of any health regime, and lowering stress can definitely have an impact on acid reflux, at least some of which is stress-induced.

Your Diet Doesn’t Have to Be A Bore To Cure Acid Reflux!  

 

Images courtesy of happykanppy /magichai and FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Scientific Evidence That An Acid Reflux Diet Can Eliminate Heartburn Symptoms

Fortunately there is some scientific research in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, volume 95 number 10, where Alexander Meining and Meinhard Classen reviewed the role of an acid reflux diet and changes to lifestyle in the treatment of heartburn and GERD.

They started by making the observation that gastroesophageal reflux and the complications that come with it are rife in our society. Their aim was to check out the basis of the recommendations which are commonly made to GERD patients.

When they reviewed the data, they found that there was conflicting evidence about how much some of the factors we often blame for causing GERD actually have a role to play in the disease. Since approximately 20% of the population seem to experience regular heartburn and acid regurgitation it’s well worth looking into this. That’s particularly true because around 60% of people diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus have symptoms of GERD before the cancer diagnosis was made.

The authors make the observation that until 1970 many experts thought that reflux was due to lowmuscle tone in the lower esophageal sphincter. While it’s true that some people do indeed have low muscle tone in this area, the truth is that the majority of men and women with acid reflux symptoms actually have normal or perhaps even increased muscular tone in the LES. What’s clear is that individuals with GERD have more frequent relaxation of the sphincter, relaxations which are responsible for belching.

Since this is a normal reflex reaction, the question becomes why people with GERD have more belching responses than others. Furthermore, when they do belch, they have more associated reflux of acid than people without symptoms of GERD.

To some extent these questions remain unanswered, although the role of the hiatal hernia treatment is becoming increasingly clear. John Hopkins University has more to say on the matter.

As far as acid reflux diet is concerned, the usual recommendation people are given is to avoid fatty meals. It’s a recommendation based on the observation that fatty foods seem to promote heartburn. And it’s certainly true that fat reduces the pressure exerted by the lower esophageal sphincter.

But the evidence is contentious: in one study, high-fat meals seemed to stimulate reflux only in healthy people, whereas in individuals with symptoms of GERD, high-fat meals did not seem to make much difference to the amount of reflux after eating. It’s also true that we’ve tended to regard sweet treats and candy bars as a cause of reflux because they have high osmolality and high-fat content.

Chocolate too, has been blamed for decreasing the lower esophageal sphincter pressure.

Regrettably, there hasn’t been sufficient research conducted in controlled studies to definitively state the role of these foods in stimulating reflux. Nonetheless, if you find that they stimulate symptoms of acid reflux, you may wish to regard them as acid reflux foods to avoid!

One thing that we do know for certain is that carbonated drinks have a significant impact on reflux mechanisms, because of the increased pressure in the stomach.

As far as caffeine in drinks is concerned, one study has definitely shown that a reduction in caffeine intake will ease the symptoms of reflux.

There is similar evidence for the influence of juice and citrus products on acid reflux symptoms. A significant correlation has been demonstrated between the acidity of a reflux diet and reflux symptoms.

What about large meals? It’s a common belief that eating a large meal can stimulate postprandial reflux. It seems logical that this would be so, because gastric distention triggers temporary and brief relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter, which is definitely a precursor of reflux. Unfortunately, once again, the research simply hasn’t been done to demonstrate conclusively whether or not this is true in an acid reflux dietary regime.

We are forced, therefore, to fall back on the anecdotal experience of acid reflux diets produced by heartburn sufferers: in this respect, your own experience with eating and drinking certain types of foods and liquids becomes invaluable, because you rapidly become aware of which types of food are promoting symptoms of reflux.

There’s a significant association between body mass index and cancer of the esophagus. Since we know that cancer of the esophagus is stimulated by chronic acid reflux, it seems very reasonable to hypothesize a connection between obesity and reflux. If you are obese or even mildly overweight, it’s highly desirable that you try to lose weight.

Does Alcohol Have A Place In An Acid Reflux Diet?

Many men and women with heartburn experience it after drinking alcohol. And there is very clear evidence that the removal of acid from the esophagus, which is a normal reflex reaction in response to acid reflux, is definitely impaired after consumption of even a moderate amount of alcohol. Strangely enough, it seems that white wine is one of the worst products here, having more effect on reflux than red wine or beer.

The evidence is actually quite clear around smoking, too, because its deleterious effect on the lower esophageal sphincter is actually well known. It also reduces saliva bicarbonate secretion, which means that the saliva has less potential for neutralizing stomach acid.

There’s a lot of evidence that physical activity in general, and running in particular, can influence acid reflux (for the better!).

And of course we’ve already mentioned your sleeping position: many experts recommend you to raise the head of the bed. You may find this helps, you may not, but it’s certainly worth trying. Strangely enough it turns out some people who try this acid reflux remedy will actually experience more reflux: fortunately this outcome is rare.

You should also lie on your left side as you sleep, because it’s clear that that this is linked to a reduction in acid reflux compared with lying on your right-hand side. This is because the junction between the esophagus and stomach is exposed to stomach contents when you lie on your right side, but not on your left.

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