How Do I Avoid Acid Reflux ?
Have you ever experienced heart burn after having a heavy meal? This is termed as acid reflux. Millions suffer from acid reflux and heart burn associated with it. The most common choice for most people at this time is a commercial medication for relief. But there are certain dos and don’ts, which if kept in mind will help in bringing in relief or avoiding the condition. In fact, there is a lot of research suggesting bringing about lifestyle modifications to treat it. A clinical nutritionist is a person who can help manage this condition with the right food choices. Weight loss programs help manage the condition if weight is an issue with the person. In general, the quality of life is improved with the lifestyle changes.
A valve is present at the entrance of the stomach, which is a ring of muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). Normally, the LES closes as soon as food passes through it. If the LES doesn't close properly or if it opens too often, acid produced by stomach can move up into esophagus. This is called as acid reflux. This can lead to symptoms such as a burning and chest discomfort called heartburn. In most cases, people suffer from symptoms associated with acid reflux at night.
The most common cause of acid reflux is hiatal hernia. Other causes include eating large meals, lying down right after a meal, being overweight or obese. A structured weight loss program can help in the resolution of acid reflux. Certain foods in excess amounts like citrus, spicy, fatty foods, tomatoes, carminatives (peppermint, spearmint), alcohol, caffeine, smoking, carbonated beverages and stress are also known to trigger acid reflux. Snacking close to bedtime is not a good idea especially for those who do have a problem of acid reflux. Smoking or certain medications can also result in acid reflux.
So, how does one stop acid reflux at night?
Dietary and lifestyle modifications help in managing acid reflux.
Dietary Modifications: One of the most effective ways is to avoid foods and beverages which trigger the symptoms.
Food and beverages to avoid:
- Spices like cayenne, cinnamon, pepper, chillies and nutmeg
- Tomatoes and citrus fruits like oranges, lemon and grapes
- High fatty foods and fried foods
- Dairy like high fat milk
- Garlic and onions
- Alcohol and carbonated beverages
- Coffee and tea
Food and beverages to include:
- Research suggests that foods rich in fibre particularly soluble fibre are beneficial against acid reflux. So, fresh fruits and green leafy vegetables must be included in diet. Include fruits like guava, berries, banana, apple, melon, peach and vegetables like cucumber, spinach, asparagus, broccoli, methi, cabbage, carrot, eggplant, beetroot
- Herbs like oregano, rosemary, basil, thyme, parsley, ginger or dill leaves
- Beans like broad beans, moong bean sprouts, lentils
- Nuts and seeds like pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, almonds, sunflower seeds
- Probiotic foods like yoghurt, raw kimchi
- Prebiotic foods like banana, apple
- Low fat milk, low fat yoghurt or buttermilk
- Chewing fennel seeds after eating is a very easy way to manage symptoms
- Use carom seeds (ajwain) and jeera in food preparations
- Coconut water
- Keeping body well hydrated
- Chew non sugary gum as it increases saliva production which soothes esophagus and washed acid back into stomach.
- Healthier cooking methods like grilling, baking or roasting
Lifestyle Modifications: There is sufficient research indicating that lifestyle modifications help in managing acid reflux symptoms better. Some of them are:
- Keep a gap of 2-3 hours between eating and sleeping
- Wear loose-fitting, comfortable pajamas while resting
- Maintain ideal body weight as excess weight can increase pressure on stomach which might reverse direction of acid into esophagus
- Quit smoking
- Perform physical activity or yoga to relieve stress and maintain weight
- Don’t overeat; instead include small and frequent meals. Make lunch the biggest meal of the day and not dinner
- Elevate head of bed to reduce acid reflux symptoms
Medical nutrition therapy provided by a nutritionist offering a clinical nutrition program can play a huge role in managing the symptoms of acid reflux. Taking care of the foods to be avoided and those to be included with the other lifestyle changes suggested can help in alleviating the symptoms. If excess weight is an issue, undertaking a weight loss program under the guidance of a qualified nutritionist again would benefit the person. Losing weight should be one of the top priorities.