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5 Healthy Habits To Heal Heartburn

We, food lovers, always look forward to having our next agreeable meal – one that truly quenches our cravings and fills us up with pure joy. But for many of us, that moment of fulfillment and gratification is followed by a kind of discomfort in the chest area. Some say it’s tightness in the chest, others say they get a burning feeling in their throats, and yet others describe it as a sensation quite akin to having a flame at the mouth of our stomachs. Otherwise known as heartburn.

Heartburn and acid reflux are caused by GERD – gastroesophageal reflux disease – a gut condition that is very common among adults. The burning sensation that GERD patients suffer from, occurs when the stomach pushes its acids back up into the esophagus. The esophageal lining is far more sensitive to acids than the stomach lining and irritates faster.

There are many over-the-counter drugs to help GERD and many people take proper medication to ease it. But this condition primarily requires a change in our everyday routines and habits. A little lifestyle modification can come a long way to help reduce, heal, and perhaps even prevent GERD altogether.

GERD-healing habits

This post looks at some healthy GERD-healing habits worth investing in.

#1. Have an early dinner

Laying down soon after eating a meal can make the digestive process difficult particularly for GERD patients. This is so because once you lie down horizontally, the acids secreted by your stomach, are more likely to rise and move into your esophagus. If you habitually lie down soon after eating, you’re letting your stomach acids traveling up more frequently and this can damage the lining of your esophagus.

According to a study published in 2017, eating late-night dinners was associated with an increased risk of acid reflux.

Gastroenterologists often advise eating dinner at least 3 hours before bedtime. To further aid healthy digestion, they recommend going for a walk.

Most people with acid reflux report symptoms worsening in the night, upon lying down. One way to help with that is to raise the head side of the bed. This will help keep stomach acids from reaching up and reduce acid reflux.

In case of chronic acid reflux, you can always consider sleeping on a wedge. This sufficiently raises the upper part of your body, making it even more unlikely for acids to level up with the mouth of your stomach.

#2. Eat smaller portions more frequently

For those who suffer from constant heartburn, eating smaller meals more frequently is always better than eating two big meals. This lifestyle can be most valuable for GERD patients. Here’s why.

A muscular valve – called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) – connects the esophagus to the mouth of the stomach. This valve shrinks back once the food is delivered into the stomach, thus stopping the contents of the stomach from rising into the esophageal tube. The LES remains closed except when you swallow, vomit, or belch.

When you eat, your stomach expands in proportion to the size of your meal. And when you eat a large meal, your stomach expands enough to prevent the LES from shrinking and closing back properly. This, in turn, increases the chances of acid reflux.

In people who experience acid reflux, the LES is weakened and unable to perform its function properly.

Eating smaller portions more frequently puts less pressure on this special muscular valve and reduces the risk of experiencing heartburn.

#3. Cut back on high-fat foods

Fatty foods such as pizzas, fried chicken, potato chips, sausages, and bacon, can easily irritate GERD. To digest fatty foods, the body secretes a hormone called cholecystokinin (CCK), which relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). An excess of fatty foods causes excessive release of CCK, which then leads to over-relaxing the LES. This causes stronger heartburn.

Fatty foods also take longer to digest and remain in the stomach longer, extending the duration of acid reflux.

Saturated fats like cheese, butter, and cream, are particularly irritating for GERD. But instead of abandoning this food group altogether, it’s better to incorporate its healthier sources like the monosaturated fats present in avocados, walnuts, and olive oil. Fatty fish for omega-3 fatty acids is also an excellent option.

#4. Reduce your intake of citrus juice, carbonated beverages, and coffee

Enriching your diet with vitamin C is a wise choice though getting it in via juices might not work for everyone. Grapefruit juice and orange juice are two powerhouse vitamin C drinks but they can trigger reflux. These juices contain acids and compounds that can irritate the sensitive esophageal lining and lead to indigestion at the same time.

Carbonated beverages have a similar effect on people who suffer from GERD. Studies indicate that regularly drinking soda, seltzer, or other fizzy drinks, is linked to the incidence of heartburn.

Carbon dioxide bubbles in fizzy drinks cause frequent burping, which, in turn, increases the amount of acid rising to the esophagus. In fact, according to some studies, carbonated beverages can lower the pH value in the esophagus and cause GERD-related problems.

Research has shown that drinking too much coffee can cause heartburn since an excess of caffeine tends to relax the lower end of your esophagus (LES). This again prevents the stomach acids from not rising to the esophagus.

How much acidic reflux coffee can cause varies from person to person. But if you’ve experienced heartburn after having it, you can be sure it’s not helping you.

#5. Sleep on your left side

The esophagus joins the stomach from its right side. This means that when you sleep with your right side down, your stomach acids come to rest on the mouth of the stomach and lower esophageal sphincter (LES), increasing the likelihood of acidic reflux.

Conversely, when you sleep on your left side, your stomach acids sit above and away from the stomach acids. Sleeping in other positions, including sleeping on your back only increases the risk of reflux.

Though sleeping in one position all night is neither recommended nor possible, it is best to at least try falling asleep on the left side. This at least makes it more likely that you’ll fall asleep without the discomfort of acid pressing on your stomach’s mouth.