Acid Reflux – Will Lifestyle Change Make a Difference?

With major improvement in the understanding, diagnosis and management of acid reflux, family doctors and gastro-enterologists have a greater variety of options for treatment of acid reflux.

The acid suppressant drugs available today are extremely effective. Drugs such as omeprazole and other proton pump inhibitor have become the mainstay of treatment. These drugs are now available over the counter and easy for patients to obtain. It is therefore so easy for practitioners and patients to ignore the simple basic ways to control acid reflux disease.

A simple and effective part of treatment is lifestyle modification and reassurance. This includes changing the types of food consumed, avoiding certain medication, stopping smoking, losing weight, elevating the head of the bed and sensible use of antacids and alginates . The most important foods to avoid are fatty foods. In this group are whole milk, butter, chocolate and some fast foods. In time a patient will know what foods to consume and what to avoid. Peppermint oil relaxes the lower oesophageal sphincter and can cause reflux. If it is used for IBS, be aware of this important side effect. If in doubt consult your GP or stop if you develop reflux symptoms. Smoking has a similar effect on the lower oesophageal sphincter. Give up smoking if you have acid reflux. It is making it worse.

Certain foods should be taken in moderation. Decide for yourself if citric foods, spicy foods or caffeine containing foods are problematic. Avoid these foods if they aggravate acid reflux . Obesity causes increased abdominal pressure and as a result produces increased pressure on the lower oesophageal sphincter. This pressure can result in acid reflux. Losing weight will reduce this pressure. It is very surprising how losing a small amount of weight can make a significant difference.

In nocturnal acid reflux, lying down at night causes refluxate to track up the oesophagus. Raising the head of the bed will help reduce this. In addition it reduces sensitisation overnight which leads to problems during the day. Evidence shows that extra pillows make no difference. Wearing tight clothes will increase intra abdominal pressure and stimulate reflux. Wearing loose clothes will avoid this.

Eating small regular meals is better than having a few big meals. Large volume of food will distend the stomach and affect the efficiency of the sphincter. Similarly do not lie down soon after a meal. Make sure your last meal before retiring is at least three hours earlier.

A review of the medical literature and the few placebo controlled trials suggests that most patients with gastro-oesophageal disease (GERD) can be reasonably controlled by reassurance and lifestyle modification.

Chronic and relapsing acid reflux, however, will need more than lifestyle changes and reassurance. Management should incorporate the use of effective dosage of acid suppressant drugs to gain satisfactory control of acid reflux symptoms.

If your symptoms are persistent in spite of the changes you make, see you family doctor. The thought of having an endoscopy may be daunting but persistent acid reflux can cause long term problems. Acid in the lower oesophagus can cause inflammation leading to oesophagitis. Recurrent oesophagitis can cause bleeding, strictures and Barrett’s oesophagus. 3 to 5 % of Barrett’s Oesophagus develops adenocarcinoma. This condition is diagnosed by biopsy at endoscopy. Bear these facts in mind if your symptoms persist.

Could Your Sedentary Lifestyle Be Contributing To Your Acid Reflux?

Could a sedentary lifestyle be a contributing factor to the upsurgence of acid reflux in our society? I typed these words into Google search: statistics about sedentary lifestyles. What I found was eye-opening and pretty darn scary!!

These were the statistics from the first article that popped up, “Sitting Disease is Taking a Toll on Your Body:”

  • 300,000 deaths occur annually due to inactivity and poor dietary habits in the United States alone.
  • 20% of all deaths of people 35 and older are attributed to a lack of physical activity.
  • 65% of Americans watch 2 or more hours of TV everyday.
  • Sedentary lifestyles are responsible for an estimated $24 billion in direct medical spending
  • Women are more likely to lead sedentary lives than men.

Shocking! And this was just the infographic!!

Could my being sedentary be a contributing factor to my acid reflux? At age 57, I am facing the sober fact that my sitting lifestyle has not served my aging digestive system. When I needed to change my habit, I grabbed antacids, acid-blockers, acid-reducers and proton inhibitor medications instead. It seemed to work for a while but invariably, the symptoms returned. And this time, with a vengeance!

Fast forward to the past few days. I’ve had a resurgence of acid reflux. Like an alcoholic does when he or she has fallen off the wagon and goes back to a Twelve Step Meeting, I went back through the treatment regimen and supplementation recommendations from my naturopathic doctor to see where I’d gone wrong. Vitamins and supplements, check. Drinking water, okay, I can add a bottle or two. Greek yogurt, hate it but I’ll buy some more and put flaxseed in it. And so on and so on.

What had not changed was the long hours sitting on my rump. From sun up to almost another sun up, for hours at a time, I am in a seated position. (Even writing this article, I’m seated on my recliner with my laptop in my lap!) My mind is constantly engaged but my body is not. So in many ways I am the poster child for the afore-mentioned article.

According to WebMD, a 10-15 minute walk throughout the day can help your digestion. It can rid you of gas, heartburn, constipation and stomach cramps reports Ameya C, a contributing writer for StyleCraze, the world’s largest website for women. The Universe is sending me–it’s sending us–a wake up call. Today is the day to make a decision. Will it be hard? Heck yes! But as someone once said to me, “When has something being hard been a good enough reason not to do it?”