5 Tips to Avoid Acid Reflux

The burning chest pain and discomfort that accompanies acid reflux is sometimes mistaken for a heart attack. More commonly known as heartburn, acid reflux occurs when stomach acid backs up into your esophagus, the tube that connects your throat to your stomach. 

An estimated 60 million Americans experience acid reflux at least once a month. Occasional heartburn isn’t much to worry about. But it’s best to see one of our gastroenterologists if you notice regular bouts of heartburn. 

Understanding heartburn

Acid reflux is diagnosed as gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD) when patients have heartburn that recurs at least twice a week. It’s estimated that as many as 15 million people in the United States experience heartburn daily. 

Lifestyle changes can help you manage acid reflux and get relief. At Illinois Gastroenterology Associates, we help patients manage a wide variety of digestive conditions such as heartburn. When lifestyle changes aren’t enough, medication and other treatment options can help. 

If you’re plagued with bouts of heartburn, try these five tips to get your acid reflux under control.

Tip #1: Adopt an acid reflux-friendly diet

One of the first things patients who have acid reflux should do is make some practical changes in their eating habits. The foods you eat have a major impact on triggering heartburn. Foods that are highly acidic or stimulate too much stomach acid are the worst offenders. To prevent acid reflux, it’s best to avoid:

Tip #2: Avoid late-night eating

Having a habit of eating at night contributes to heartburn attacks. Make it a point to avoid eating within three hours of bedtime. Lying down after eating is a major trigger for acid reflux. When you lie flat, stomach acid easily flows up the esophagus. Developing a good bedtime routine is key to avoiding fiery heartburn at night. 

If you notice that you get acid reflux at night even when you avoid eating late, try sleeping on your left side and using a wedge pillow that elevates your upper body. This should help prevent nighttime bouts of heartburn.

Tip #3: Eat small, frequent meals

Sitting down for a nice large meal may seem tempting, but it’s a habit you should avoid if you have acid reflux. Large meals put pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter. The LES is a bundle of muscles responsible for opening and closing to keep stomach acid out of the esophagus. This muscle is weak or damaged in people who experience heartburn two or more times weekly. 

Sticking to smaller, more frequent meals relieves pressure on the LES and reduces the chances of triggering acid reflux. 

Tip #4: Lose weight

We tell patients who are overweight that weight loss is the biggest weapon against acid reflux. Being overweight is one of the most common causes of GERD. Carrying extra fat around the midsection puts pressure on the stomach, causing a backflow of stomach acid up the esophagus. 

Weight loss can improve acid reflux symptoms. Most patients who successfully lose weight find that their heartburn symptoms resolve completely. 

Tip #5: Keep a food diary

Keeping a food diary can help you identify foods that trigger your symptoms. For some patients, dairy foods trigger acid reflux and switching to fat-free or low-fat dairy can relieve symptoms. Other patients may find they’re unable to tolerate dairy at all. 

Specific food triggers can vary from patient to patient. Recording what you eat and your symptoms can help you zero in on the offending foods and make dietary changes to reduce acid reflux. 

Take control of your acid reflux

Don’t let heartburn interfere with your life. For a comprehensive evaluation and information on how we can help you beat acid reflux, visit us at Illinois Gastroenterology Associates. We have offices in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs including Gurnee, Evanston, Skokie, Libertyville, Lindenhurst, and Highland Park. Call your nearest office to schedule an appointment with one of our specialists, or you can request an appointment here on our website. 

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