The NHS lists ‘self-help measures and over-the-counter medicines’ as being among the most effective treatments for acid reflux, or gastro-intestinal reflux disease (GORD), as acid reflux is more properly known in the world of medicine.
So to help you stay in tip-top shape, Echo has compiled a list of seven self-help methods that you can use to combat the symptoms of acid reflux, using simple techniques that you can easily incorporate into your daily routine.
1) Avoid trigger foods (and drinks)
An oldie but a goodie, this piece of advice should be taken seriously if you want to reduce your chances of experiencing heartburn after sitting down to eat a meal.
There are a wide range of foods and drinks that are known to lead to heartburn, including chocolate, mint, garlic, onion, tomato sauce, coffee, and alcohol, but knowing what triggers your heartburn is key to effectively combatting the symptoms of acid reflux.
Though spicy, fatty foods and carbohydrate-rich meals are well-known triggers for acid reflux, GORD is one of those conditions that tends to manifest differently in each person it affects, meaning that your triggers may not be the same as somebody else’s.
Keeping a food diary and noting when your symptoms flare up could help you to identify which foods and drinks aggravate your GORD symptoms, and to eliminate these items from your diet to relieve your heartburn.
2) Eat little and often
Continuing on with the theme of food and drink, it’s a good idea to swap your three meals a day for lighter, smaller and more frequent meals in order to fight off heartburn.
The NHS recommends that you:
“Eat smaller and more frequent meals, rather than three large meals a day […] and avoid having your largest meal of the day in the evening.”
By reducing the amount you eat at one time, you will encourage your stomach to produce less acid (to break down a smaller amount of food) and thereby reduce the effects of acid reflux as less acid will enter up into your oesophagus from your stomach.
3) Avoid tight fitting clothes
What you put on your body can be just as important as what you put into your body when you’re trying to reduce the effects of acid reflux.
Though a waist-cinching belt and a tight pair of chinos might make you look fantastic, they could ultimately leave you feeling sizzling hot for all the wrong reasons.
Tight fitting clothes constrict the area around your stomach and put added pressure on your lower oesophageal sphincter, increasing your chances of experiencing heartburn, according to NHS choices.
So if you’re going out for a big meal, or you’ve planned a night out on the town, try wearing some loose fitting clothing or at least an outfit made from expandable and breathable materials. If you feel conscious that loose clothing will put your post-meal ‘food baby’ on show, take a cardigan or a light indoor jacket to wear after you finish your meal so you can sit back and relax in style and comfort.
4) Change your sleeping position
No, you don’t need to start sleeping with your arms above your head or your legs splayed to the sides, but you should think about re-adjusting the head of your bed to a more suitable height if you want to combat acid reflux at nighttime.
Countless studies have documented the benefits of adjusting the head of your bed to a height of roughly 20cm (8 inches), including a study from the Gastroenterology & Hepatology Journal, which further noted that sleeping on your left hand side could improve your GORD symptoms.
But before you set off to your nearest department store to stock up on king-sized pillows, you should note that NHS guidelines specifically state you should not use extra pillows to raise the head of your bed, as this has been shown to put a strain on your stomach.
Instead, the NHS recommends ‘placing a piece of wood or blocks underneath one end of your bed’ to raise the height of your upper bed and improve your chances of reducing GORD symptoms at night.
5) Give your food time to digest before you go to bed
Gravity plays an important role in reducing acid reflux symptoms.
When you sit up straight, the acid pumped up from your stomach struggles to travel as far up your oesophagus as it might if you were lying down.
As a result, it’s a good idea for you to wait a while after eating your evening meal before you get snuggled up into bed.
To increase your chances of reducing your heartburn, the acclaimed Mayo Clinic goes as far as to suggest that you should:
“Wait at least three hours after eating before lying down or going to bed.”
6) Stop Smoking
As we all know, smoking has a wide range of negative effects on our health, and aside from increasing your chances of developing lung cancer, throat cancer and mouth cancer (amongst other types of cancer), smoking can burn the lining of your oesophagus, and make you more sensitive to the hydrochloric acid that is thrust up into your oesophagus from your stomach when you experience acid reflux.
Reason number 10,098 to give up your cigarettes then…
7) Maintain a healthy weight
A piece of advice that always crops up in relation to health, maintaining a healthy weight through exercise and a good, balanced diet is effective in helping you to stave off heart conditions, joint complaints and, apparently, GORD.
According to the Mayo Clinic:
“excess pounds put pressure on your abdomen, pushing up your stomach and causing acid to back up into your esophagus.”
So maintaining a healthy weight, or working towards achieving one, can help reduce your GORD symptoms, whilst also making you feel more confident and more energetic.
That’s the end of Echo’s guide to effectively tackling GORD. But you can read our 7 top tips for combatting hay fever and 9 alternative methods for managing high blood pressure on our blog!
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