Simple Strategies to Manage Acid Reflux

Last week, I shared strategies to help you recover from a bout of overeating.  Eating too much often comes with a host of unwanted side effects, including bloating, gas, nausea, an upset stomach, and heartburn.  Heartburn, or acid reflux, is also a common everyday problem in people who haven’t overeaten.  People who suffer from chronic acid reflux sometimes feel like they have no control over their condition – they eat well and exercise, yet they still frequently experience a burning sensation in their chest, a sour taste in their mouth, and other unpleasant symptoms.  Managing acid reflux involves more than just eating “healthy” foods and engaging in frequent exercise, but that doesn’t mean it’s difficult to do.  If you suffer from acid reflux, here are some easy strategies you can employ to help manage your condition:

  • Allow at least three hours between your last meal and bedtime. Lying down makes acid reflux worse.  Make sure you eat dinner at least three hours before you go to bed to give your food time to digest, which will decrease the chance that it will “reflux” its way back up to your esophagus.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothes when you eat. You want to make sure you’re not constricting any part of your digestive tract and slowing down the process of digestion.
  • Avoid common acid reflux triggers. Triggers vary from person to person, but foods and beverages that commonly cause reflux include chocolate, peppermint, tomatoes, onions, citrus fruits and juices, caffeine-containing drinks, and alcohol.  Restrict or eliminate these foods from your diet, and take care to steer clear of high-fat and high-acidity foods, as these can also trigger reflux.
  • If you smoke, quit. The nicotine found in cigarettes can weaken the muscle that controls the opening between your esophagus and stomach, allowing food to more easily reflux back up into your esophagus.
  • Time your exercise right. We all know that exercise has a host of benefits.  However, for people with reflux, exercising, if not timed right, can make symptoms worse.  Try to allow at least two hours between meals and exercising in order to avoid jostling the contents of your stomach and opening the gate (pun intended) for those contents to make their way back up to your esophagus.

You may be wondering where medication fits into this equation.  In many cases, acid reflux can be successfully managed without the use of medication.  Many reflux medications don’t actually improve the condition – they just mask its symptoms and lessen discomfort, so talk to your doctor if you have questions or concerns about taking medication to manage reflux.  And in the meantime, try incorporating the above tips into your daily routine to help manage your reflux the natural way.

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