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Tips for Living with Acid Reflux Disease

written by: BStone • edited by: lrohner • updated: 2/28/2011

Millions of Americans live with acid reflux, dealing with the pain and indigestion and trouble sleeping on a regular basis. In addition to whatever form of treatment you choose, reduce your symptoms with these acid reflux tips.

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    Living with GERD

    Being diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease does not have to be an end to digestive health and the enjoyment of food, nor does it mean you have to be dependent on prescription medications for the rest of your life. The symptoms of acid reflux can be very difficult to live with, but with simple dietary and lifestyle changes your condition will improve. Talk to your doctor about what treatment options you are interested in, but also try these acid reflux tips for relief.

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    What Is Your Position?

    One of the most effective, but also very simple method of relieving the symptoms of GERD is to sleep in an upright position. Use gravity to keep food and stomach acids from rising into the esophagus. When the lower esophageal sphincter (LED) is weakened or not working properly, which is generally the case with reflux sufferers, simply lying flat or even reclining allows the contents of the stomach to pass into the esophagus, causing the burning and irritation and damage to tissue.

    When going to sleep, lie on an incline. This can be done by using pillows to prop the upper body up at an angle. Also, try to not lie down until at least four hours after your last meal to give food time to digest.

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    Do You Need to Lose Weight?

    People who are carrying extra weight around tend to have more problems living with acid reflux. This may be because more weight puts more pressure on the stomach, forcing it to press against the LES. It may also be that people who are overweight tend to have eating habits that can contribute to and aggravate GERD — such as eating larger or higher fat meals. Making lifestyle changes to improve your condition, such as adjusting your diet and exercising, losing weight will not be as difficult as you may assume.

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    Smoking and Drinking

    While these are sometimes hard-to-break habits, smoking and/or drinking will only aggravate acid reflux, while also increasing the risk of heart disease and some cancers. Alcohol consumption can relax the LES and delay gastric emptying. It can also be aggravating to the tissue lining the esophagus, which may already be somewhat damaged and inflamed from acid reflux.

    Smoking may also lower LES pressure, although research on this has been conflicting. Smokers have slower healing times, making it more difficult for an inflamed and irritated esophagus to heal.

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    Dietary Changes

    Of all the tips for relieving acid reflux, dietary changes should not be overlooked. Even if you take medications for your symptoms, continuing to eat the same foods can still lead to greater problems down the road.

    Fresh Papaya Cut down on those foods that make acid reflux worse, such as spicy, fried and fatty foods, carbonated beverages, citrus fruits and coffee. Focus on soothing, healing foods such as papaya, bananas, potatoes, tofu and rice. Make a healthy diet a priority, not only to reduce symptoms but also to facilitate healing.

    Treating GERD is important, but considering these acid reflux tips is also important to bring relief, encourage healing and to stop a progression of the disease. Talk to your doctor about managing reflux and if you have any lifestyle tips, feel free to share.

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    References

    Sklar, Jill and Annabel Cohen. "Eating for Acid Reflux." (Marlowe and Company, 2003).

    Page, Linda. "Healthy Healing: A Guide to Self-Healing for Everyone, 11th Edition" (Traditional Wisdom, 2003).

    photo by Janineomg