Acid reflux is a term used to describe the painful entry of stomach acid upwards through the digestive tract into the esophagus.
Anyone can experience acid reflux from time to time, but frequent occurrence is often a sign that someone is suffering from gastroesophageal reflux disease [GERD].
GERD is a relatively common condition, with recent data suggesting that 1 in 3 people may experience the symptoms of it (reflux, heart burn) on a weekly basis.
Medication often plays a significant and helpful role in GERD management, but there are a number of diet and lifestyle considerations that can help you fight back too.
Let’s go through my top recommendations together.
Fighting Back Against Acid Reflux
Here are my top 5 steps.
Step 1 – Improve The Quality Of Your Diet
A popular and generally effective fibre supplement, psyllium, has demonstrated some potential to help with both constipation and acid reflux.
I strongly recommend looking at more broadly improving your diet though, especially considering the fact that people whose diets were in the top 40% quality wise were significantly less likely to experience acid reflux.
It’s likely the case that improving the overall quality of your diet will offer a better defense against GERD and your perception of symptom severity than simply avoiding common trigger foods.
That being said, if you are very confident about a trigger food causing you issues it remains reasonable to remain vigilant.
I have very specific views and philosophies around what it means to eat a truly strong and optimal dietary pattern.
If you are looking for help in this area and require customized 1-on-1 guidance, reach out today – I’ve helped hundreds of people enjoy significant reflux symptom reduction and an improved quality of life through optimizing their diet.
Step 2 – Master Your Meal Timing
Giving yourself as much time as possible in an upright position after your last meal of the day and the time you lie down/go to sleep is very helpful to prevent acid reflux because it allows gravity and your digestive muscles to work in the same direction.
Most studies show a period of at least 3 hours provides the best defense for GERD sufferers – going for a post-meal walk may offer additional benefits when possible.
If 3 hours isn’t feasible, aim for 2 instead.
This may be the most important lifestyle change you can make to fight back against acid reflux.
Interestingly enough, studies have also demonstrated that skipping breakfast is correlated with acid reflux perhaps because it leads to larger meals later in the day due to an accumulation of hunger.
Individuals dealing with acid reflux may be best advised to spread their meals evenly throughout the day to avoid this issue and leave less eating to do later in the day to allow for that optimal post-dinner to bed time interval.
Step 3 – How You Eat Matters Too
When it comes to acid reflux, the devil really is in the details.
Eating food when it is too hot, eating too quickly and eating beyond fullness are generally associated with an increased acid reflux risk.
In order to avoid putting yourself in positions where this can more easily occur, you need to have Step 2 under control.
Strategizing an optimal day in the life is something I help my clients with all the time.
Your mental state, and being as tranquil as possible around meal time is also a fundamental consideration which will be helped by better scheduling to reduce stress and uncertainity around food and meal timing.
Some people may pursue meditation as a daily practice to improve mindfulness, which could have carry over effects into this area of your health as well.
Step 4 – More Physical Activity, Less Alcohol & Smoking
Not else much to say here, these are behaviour modifications which can improve your life and health in every way – including by reducing acid reflux risk.
The usual physical activity prescription to optimize health in this area is about 30 minutes of moderate – to – vigorous activity daily.
Step 5 – Be Aware Of Your Coffee/Tea Intake
I’ve seen a great deal of mixed reviews about the role of coffee and tea and acid reflux risk.
This includes guidance suggesting to eliminate it completely (I could never!!), to data suggesting there is no correlation between coffee intake and acid reflux.
More recently I’ve seen a paper out JAMA suggesting that limiting consumption to two cups daily of either may offer some level of risk reduction.
Very frequent coffee or tea drinkers dealing with persistent reflux but not wanting to give up their consumption may be best served by following that recommended limit.
Bonus Step – Wear Comfortable Clothing
We’ve all been there.
Trying to fit into a top or pair of pants that we know aren’t comfortable for us, for whatever the reason may be.
This has potential to be quite a problem in the world of acid reflux for a two reasons.
- It can enhance the already present discomfort of someone working through active symptoms
- It can make symptoms worse by increasing abdominal pressure and encouraging stomach acid upwards
I know that wardrobe changes or temporarily parting ways with our favourite clothing isn’t always a straightforward decision, but it is equally important to acknowledge that if you are currently dealing with GERD it could be worsening the problem.
I’m Here To Help
Today’s piece of writing really demonstrates the fact that what and how you eat, including the way in which you structure your eating throughout the day, has a massive role to play in minimizing the risk and severity of acid reflux in so far as lifestyle changes have the capacity to do so.
Helping clients master these areas of their lives is my specialty, so if you feel as though you need personalized support in this area – don’t hesitate to reach out to discuss working together.
Until next time,
Andy De Santis RD MPH