Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

One of the highest selling medicines at every medicine store is some sort of antacid.

This drug type, known as a proton pump inhibitor (PPI), causes the stomach to produce less acid. This in turn reduces the painful symptoms of GERD.

However, PPIs don’t help everyone, they have side effects, and they don’t solve the fundamental problem underlying GERD. In addition, reducing stomach acid may leave us with less protection from whatever pathogens stomach acid normally kill.

GERD hurts, but it can also increase people’s risk for abnormal esophageal tissue growth, and perhaps even esophageal cancer.

The long-term damage and inflammation caused by stomach acid and undigested food can lead to these more serious problems.

It’s hard to know exactly what causes GERD. Most likely, there are many factors.

  • Gravity: Lying down immediately after eating a big meal often causes heartburn, as the fluids slosh back upwards and it’s harder for the LES to block the entrance to the esophagus. If you suffer with night-time heartburn, try to elevate the head of their bed slightly, prop up on pillows, or simply eat earlier in the evening if possible, so that the stomach has more time to empty itself.

  • Stress: When we’re rushed and stressed, we tend to eat faster and less mindfully. We may not chew properly, and gulp our food in chunks.
    Additionally, stress activates the SIS, which then slows down gastric and intestinal motility, or the movement of food through the Gl tract.

Toolkit to prevent GERD

There are several lifestyle changes that can help reduce GERD symptoms without the need for medication. Here are some tips:

  1. Avoid trigger foods: Certain foods can trigger GERD symptoms, such as spicy or fatty foods, caffeine, alcohol, and chocolate. Keep a food diary to identify which foods worsen your symptoms and try to avoid them.

  2. Eat smaller meals: Eating smaller, more frequent meals can help reduce the pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which can prevent stomach acid from backing up into the esophagus.

  3. Don’t lie down after eating: Wait at least 2-3 hours after eating before lying down or going to bed. This can help prevent stomach acid from flowing back into the esophagus.

  4. Elevate your head while sleeping: If you experience nighttime GERD symptoms, try elevating the head of your bed by 6 to 8 inches. This can help prevent stomach acid from flowing back into the esophagus.

  5. Lose weight: Excess weight can increase pressure on the stomach and LES, which can cause acid to flow back into the esophagus. Losing weight can help reduce GERD symptoms.

  6. Quit smoking: Smoking can weaken the LES, making it more likely that stomach acid will flow back into the esophagus. Quitting smoking can help improve GERD symptoms.

  7. Manage stress: Stress can worsen GERD symptoms. Practice stress-reducing activities such as yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises.

It’s important to note that these lifestyle changes may not completely eliminate GERD symptoms, but they can help reduce their severity and frequency. It’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor before making any significant changes to your diet or lifestyle.

February 26, 2023

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