What is GERD?
GERD stands for gastroesophageal reflux disease. This condition is very common with 20% of the US population being affected. Chances for developing GERD increases in people who are older than 40, overweight/obese, pregnant, smokers, or taking certain medications. This occurs when acid from your stomach flows upwards into your esophagus due to the valve being too weak. The valve is located between the stomach and esophagus, which is the tube that guides food from your mouth through your throat and into your stomach. The backward flow of acid causes the symptoms associated with GERD. Most people end up taking medications to treat their GERD symptoms after they occur. However, you can make certain lifestyle modifications to prevent symptoms from occurring in the first place.
Symptoms of GERD:
Certain foods can be triggers for your heartburn symptoms while others can help with acid reflux. Foods that cause the valve between your esophagus and stomach to relax may be the cause of your GERD symptoms. Most of these “trigger foods” are foods that are high in fat, salt, or spice. Examples include cheese, fatty meats like bacon and sausage, chili powder/ pepper, tomato-based sauces, citrus fruits, chocolate, and carbonated beverages. These foods don’t need to be eliminated from your diet, but it might be helpful to avoid them closer to bedtime. On the other hand, certain food can help prevent acid reflux. High-fibers food like oatmeal, sweet potatoes, and broccoli can help you feel fuller for longer. Alkaline foods like bananas, melons, and nuts can help balance the acid in your stomach. Watery food like celery, cucumber, and lettuce can help weaken the stomach acid.
Acupuncture can be another non-pharmacological approach to help alleviate your GERD symptoms. Zhang, Chao-xian et al found that acupuncture can effectively inhibit acid reflux in patients with gastroesophageal reflux which helped alleviate their symptoms. Acupuncture is safe and generally well-tolerated by patients with GERD.
The valve located between your esophagus and stomach is surrounded by a muscle called your diaphragm. The diaphragm is a muscle that contracts when you inhale air and relaxes to expel air out of your lungs. Eherer, A J et al showed that actively training the diaphragm through breathing exercises can improve and reduce the disease burden of GERD.
Changing your sleeping habits is another lifestyle modification that can help treat your GERD. Raising the head of your bed about 6-10 inches with an under-mattress foam wedge decreases the amount of stomach acid that can reach the esophagus. Avoiding lying down for two hours after eating and eating dinner less than two hours before bedtime will also decrease the amount of stomach acid that can travel backward to your esophagus.
Patients who are overweight are more likely to have GERD compared to those who are not. The risk of GERD symptoms of every degree of severity and duration rises with an increasing body-mass index. Therefore, weight loss if overweight can be another effective approach to alleviating your GERD symptoms.
There is a wide range of approaches to treat your symptoms of GERD without the use of medications that can have inadvertent negative side effects. Non-pharmacological and lifestyle modifications can be your first-line treatment. Life Your Life has integrated health services including dietary services, acupuncture, health coaching, and physical therapy that can provide greater expertise on ways to treat your GERD symptoms. Click here to learn more about how Life Your Life is different and contact us for a free consultation.