If you’ve ever experienced the burning sensation of heartburn — or are currently struggling with it — you probably searched high and low for relief. Heartburn, chest pain, coughing, and trouble swallowing, are among the many uncomfortable symptoms of acid reflux. Consequences of acid reflux can range from discomfort and ruined meals to esophageal damage with prolonged exposure.
In this post, we’ll define the connection between acid reflux and heartburn, explain how to prevent heartburn, and go over how to reduce acid reflux symptoms when they arise. Read on for a comprehensive overview of acid reflux management and prevention or use the links below to navigate to a specific topic.
Before we discuss how to reduce acid reflux, let’s start with a quick description of what acid reflux is and what its symptoms, including heartburn, look like.
Acid reflux is caused by a malfunction of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), a ring of muscles that restricts the backflow of stomach acid when functioning properly. When the LES relaxes rather than constricts, stomach acid and partially digested food can escape from the stomach and enter the esophagus. As a result of this malfunction, you may feel heartburn and other symptoms of acid reflux.
Like most medical conditions, there are certain individuals that are more at risk for experiencing heartburn or developing a consistent issue with acid reflux that can lead to more severe conditions, like GERD.
According to the Mayo Clinic1, the following conditions can increase your risk of acid reflux-related disease:
A bulging of the top of the stomach into the diaphragm (hiatal hernia)
Connective tissue disorders (i.e. scleroderma)
Delayed stomach emptying
While most of the aforementioned risk factors involve environmental triggers, recent studies have examined the role genetics play in gastrointestinal conditions. One study found that genetics accounted for 31% of GERD cases, signaling a strong connection between family history and acid reflux.2
In addition to genetic and environmental risk factors, there are several other personal circumstances that can intensify or trigger acid reflux, including:
Drinking alcohol or caffeine
Eating large meals
Eating late at night
Taking medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen
Now that you know a bit more about how certain habits, environmental factors, and inherited traits can influence heartburn, let’s talk about prevention.
How to Prevent Acid Reflux
In many cases, avoiding triggers and other risk factors can help to prevent the onset of acid reflux symptoms. In this section, we’ll discuss lifestyle changes and healthy habits that can potentially prevent heartburn and other acid reflux issues.
1. Modify your diet and eating schedule
Like many other health conditions, acid reflux can largely be avoided by maintaining a healthy diet. According to the Wexner Medical Center3, there are a number of foods that can help curb your acid reflux as well as some that can aggravate your symptoms — more on that in a minute.
Which foods help prevent acid reflux? Green leafy vegetables, lean meats, egg whites, oatmeal, noncitrus fruits, and healthy fats help reduce inflammation and absorb excess stomach acid, minimizing the potential for reflux. Check out our blog to find recipes for acid reflux relief.
In addition to changing whatyou eat, acid reflux experts also recommend adjusting whenyou eat. Lying down immediately after eating — like when you eat right before bedtime — interrupts the digestive process and eliminates the gravitational pull that helps keep acid in your stomach, where it belongs. Try to avoid eating late at night and give your stomach time to digest properly before lying down.
2. Avoid food and drink triggers
As we mentioned earlier on in this post, there are some foods that help your acid reflux and others that can make it worse. Fatty, fried, spicy, and citrusy foods are common culprits of heartburn and should be avoided to prevent acid reflux flare ups. Additionally, alcohol and caffeinated drinks can trigger reflux symptoms.
3. Maintain a healthy weight
As you learned earlier on in this post, excess weight is one of many risk factors for acid reflux and other gastrointestinal diseases. If you’re wondering how to prevent acid reflux frequency and intensity, any doctor would likely start by assessing your weight. Carrying extra weight, especially near your abdomen, can increase pressure and force stomach acid back into your esophagus, causing heartburn.
Plan meals ahead of time so you don’t give into unhealthy options
Know your serving sizes to avoid overeating
Don’t drink your calories — avoid soda and other sugary drinks
4. Wear loose-fitting clothing
Much like excess weight can force stomach acid back into your esophagus, so can tight-fitting clothing. Try to opt for loose-fitting clothing while you’re eating or when you’re experiencing more consistent acid reflux flare ups.
5. GERD surgery
Though it’s typically a last-resort solution, GERD surgery is one method for preventing and potentially resolving acid reflux issues. There are several types of GERD surgery — the type you should undergo depends on the severity of your condition, your medical history, and your doctor’s directive:
Transoral Incisionless Fundoplication (TIF)
Bard EndoCinch System
6. Adjust your sleeping posture
Some of the prevention tips we’ve discussed are much more complicated than others, but a simple adjustment in your sleeping posture could prove to be among the most effective methods for relief. Yes, you read that right — quelling your heartburn and acid reflux symptoms can happen in your sleep.
After studying why acid reflux symptoms often spike at night, physicians found that a simple adjustment in sleeping posture can provide nighttime relief and significantly reduce exposure to harmful stomach acid. Because of the way gravity aids the digestive process and helps keep acid and stomach contents below the LES, they found that sleeping at an incline on the left side was the best position for sleeping with acid reflux and GERD. At the same time, sleeping on your back can actually agitate acid reflux symptoms.
MedCline’s patented Reflux Relief System helps you stay off your back and sleep comfortably in the recommended elevated, left-side position for reflux relief.
Here’s how it works: Using a three-component construction, our GERD pillow gently elevates your torso to keep stomach acid where it belongs and allows your downside arm to rest effortlessly within a built-in arm pocket. Clinical studies of the device found that 93% of patients experienced a reduction in heartburn after using the Reflux Relief System, and results showed significant improvement in patients with the following conditions:
Learning how to prevent acid reflux is a big part of managing your symptoms, but sometimes even when you’re doing all the right things, you’ll feel heartburn start to creep up. In this section, we’ll focus on how to reduce acid reflux using medication and home remedies for quick heartburn relief.
How to reduce acid reflux with medication
Over-the-counter reflux medication is one of the most common methods used to address heartburn when symptoms appear. If you don’t have a prescription from your doctor, you’ll likely have the following over-the-counter options to choose from:
In addition to reflux-relieving foods, both milk and papaya tea can help quell heartburn symptoms.
Depending on the severity and frequency of your symptoms, heartburn and acid reflux can cause mild or moderate disruptions in daily life — from discomfort after dinner to sleepless nights, finding relief is essential to getting your life back. As you work with your doctor to find the right course of action for your situation, keep these key takeaways in mind:
How do you prevent acid reflux?:
Modify your diet
Avoid triggers foods and drinks
Maintain a healthy weight
Wear loose clothing rather than tight-fitting clothes
Ask your doctor about GERD surgery
Adjust your sleeping position
How do you reduce acid reflux?:
Try over-the-counter medications, like antacids, H-2 blockers, and PPIs
Use home remedies, like chewing gum, eating ginger, or incorporating ingredients that neutralize your stomach acid into your diet.
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MedCline was founded in 2011 by Carl Melcher, M.D, who was a life-long sufferer of GERD. Dr. Melcher wanted to help the millions of GERD patients with a natural treatment alternative utilizing positional therapy. Since development, the Reflux Relief System has been validated in 7 clinical trials. Aiming to help other medical conditions with positional therapy, MedCline has also developed a Shoulder Relief System for those who suffer with chronic shoulder pain at night. Both MedCline Relief Systems are providing much-needed relief for those suffering from nocturnal acid reflux and/or nighttime shoulder pain to get quality, restorative sleep leading to a higher health-related quality of life.