Gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD is a common digestive condition in which stomach acid goes back up the esophagus (or the passageway of food from the mouth to the stomach), causing a variety of unpleasant symptoms.
Normally, a ring of muscle known as a sphincter acts as a one-way security barrier at the entrance to the stomach, permitting only the entry of food from the esophagus into the stomach but not the reverse. In GERD, this one-way mechanism fails to fully function, causing the so-called acid reflux.
Symptoms of GERD include abdominal pain, chest pain or a burning sensation on the chest (which can happen after meals, or even in the middle of the night), a sensation of a lump in the throat, and instances of tasting something sour at the back of the mouth. Other symptoms include a recurring sore throat, chronic cough, or difficulty swallowing.
If you experience any of these symptoms, it is always important to be evaluated by a doctor, as GERD can have serious causes and may result in damaging, long-term complications. Additionally, it is also important to exercise lifestyle modifications. Here are three such modifications:
1. Avoid your food triggers.
GERD can be triggered by eating certain foods, but the thing to remember is that food triggers vary from person to person. That is why it is important to identify which foods are your triggers. Although chocolate, oily food, and caffeine-containing products like coffee and tea have been implicated in many cases of GERD, this does not mean that they are also your triggers. Once you have identified which foods trigger your reflux, the prudent way forward is to avoid them.
2. Practice good eating and post-eating habits.
These include: eating smaller (and more frequent) meals, instead of having big meals like indulging in buffets; eating slowly and chewing your food thoroughly to aid with digestion; and walking around, maintaining an upright position, or not lying down for at least two to three hours after a meal, which means you shouldn’t go to bed immediately after eating.
3. Reduce your vices.
Maintaining a healthy weight means reducing the pressure in your abdominal area that makes it easier for stomach acid to slip past your sphincter and go back up your esophagus. Likewise, cigarette smoking has also been implicated in making your stomach sphincter less effective, thus resulting in the same condition as the former.