Top 10 Ways to Prevent ‘Hyperacidity’
Acid reflux, more popularly known in the Philippines as “hyperacidity”, is a fairly common condition involving the backward flow of stomach acid into the esophagus, the tube that connects the throat and stomach. Acid reflux is more specifically known as gastroesophageal reflux.
At the entrance to your stomach is a valve made up of a ring of muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). Normally, the LES closes as soon as food passes through it. If the LES doesn’t close all the way or if it opens too often, acid produced by your stomach can move up into your esophagus. This can cause symptoms such as regurgitating food or sour liquid at the back of your mouth or a burning chest pain called heartburn.
Occasional acid reflux usually can be prevented with lifestyle changes. If necessary, it can be treated with over-the-counter medication, including antacids (e.g. aluminum hydroxide, magnesium carbonate, simethicone), H-2-receptor blockers (e.g. cimetidine, famotidine), and proton pump inhibitors (e.g. omeprazole, esomeprazole, rabeprazole).
Here are the top 10 lifestyle changes that can help you prevent acid reflux or hyperacidity:
- Maintain a healthy weight. Excess pounds put pressure on your abdomen, pushing up your stomach and causing acid to back up into your esophagus. If your weight is healthy, work to maintain it. If you are overweight or obese, work to slowly lose weight, i.e. no more than 1 or 2 pounds (0.5 to 1 kilogram) a week. Ask your doctor for help in devising a weight-loss strategy that will work for you.
- Avoid tight-fitting clothing. Clothes that fit tightly around your waist put pressure on your abdomen and the lower esophageal sphincter.
- Avoid foods and drinks that trigger heartburn. Everyone has specific triggers. Common triggers such as fatty or fried foods, tomato sauce, alcohol, chocolate, mint, garlic, onion, and caffeine may make heartburn worse. Avoid foods you know will trigger your heartburn.
- Eat smaller meals. Avoid overeating.
- Don’t lie down after a meal. Wait at least three hours after eating before lying down or going to bed.
- Elevate the head of your bed. If you regularly experience heartburn at night or while trying to sleep, put gravity to work for you. Place wood or cement blocks under the feet of your bed so that the head end is raised by 6 to 9 inches. Raising your head with additional pillows is not effective.
- Don’t smoke. Smoking decreases the lower esophageal sphincter’s ability to function properly.
- Get enough sleep and minimize stress. Try sleeping in a chair for daytime naps.
- Avoid constipation. One of the leading causes of acid reflux is constipation, as straining to eliminate hardened stool can widen the LES over time, allowing acids to back up through the esophagus. Make sure to eat a fiber-rich diet to bulk up your stool and eliminate constipation.
- Ask your doctor whether any medication could be triggering your heartburn or other symptoms of acid reflux.