Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Acidity (heartburn): do’s and don’ts

Here are simple 5 dietary and 8 lifestyle changes to prevent or control acidity or heartburn.

Acidity or heartburn is a very common medical condition, which is caused by excessive acid production in the stomach. The acid flows back into the esophagus or food pipe, causing burning sensation in the lower part of the chest.

Since the stomach acid leaks upward from the stomach into the food pipe, it is called acid reflux. It is medically known as gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD.

Dietary changes to avoid acidity

  1. Avoid foods that trigger acidity: Some foods and drinks increase acid secretion. Some others delay emptying of stomach. Still some others loosen the lower esophageal sphincter or LES, a valve-like muscle between the stomach and the esophagus or food pipe. All of them can lead to acidity.
    Typical culprits are fatty foods, spicy foods, citrus foods, salty foods, chocolates, aerated drinks or colas (that cause belching), alcohol, tobacco, coffee, tea, milk, garlic, raw onions, and tomatoes.
    I will do a separate write-up on specific foods to choose or avoid, as it will be very detailed. I will also discuss nutrients that prevent acidity. Finally, I will cover controversial foods such as milk and lemon juice, where the verdict is divided. Stay tuned!
  2. Eat smaller meals: Eating a big meal puts pressure on the LES to open and back up stomach acid into the food pipe.
  3. Eat slowly: The faster you eat, the more pressure you would put on your LES.
  4. Eat 3 hours before sleeping: Avoid late-night eating. Fruits and simple carbohydrates clear out from stomach fast; proteins and fats take longer. Eat high protein and fat meals at least 4 hours before sleeping.
  5. Drink water during meals: It increases stomach-emptying rate. By the way, some people feel one should not drink water during meals. But the expert consensus is divided over that and I don’t see any scientific evidence for that.

Lifestyle changes to avoid acidity

  1. Don’t sleep or lie down immediately after meals: Lying down increases pressure on the LES.
  2. Sleep on the left side: Due to the pouch-shape of the stomach, lying on your left side reduces pressure on the LES.
  3. Use a bed-wedge: Tilting the upper body up with a wedge-shaped cushion reduces the pressure on the LES. Do not just use pillows to lift the head and shoulders. They may put pressure on the abdomen worsening acid reflux.
  4. Lose weight: Excess weight puts pressure on the LES.
  5. Wear loose-fitting clothes: Wearing tight-fitting clothes or belt puts pressure on the abdomen and LES.
  6. Avoid strenuous exercises for two hours after meals: Light exercises are OK as they help move food out of stomach.
  7. Avoid bending forward: Avoid exercises such as crunches or sit-ups and avoid stooping forward.
  8. Reduce stress: Odd working hours, lack of sleep, high pressure jobs, and type A personality can increase chances of getting acidity. Do breathing and mindfulness exercises.

To read more: 9 ways to relieve acid reflux without medication.

First published on: 15th August, 2022
Image credit: Brett Hondow from Pixabay


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