Treating Heartburn with Lifestyle Changes
07. 14. 2017
Approximately one in five people experience weekly symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and many of them rely on medications to find relief. According to a health report card released by The Canadian Society of Intestinal research, approximately 75 percent of GERD sufferers self-medicate without ever seeing a physician.
Medications can be an effective way to control frequent heartburn, but they aren’t the only way. Many heartburn sufferers can significantly improve their symptoms by making simple changes to their lifestyle and daily habits. These changes naturally reduce the occurrence of reflux, which can lessen the need for medications.
- Clean Up Your Diet – A high-fiber, low-fat diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains will promote healthy digestion and reduce heartburn symptoms. Avoid foods that are rich, creamy, greasy, or spicy, as these are known triggers for acid reflux.
- Exercise Regularly – Physical activity keeps the digestive system working smoothly and aids in weight loss, both of which can reduce the occurrence of heartburn. The CDC recommends that adults engage in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity each week for maximum health benefits.
- Manage Stress Levels – Stress can manifest itself physically in a number of ways, including headaches, muscle tension and digestive problems. If your heartburn episodes coincide with stressful situations, try engaging in relaxation techniques. Attend a yoga class, try daily meditation, or just set aside some time to soak in a warm bubble bath.
- Get Plenty Of Sleep – Sleep deprivation can affect the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), the muscular valve that prevents stomach acid from seeping into the esophagus. Try to get seven to nine hours of rest each night to keep your body functioning at its best.
- Stop Smoking – Smoking weakens the LES, reduces saliva production and makes the stomach more acidic, all of which can lead to heartburn. Talk to your doctor about tools and techniques that can help you quit smoking for good.
- Limit Alcohol – Alcohol relaxes the LES, allowing stomach acid and undigested food to reflux back into the esophagus. Make alcoholic beverages a rare treat for special occasions and remember to drink in moderation.
Your GERD symptoms may be manageable through changes to your diet and lifestyle, but don’t hesitate to see your doctor if heartburn persists. Symptoms that occur two or more times per week may require a more aggressive form of treatment. Ask your doctor about which options will work best for you, and commit to keeping your heartburn in check.