When your stomach acid flows upward into your esophagus — a condition called acid reflux — the painful burning sensation in your chest is unmistakable.
Commonly called heartburn thanks to its proximity to your ticker, acid reflux in its mildest form can be annoying and uncomfortable, and in its more advanced stages, called gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD, it can become a serious health concern that can damage your esophagus and lead to cancer.
Dr. Ayub Hussein, our expert gastroenterologist here at Northside Gastroenterology Associates in Houston, Texas, specializes in diagnosing and treating acid reflux and GERD to prevent future complications.
Depending on your symptoms and the stage of your acid reflux, he may recommend medications that reduce stomach acid or help the valve at the bottom of your esophagus, called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), work more efficiently.
But the best place to start in your acid reflux treatment plan is to take a closer look at certain habits that may be causing or exacerbating your condition. Here are a few you might recognize.
Over-filling your stomach can cause excess pressure that pushes stomach acid upward into your esophagus, especially if your LES is malfunctioning. To avoid this, eat smaller meals throughout the day rather than three large meals.
Eating to fast
When you shovel food into your mouth and don’t take the time to chew your food thoroughly, you skip the first part of the digestive process, which means your stomach has more work to do. A good way to break this habit is to put your fork down after every bite, and don’t pick it up again until you’ve completely chewed and swallowed your food.
Lying down after a large meal
If you go to bed right after dinner or lie down on the couch to watch a movie or nap, your stomach acid can slide into your esophagus more easily. It’s better to stay upright for about 2-3 hours after you eat to allow your stomach acids to subside.
Consuming acid-producing foods and drinks
Certain foods tend to trigger acid reflux more than others. Some of the most common culprits include:
- Fried foods
- Spicy foods
- Citrus fruits
It’s a good idea to keep a food journal or use an app to track the foods you eat and the symptoms you experience. By learning what sets off your acid reflux, you can avoid it.
Smoking is bad for your health in many ways, and it can even cause acid reflux. The chemicals in the smoke weaken the tissues in your body, such as your blood vessels and muscles, and it tends to target your LES. If the LES doesn’t close tightly, the door is open for acid to surge upward.
Overindulging in alcohol
Alcohol increases the amount of acid in your stomach, so if you overindulge, you’re setting yourself up for a bout of heartburn. Some people with acid reflux and GERD can tolerate alcohol in moderation. Try cutting back to one drink a day, and avoid drinking alcohol within 2-3 hours of bedtime.
Being overweight or obese is the number 1 cause of acid reflux and GERD because it causes increased abdominal pressure and facilitates a backflow of stomach acid. Losing weight can greatly improve your acid reflux symptoms.
If you’re experiencing frequent acid reflux or GERD, kicking a few bad habits can help, but when you need extra support, come see Dr. Hussein. He can determine the root cause of your acid reflux and get you started on a personalized treatment plan that eases your discomfort and prevents future damage.
Call us today or book your appointment online.