Prevent acid reflux with our no-nonsense tips
1. Ditch the juice
Your body’s food chute is your oesophagus, a tunnel of muscle whose job it is to push what you swallow into your stomach. And although this is supposed to be a one-way street, stomach acid sometimes rises back up causing the five-alarm fire we call heartburn. University of South Carolina researchers recently discovered that frequently consuming carbonated beverages, wine, or juice may lead to heartburn. In the study, scientists asked participants to drink an acidic beverage, then tested the pH level in each person’s oesophagus. “The pH measurements mimicked those found in people with acid-reflux disease,” says study author Dr Amit Agrawal.
2. Put out the grease fire
A forkful of fat is as bad for your heartburn as it is for your heart. In a study published in the journal Gut, researchers surveyed 371 people about their eating habits and found that those who were heartburn-free ate 10 fewer grams of fat per day than the heartburn victims. “Fats cause the lower part of the esophagus to relax, making it easier for the stomach to reflux,” says Dr Hashem El-Serag, the lead study author. Eliminate 11g saturated fat by ordering your morning latte with skim milk instead of whole, and cut out 14g more by taking two of the yolks out of a three-egg omelet.
3. Get some exercise
People who swim for 30 minutes once a week were 50% less likely to suffer from the condition than the couch potatoes were. The researchers speculate that as the diaphragm is strengthened by cardio training, it exerts pressure on the oesophageal sphincter, preventing it from allowing acid to escape. And while any cardio exercise helps, according to Matt Fitzgerald, a triathlon coach and the author of Runner’s World Guide to Cross-Training, freestyle swimming pushes the diaphragm’s envelope like nothing else.
4. Lose the flab
According to a review of 100 studies in the Archives of Internal Medicine the best strategy to stop the burn is to eat less food and reduce your stomach size. Belly fat presses on the abdomen, pushing stomach acid up. “Carrying extra weight increases intra-abdominal pressure, increasing heartburn,” says Dr Lauren Gerson, the lead study author.
5. Don’t nap now
Lying down can make the food slip into the esophagus. Wait for three hours before getting horizontal and try to raise the head of your bed by a few centimetres, “so gravity works in your favour to keep the acid in your stomach,” says Dr Sanford Archer, an associate professor of otolaryngology at the University of Kentucky medical centre.
6. Cut down the booze
The stomach is the first stop for alcohol, with 20% of any drink entering the bloodstream here within 5 minutes by slipping between the stomach’s mucus-producing epithelial cells. The fuller your stomach – the slower the squeeze. Alcohol also jump-starts the production of hydrochloric acid, which can eat through the stomach’s protective mucus. That’s why chronic boozers suffer from heartburn, inflammation, ulcers, and bleeding.
Words by Sarah Hecks