25 Feb 5 Ways to Reduce Heartburn
Where the esophagus opens into the stomach, there is a ring-like muscle known as the lower esophageal sphincter. It acts as a valve and is supposed to prevent the acidic contents of the stomach from going up into the esophagus. It naturally opens when you swallow, belch or vomit. Otherwise, it should stay closed.
In people with acid reflux, this muscle is weakened or dysfunctional. Acid reflux can also occur when there is too much pressure on the muscle, causing acid to squeeze through the opening.
Unsurprisingly, most reflux symptoms take place after a meal. It also seems that larger meals may worsen reflux symptoms. One step that will help minimize acid reflux is to avoid eating large meals.
The diaphragm is a muscle located above your stomach. In healthy people, the diaphragm naturally strengthens the lower esophageal sphincter. As mentioned earlier, this muscle prevents excessive amounts of stomach acid from leaking up into the esophagus.
However, if you have too much belly fat, the pressure in your abdomen may become so high that the lower esophageal sphincter gets pushed upward, away from the diaphragm’s support. This condition is known as hiatus hernia.
Hiatus hernia is the main reason obese people and pregnant women are at an increased risk of reflux and heartburn.
Several observational studies show that extra pounds in the abdominal area increase the risk of reflux. Losing weight should be one of your priorities if you suffer from acid reflux.
Follow a Low-Carb Diet
Growing evidence suggests that low-carb diets may relieve acid reflux symptoms.
Scientists suspect that undigested carbs may be causing bacterial overgrowth and elevated pressure inside the abdomen. Some even speculate this may be one of the most common causes of acid reflux.
Having too many undigested carbs in your digestive system makes you gassy and bloated. It also tends to make you belch more often. Supporting this idea, a few small studies indicate that low-carb diets improve reflux symptoms.
Additionally, an antibiotic treatment may significantly reduce acid reflux, possibly by decreasing the numbers of gas-producing bacteria.
Limit Your Alcohol Intake
Drinking alcohol may increase the severity of acid reflux and heartburn. It aggravates symptoms by increasing stomach acid, relaxing the lower esophageal sphincter and impairing the ability of the esophagus to clear itself of acid.
Studies have shown that moderate alcohol intake may even cause reflux symptoms in healthy individuals. Controlled studies also show that drinking wine or beer increases reflux symptoms, compared to drinking plain water.
Don’t Drink Too Much Coffee
Studies show that coffee temporarily weakens the lower esophageal sphincter, increasing the risk of acid reflux. Some evidence points towards caffeine as a possible culprit. Similar to coffee, caffeine weakens the lower esophageal sphincter.
Additionally, drinking decaffeinated coffee has been shown to reduce reflux compared to regular coffee.
However, one study that gave participants caffeine in water was unable to detect any effects of caffeine on reflux, even though coffee itself worsened the symptoms.
These findings indicate that compounds other than caffeine may play a role in coffee’s effects on acid reflux. The processing and preparation of coffee might also be involved.