The warning as a child not to swim within an hour of eating to avoid a cramp is no longer enough for me. Today, I have to wait at least two hours to do any stronger activities or tasks I need to squat on, and avoid the awful feeling of acid reflux, commonly recognized by its frequent symptom, the acidity in stomach.
I’ve also found that peanut butter, my favorite breakfast food – is especially problematic, as is smoked fish, pickled herring, or coffee eaten on an empty stomach.
How common is acid reflux?
It is among the most frequent complaints of adult Americans and has become more common with stress and weight gain during the pandemic. Late last year, pharmacies reported an unprecedented search for antacids with people complaining of “stomach pandemics.”
Even before the pandemic, in an online survey conducted in 2019 of more than 71,000 adults, nearly a third of respondents reported that at least weekly they had uncomfortable symptoms of stomach reflux, when a small portion of the food in the stomach reverses its course and returns to the esophagus.
What are the symptoms of reflux?
You most common symptoms they are a burning sensation in the chest, a lump in the throat, belching, bloating, and the regurgitation of heavily acidic, partially digested food from the stomach. Reflux also affects the respiratory tract, which causes hoarseness, runny nose, cough or asthma.
But persistent reflux is more than just a nuisance. If it occurs frequently and persists for a very long time, it corrodes the lining of the esophagus and increases the risk of developing esophageal cancer, which is deadly.
Five Ways to Reduce Your Risk of Reflux
A Harvard University research team recently reported that many people were able to avoid the problem by adhering to a new lifestyle to combat reflux. The researchers analyzed exams performed periodically over 12 years of more than 40,000 nurses and identified five characteristics of their way of life that helped to ward off the problem of reflux.
The more these behaviors were adopted, the lower the risk of developing gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), the most persistent and potentially severe form of reflux. The five behaviors that were followed reduced the overall risk of developing gastroesophageal reflux by 37%.
Maintaining a healthy body weight
A review of the medical literature by Jesper Lagergren of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm concluded that gastroesophageal reflux affects 2% of people classified as obese, compared with 14% of those who are not obese. After you eat a food, a muscular sphincter in the lower esophagus opens for the ingested food to enter the stomach and then closes to prevent it from reversing its direction. A large abdomen puts pressure on this sphincter and prevents it from closing when it should, allowing acidified food in the stomach to seep into the esophagus.
Do not smoke
Lagergren’s team found that tobacco extends the time it takes for acidic foods to leave the esophagus. In an analysis of 30 studies, the problem affected 20% of smokers, compared with 16% of non-smokers.
People who engaged in heavy or moderate physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day were less likely to develop gastroesophageal reflux, or GERD, according to the Harvard team.
Cut down on coffee, teas and fizzy drinks
The risk of developing gastroesophageal reflux decreased among those who consumed no more than two cups of coffee, tea or fizzy drinks per day.
Follow a diet that prevents heart disease
Those who followed a Mediterranean diet, for example, with fruits and vegetables, fish, chicken, and whole grains, but little red meat or foods high in saturated fat, were less likely to develop acid reflux.
Genetics also affect a person’s risk of developing the problem, so people with a family history of reflux should do their best to avoid the risks mentioned above. This will help them protect themselves against life-threatening illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes and many forms of cancer.
How to control symptoms
If you suffer from the acid reflux, can do a lot to reduce the symptoms and maybe end them for good. Instead of consuming a large plate of meat, eat smaller portions more often. Reduce fatty foods and completely eliminate fried foods. A friend of mine uses an air fryer to make the chicken skin crispy, but I prefer grilled chicken and peel it off. Prefer lean meats and products with low fat content, or none at all. Avoid eating at least three hours before bed. And try to keep the head of the bed higher so that the head is higher than the feet.
Foods that many people with GERD find stomach upset include tomatoes and citrus fruits (such as oranges or grapefruit) and their juice, coffee (even decaffeinated), fizzy and alcoholic drinks, spicy foods, garlic, chocolate, and mint. A long time ago, I switched to less acidic orange juice, taking a few sips a day to dissolve the fiber supplement. I also started using instant coffee which is less irritating and I only drink it with some food that helps protect my digestive tract.
To prevent an unexpected attack from stomach acidityMany people use fast-acting antacids. A more modern remedy, such as Pepcid, relieves symptoms in about 20 minutes by blocking the histamine receptors in the stomach that trigger acid production.
But those who suffer from the chronic reflux find more effective relief with drugs called PPIs (proton pump inhibitors) that shut down the production of acid in the stomach. Among the popular brands, sold over-the-counter in pharmacies and in high doses under medical prescription, are Nexium (esomeprazole), Prevacid (lansoprazole) and Prilosec (omeprazole), which are some of the most sold drugs in the country. / TRANSLATION BY TEREZINHA MARTINO
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