Simple lifestyle changes

By Coventry City Council on 2012-10-13 14:06:10

For those who like big technical names, problems of excess stomach acid are called Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). Following the reports produced by health insurance companies, this is becoming an increasingly common problem. It’s probably connected to the amount of food we eat and the increasing levels of weight this produces. But it’s estimated about one-fifth of the adult population suffer some of the symptoms of acid reflux. This is where acid from the stomach gets through the sphincter supposed to separate the stomach from the esophagus. The first sign is a slightly bitter taste in the mouth. This is followed by difficulty in swallowing, heartburn, and a feeling of nausea.

Doctors like to classify diseases and disorders. For them, this problem is a no-brainer. The sphincter is supposed to be a one-way system. If something stops it from closing properly, this is a physical condition and, under normal circumstances, surgery would be suggested as the cure. Except, it’s not that convenient to wheel everyone into the operating theater. Even with the latest procedures which have surgeons inserting devices through small cuts in your abdomen or through your mouth, surgery can go wrong. This prompts the question, “Should we be treating GERD as sufficiently serious to be talking about surgery?” Well, the stomach produces hydrochloric acid which is strong. It can burn the esophagus and damage your vocal chords. If it gets into your lungs, there can be permanent damage. So, ignoring the problem is not recommended. It can seriously interfere with your quality of life.

If you see surgery as a last resort when everything has failed, what lifestyle changes can be made? Well, this starts with the obvious. Lose some weight. If you eat too much food, particularly late at night, this will aggravate the problem. Unfortunately, we were designed to eat sitting up. This allows gravity to encourage the food down the esophagus and into the stomach. If you are snacking on the couch or go to bed while food is working its way down your esophagus, the sphincter will be open to let food in. Because you are horizontal, food will move slowly and acid can easily run out. So, eat early in the evening and wait before lying down. If this is not possible, put wooden blocks under the couch or bed so you are lying on a slope. Now cut out as much fatty food as possible and use less spice. Eat less, drink less alcohol and, yes you guessed it, quit smoking.

If this is not successful, try Nexium. This reduces the amount of acid your stomach produces and leaves less to escape into your esophagus. Unfortunately, this means it will take longer for your stomach to break down the food. You will feel full for longer. But it’s worth this feeling if you no longer have heartburn. Hopefully, the changes in diet plus Nexium will slim you painlessly, a good outcome because it reduces the risk of a hernia which is the most common physical cause of GERD. This reinforces the need to lose weight.

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