Roughly 15 million Americans use PPIs (proton pump inhibitors) to control symptoms of acid reflux. Though they may reduce symptoms like heartburn, PPIs – which include the popular OTC drugs Prilosec and Nexium – have been associated with serious side effects when used long-term.
Fortunately, there are a number of lifestyle changes that have been proven to improve the symptoms of acid reflux without the use of PPIs in some patients.
A recent study showed a correlation between weight loss and reduction of GERD symptoms. During the course of six months, 332 overweight and obese adults followed weight loss regimens, such as diet modifications and regularly participating in physical activity. At the end of the study, 65% of individuals reported no symptoms of GERD, while 15% of individuals reported partial resolution of GERD symptoms.
Excess weight can increase abdominal pressure, causing stomach acid to leak back up into the esophagus from the stomach instead of advancing to the small intestine. Following a structured weight loss program may resolve reflux symptoms in many affected individuals.
Certain foods may worsen the sensation of reflux due to their acidity level. However, there is no evidence demonstrating that specific diets relieve the symptoms of GERD or that specific foods worsen the symptoms of acid reflux. For example, multiple studies have produced different results regarding the relationship between alcohol consumption and the presence and severity of GERD symptoms.
Each individual may experience different reactions to certain foods, such as chocolate, wine and spicy foods. The best rule to follow is if a particular food irritates your reflux condition, avoid it.
Various studies show an increase in acid reflux when sleeping on the right side of your body. In the same sense, symptoms of heartburn have been shown to decrease when individuals sleep on their left side.
When sleeping on the left side of your body, the valve between the esophagus and the stomach faces up and is positioned higher than the stomach. This allows fluid in the stomach to naturally remain in place. Doctors also recommend sleeping on an incline to help keep stomach contents from seeping up into the esophagus. Additionally, doctors at Institute of Esophageal and Reflux Surgery recommend allowing your body to digest the last meal of the day for several hours before going to bed. This gives your body the opportunity to “empty out” the stomach before lying flat.
Because acid reflux is the result of an improperly functioning muscle in the esophagus, it is difficult to address the root cause using diet, weight loss and sleeping techniques alone. The only way to repair the valve between the stomach and the esophagus is through antireflux surgery. This is a long-term solution that also prevents the consequences of PPI use as well as long-term consequences of GERD, such as Barrett’s esophagus. Contact Institute of Esophageal and Reflux Surgery online or call at (303) 788-7700 to learn more about antireflux surgery as a treatment option for GERD.