Acid reflux occurs when acid splashes back out of the stomach into the esophagus during digestion. It can cause a burning chest pain called heartburn, which creates discomfort for hours after eating.
You can take simple steps to prevent or lessen the effects of acid reflux, beginning even before you start to eat:
- Plan small meals. Consuming a large meal can often trigger acid reflux. Try eating four or five small meals a day rather than three large meals.
- Finish eating at least two or three hours before bedtime. You need time to digest your food before you lie down.
- Eat slowly. “Studies have shown that people who eat too quickly put themselves at risk for digestion problems,” says Wilson P. Pais, MD, MBA, FACP, FRCP, gastroenterologist at Saint Francis Medical Center. “Try putting your fork down between bites to draw out your meal.”
- Raise the head of your bed. When you sleep at night, you can decrease heartburn symptoms by making sure your head and chest are higher than your feet. This decreases pressure on your stomach.
Antacids such as Alka-Seltzer® and Pepto-Bismol® neutralize stomach acid. Drugs such as Pepcid® AC and Zantac® 75 work to reduce acid production in the stomach and are taken before meals to prevent heartburn.
“Many people find that medications work very well to relieve occasional heartburn,” says Pais. “But there are some for whom over-the-counter medications do not work. They need to ask their doctor for prescription medications that block acid production more efficiently than over-the-counter medications.”
If you experience acid reflux and heartburn at least twice a week, talk to your doctor about whether you have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a serious digestive disorder that can cause damage to the lining of your esophagus.
For more information, call 573-331-3000.