New Castle News

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February 13, 2014

Lori Brothers: Lifestyle changes can tame acid reflux

NEW CASTLE — Acid reflux can be triggered by a number of factors, including certain medications, foods or even stress.

If you’ve ever suffered with a bout of acid reflux, it can be more than just uncomfortable.

According to the American Gastroenterological Association, one in 10 Americans experiences heartburn or some type of acid reflux symptoms at least once per week.

That is a significant number of the population that is affected by digestive issues, some of which may be the result of unhealthy lifestyle habits. If you have irregular eating habits or irregular bathroom habits, or if you experience a lot of stress (real or perceived), you may be contributing to your indigestion.

Before we consider lifestyle habits, we’ll look at three types of health conditions that can cause “heartburn” symptoms. Depending on your severity and type, you may want to consider more than lifestyle and over-the-counter solutions. You may want to consult your doctor.

First, acid indigestion causes a burning sensation in the chest or throat and is due to a reflux of acid in the stomach. Therefore, it is often referred to as heartburn. It is a condition we all may relate to when we occasionally have discomfort from eating something that doesn’t agree with our stomach. It is short-term, occasional discomfort known as indigestion.

Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease, or GERD, is a more chronic condition. If you have coughing or difficulty swallowing that is accompanying heartburn symptoms, you may want a physician follow up, since GERD can lead to narrowing of the esophagus or ulcers. Stomach acid may be eroding soft tissues, leading to disease.

Gastro Esophageal Reflux, is a condition where acids in the stomach flow backwards into the esophagus because a valve called the esophageal sphincter (located between the stomach and the esophagus) does not close properly. The stomach acid does not stay in the stomach and flows back up into the esophagus. Symptoms associated with this kind of acid reflux include vomiting or a sour taste in the back of the mouth.

Lifestyle considerations that may contribute to the cause of your heartburn symptoms, include the amount of stress in your life, what you are eating, the way you are eating, or sedentary lifestyle habits which may be adding to your health condition.

You might think that spicy foods are common contributors to acid reflux. However, coffee or teas, alcohol, fried or fatty foods, chocolate and citrus juices are the more common culprits that cause discomfort in dietary choices. Look at your consumption of these foods.

Experts say cottage cheese, a baked sweet potato or broiled chicken are better choices to reduce acid reflux, if you are experiencing an episode.

Try to include probiotics in your diet, such as eating yogurt, or talk to your doctor about taking acidophilus supplements which can be purchased at drug stores or local health food stores to help balanceyour digestive system. Drinking peppermint tea or using peppermint oil can also be helpful in alleviating stomach upset. Increase fiber consumption for constipation.

Simple habit changes such as eating smaller portions can improve your symptoms. Too much food at one time is a major contributor, so admit your habits if you tend to overeat. Tight clothing will also play a role in digestive discomfort. Loosen your belt and/or wear looser pants.

Make an effort to get regular exercise. Daily movement can help balance digestion. Just 15 to 30 minutes per day of walking can be the healthful habit to get digestion on track.

Also consider if you are getting enough “you” time. It is very important to make enough time for yourself. Slow down, calm your systems. If you are having digestive issues it is essential to set aside regular time, preferably every day, to slow down and relax.

Unplug by quietly sitting alone (away from the television or other electronic devices). Now, focus your attention on becoming calm and grounded by breathing slower, rhythmic breaths through your nostrils. Five minutes daily to start.

This simple, yet powerful habit can quickly become the dose of “medicine” your nervous, respiratory, circulatory and digestive systems all need to return to harmony and balance.

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