A friend of mine has a problem. He loves good food. Just can’t resist his fries and laddoos! But gaining all the weight, is not what is worrying him. He often has a burning sensation in his throat and an unpleasant sour taste in his mouth. The poor man is so fed up he is ready to give up his Laddoos! His acute distress, with such a common problem , made me realize, that we all take our health for granted. Very few of us do the right thing at the right time. There lies the problem.
Lifestyle modifications to get rid of acid reflux is definitely not a cakewalk.There are many opinions , true , false and in between. …… Gastroesophageal reflux disorder, heartburn, acidity, reflux, acid reflux…whatever the name .
The problem is familiar. Prescription drugs, ayurveda, naturopathy, homeopathy, concoctions by various gurus all promise to cure you.You might have tried some of them or all of them.They may have worked some times, most times and for some even all times. But don’t they all cost you your ,hard-earned money.Some of you may have a more serious underlying problem which is causing the reflux.A complete checkup is essential to rule out potentially worrying causes.
Do You Have Reflux?
7.6% of Indian population may be suffering from significant and uncomfortable symptoms of reflux disease.Upto 20% of adult population in the western world may be having reflux disease in some form.
You may be having reflux if:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Feeling of something stuck at the back of throat
- Aggravation of asthma
- Chest pain
If any of these problems are persistently bothering you ,a doctor’s consultation will be required.The first 2 symptoms are most common.The next two are often present with a long history of heartburn. If you are having typical symptoms of heartburn and regurgitation,without any of the other atypical problems a presumptive diagnosis of GERD is most likely. PPIs (Proton pump inhibitors)are often prescribed for a course of 8 weeks in that case.
Laryngitis is a symptom of silent reflux and you may typically have no complaint of reflux but may be persistently hoarse.Laryngopharyngeal reflux disease or LPRD as it is popularly known ,has a chronic course and sequelae just like GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease. LPRD occurs due to regurgitation of contents from food pipe or esophagus into the larynx or breathing tube.
This laryngeal reflux may cause irritation of tracheobronchial mucosa and increased severity and prolonged duration of asthma symptoms. Chest pain is one of the worrying symptoms. You may need a full cardiovascular checkup to rule out more serious causes of chest pain.
Your dietary and lifestyle history will actually give a clue to your problem and also its solution in most cases of reflux disease.
However certain people may be having problems which may only be surgically corrected ,like hiatus hernia.
Are you at Risk of Reflux?
You may be at risk of Reflux disorders if :
- older age
- diet high in fried food/fatty food
- Aerated drinks
- Too little sleep
- No exercise
- Chronic stressors in life
Why you should change your habits now?
Reflux spoils the quality of your life.
But the real fear is the risk of these:
- Barrett’s esophagus
- Adenocarcinoma of esophagus
- Adenocarcinoma of gastric cardia
Barrett’s esophagus is a condition where the normal squamous epithelium (covering on the inner wall ) of the last part of esophagus changes its nature.It is gradually replaced by columnar epithelium.
Many clinical as well as experimental data have blamed GERD.There is however no clear-cut observations to exactly identify the cause of Barrett’s esophgus. T
There is strong evidence of a causal link between GERD with adenocarcinoma of esophagus ,but relationship of GERD and gastric cardia adenocarcinoma is still unknown.
What you should do today to save your today and tomorrow
Why we don’t discuss lifestyle changes :
- There are easy and safe medicines for acid reflux disease .
- Most patients improve from their use.
- Changing habits take time,patience and real persistence.
- You lack motivation.
- Doctor’s don’t have time to discuss in detail how this could save your life and money
- Taking medicine is easier than giving up alcohol smoking tea,coffee,fries.etc.etc.
Doctors and patients both forget to use these very real and effective life habits which can make your disease manageable with less or no medicines.
They take time and during that time you will probably have to take medicines to keep yourself symptom free.
Do you need to give up everything you love :NO Moderation is the key
Lacking motivation?All the lifestyle changes aimed to decrease reflux will have the added benefit of you loosing weight,feeling fitter and looking better! So why don’t you do them? Start today change one habit at a time
Reflux spoils the quality of your life. But the real fear is a risk of,Adenocarcinoma of esophagus/ gastric cardia Lifestyle is key.
Lifestyle modifications to get rid of GERD/Reflux
- [/emaillocker]Don’t snack close to bedtime
- Have your meals at least 3 hours before going to bed.
- Don’t lie on your back at least till 3 hours after a full meal
- Avoid too much use of over the counter painkillers
- Have multiple small meals at intervals and not 3 large meals
- Avoid over eating.Eat slowly and concentrate on chewing your food well.
- Drink plenty of water( 4 to 6 l/day)
- Stop smoking and drinking alcohol(this may be difficult, but think mind over matter)
- Exercise at least, 3 hours after meals.
- Sleep at least 7 hours
- During the time you are changing your habits if night-time reflux irritates,you may try elevating head end of bed about 20 to 30 degree with bricks.
- Get rid of excess weight
- carbonated drinks(occasional is okay)
- excessive tea/coffee(2 to 3 regular cups over 24 hours and not at bedtime) ,
- deep fried food
- Over seasoned food(spices like red chilli,garam masala,jeera)
- Excessively fatty food too many citrus food, too much garlic/onion. The removal of these food items are necessary only when you see increased discomfort after having them.[emaillocker id=104350][/emaillocker]
A routine ,absolute banishment of all things tasty is not required.The dietary changes have to be tailor-made to be perfect . Life should be enjoyed.Eating and drinking are a large part of the many festivities of life .When these basic pleasures cause discomfort, quality of life is badly affected.We all suffer from occasional reflux, acidity due to many different causes.
Early awareness and these lifestyle changes will often prevent development of disease and also help in decreasing dependence on medicines. Increasing western dietary influence on the Indian diet has been recorded over past several years.
This may be one of the reasons for the increasing incidence of reflux and it’s associated problems. However just blaming everything on western influence is not right.
Many of the dietary restrictions that are advised may not be needed in all cases.Some may be sensitive to caffeine and others to alcohol.But interestingly all these little changes in your life habits will definitely improve your Quality of Life.
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Chronic stress of modern living, sedentary lifestyle, poor personal habits all make us highly susceptible to this lifestyle disease.For those of you on twice daily medicines for reflux, try these life habits and see the difference .
Any change of medicines should however only be done under doctor’s supervision. Life is about living in style and not living from one doctor’s visit to another.Reflux is a disease which can be majorly helped by good life habits…so start these habits today and live life free from reflux.
1)Lifestyle Change Influences on GERD in Japan: A Study of Participants in a Health Examination ProgramTetsuya Murao,1 Kouichi Sakurai,1 Syuuichi Mihara,2 Toru Marubayashi,2 Yoshitaka Murakami,3 and Yutaka Sasaki1Dig Dis Sci. 2011 Oct; 56(10): 2857–2864.Published online 2011 Apr 13. doi: 10.1007/s10620-011-1679-xPMCID: PMC3179841
3)Epidemiology and symptom profile of gastroesophageal reflux in the Indian population: report of the Indian Society of Gastroenterology Task Force.Bhatia SJ1, Reddy DN, Ghoshal UC, Jayanthi V, Abraham P, Choudhuri G, Broor SL, Ahuja V, Augustine P, Balakrishnan V, Bhasin DK, Bhat N, Chacko A,Dadhich S, Dhali GK, Dhawan PS, Dwivedi M, Goenka MK, Koshy A, Kumar A, Misra SP, Mukewar S, Raju EP, Shenoy KT, Singh SP, Sood A, Srinivasan R.Indian J Gastroenterol. 2011 May;30(3):118-27. doi: 10.1007/s12664-011-0112-x. Epub 2011 Jul 27. 4)Mechanisms of gastroesophageal reflux and gastroesophageal reflux disease.Vandenplas Y1, Hassall E.J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2002 Aug;35(2):119-36.