Heartburn episodes are such a pain in the neck. They are very scary because there are tendencies that you will have difficulty breathing when you have a heartburn attack. How much more if you have these attacks more than once a week? If this happens to you, then it is more likely that you have a health condition called GERD. There’s nothing to worry about though because this condition is not life-threatening. It’s true that there are some complications if it’s not managed correctly, but it’s still possible to live life more comfortably even with GERD if you take care of your body well enough.
What is GERD?
GERD is short for Gastroesophagial Reflux Disease. It is commonly known as chronic heartburn or chronic acid reflux. It is caused by stomach acid that rises to your esophagus. One part of your anatomy called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which is responsible for controlling your acid to stay in place, is damaged if you have GERD. This results to frequent episodes of acid reflux and heartburns.
The most common symptoms of GERD are a burning sensation in the chest and chronic dry cough. Aside from that, this disease can also make you feel an odd sensation in your throat like someone is choking you, and there are also times that you will have difficulty swallowing. Another common symptom is food regurgitation which leaves an acidic taste in your mouth.
GERD can also mimic heart attack symptoms just like pain and tightening of the chest, difficulty breathing, and rapid heartbeat/palpitations. The palpitations are not due to GERD itself, but because of the anxiety that is triggered by it. There are a lot of E.R. visitations because of GERD episodes being mistaken as heart failure. In fact, one of my friends told me that her family sent her husband to the E.R. once because they suspected he was having a heart attack – only to find out that he only has a severe heartburn episode because of GERD and not anything deadly.
How To Manage GERD
I have been living with GERD for a few months now. It is difficult because it can sometimes disturb my daily routine, but I did not let it stop me from enjoying my life. With some research and by following the doctor’s advice, I was able to become better and the attacks are getting lesser. Aside from medication, managing GERD involves making changes in your lifestyle. Here are the things that can help you.
1. Eating Habits
If you eat a lot in one sitting, there is a high risk that you will have an acid reflux. The similar thing happens if you skip a meal and if your stomach is empty. Because of this, doctors usually advise their patients to eat small meals but more frequently.
Your eating mannerisms can also make a big difference. While eating, try to chew your food and drink your water slowly. Mind your posture too. Try not to bend over during mealtime and an hour after it.
Another thing to watch out for is your diet itself. It is very important to have more high-fiber foods in your diet because they can help regulate the acid in your stomach. High-fiber foods include leafy vegetables, oatmeals and more. Some fruits are also great for GERD such as bananas and watermelon.
In contrast with that, you also have to avoid some foods if you have GERD. Food triggers for acid reflux are unique to each person. However, there are foods that people commonly do not eat to avoid suffering from acid reflux. Examples of these foods are fast food, oily foods, chocolate and more.
|What To Eat||What Not To Eat|
Root Vegetables (sweet potato, potato, etc.)
Lean Meat (chicken, seafood)
Some Fruits and Vegetables (citrus fruits, pineapple, tomatoes and tomato-based foods, garlic and onions)
Alkaline Foods (Bananas, Melons, Cauliflower, Nuts, etc.)
Beverages (alcohol, coffee and tea, carbonated beverages, etc.)
Watery Foods (Cucumber, Lettuce, Watermelon, etc.)
2. Lose Weight
Obesity is one of the main causes of having GERD attacks. This is because fats from your belly force the acid to rise up your esophagus. That’s why losing weight is truly effective in managing your symptoms.
In order for you to successfully lose weight, try to watch your diet and to work out more. If it is very difficult for you, then try to make your exercise time more fun. I usually walk and jog every morning while listening to my favorite music, and I also dance to K-Pop songs because I love them.
Losing weight to have a fit body is a lonely journey. You may spill a few tears throughout of it, but the feeling of satisfaction when you achieve your goal is very worth it.
3. Outfit Choices
Another simple but effective thing to do to minimize GERD symptoms is to choose your outfits wisely.
Try to change your wardrobe. If you have skimpy and tight clothes, then I’m afraid you have to give those up. Wearing very tight clothes causes stomach acids to flow back to the esophagus the similar way belly fats do. Wear loose and comfortable clothes instead to avoid acid reflux episodes.
Don’t be afraid of having fashion failures just because you needed to change your wardrobe. Remember that even fashion experts said that comfort is the first thing you need to consider when choosing what you wear. Fashion is more of how you carry your clothes than the clothes themselves. Besides, who says that loose and comfortable clothes aren’t fashionable?
4. Sleeping Habits
Avoid sleeping immediately after eating dinner. It is advised to wait for at least three hours after eating before you go to bed. GERD symptoms usually appear after mealtimes, so if you lie down immediately after them, then there is a high tendency that you will experience acid reflux.
Aside from that, try to see that your head is inclined and you’re not lying flat on your back when you sleep. Lying flat on your back increases the risk for acid reflux. You can use wedge pillows to avoid this. These pillows are specifically designed for people who are suffering from some illnesses like GERD.
5. Avoid Smoking
Another factor for having GERD is smoking. Smoke from cigarettes can irritate your stomach, so it is best to avoid or stop that bad habit if you want to ease your symptoms.
Besides, smoking is very dangerous to your health in general, and avoiding it can truly reap a bunch of benefits. It is like hitting two birds with one stone – you can minimize acid reflux attacks, and at the same time prevent some future illnesses you can get due to heavy smoking.
It is truly difficult to give this habit up especially if you are already a heavy smoker. However, if you are determined enough, I know that you can do it.
Second-hand smoke is also dangerous. In fact, it is more dangerous than smoking the cigarette yourself. That’s why GERD patients have more reasons to stay away from smokers. If someone in your house smokes, then politely tell him/her that he should not smoke around you.
6. Beware Of Medicines
This doesn’t mean that you should avoid taking medicines all in all. It just means that you need to be wary of the medicines you will take because some medicines out there can trigger your reflux. It is very important to consult with your doctor always before taking any medications.
Some of the medicines that can aggravate GERD are the following:
- Iron supplements
- Pain relievers, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) and aspirin
- Potassium supplements
These are just some of the natural ways to manage your GERD. I, myself, do these things and I found them very effective. How about you? How do you manage your GERD?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2020 Arensshi
Arensshi (author) from Philippines on September 26, 2020:
Hello, Brenda You're right. It really is a nuisance especially if it happens more than once in a week.
Well, if you can't sleep with your head elevated then suggest that you avoid lying down immediately after eating. It helps too and maybe if you do that then there's no need to elevate your head during sleeping time. You made me laugh at your comment about clothes.
Thank you for commenting. I appreciate it.
BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on September 25, 2020:
This is a very interesting article .
Heart burn can be a nuisance.
I cannot sleep with my head elevated because it hurts my neck & I always wake up on my back.
Clothes...well I am rather thin so tight is usually the way i go...everything else looks like a paper sack.
Guess if I'm home though it's no problem.
Your article is written well with alot of valid information.
I hope you find relief soon with your battle.