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Coping with Acid Reflux to Ensure a Healthy Esophagus

What does the esophagus do?

Commonly known as the food pipe, food tube, or gullet, the esophagus is what connects your throat to your stomach. Lined with mucous membrane, it contains many muscles that are responsible for the passing of food, drink, and saliva from your mouth to your stomach. 

What happens in the esophagus during acid reflux?

Think of your esophagus, specifically the lower esophageal sphincter, as a valve connected to your stomach. If this valve doesn't close all the way after food passes through, it more easily allows stomach acid and contents to come back up in the esophagus, which is what causes acid reflux symptoms and further complications. 

Some common risk factors of acid reflux include:

  • Hiatal hernia - In this condition, stomach acid that normally would be kept away by the diaphragm moves up into the esophagus.
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Eating certain trigger foods such as tomato and onions
  • Certain painkillers such as aspirin and ibuprofen
  • Being pregnant
  • Resting soon after a heavy meal

Food triggers

If you’ve been diagnosed with acid reflux, you may have been warned to avoid particular foods.

While there is succinct fact your diet will need to change if you have been diagnosed with acid reflux, we’re here to help you break down the likely candidates of the food pyramid to fill the void.

From revamping your meals to outsmarting personal triggers, there is a plethora of options for you to consider.

First and foremost, choosing high protein foods with low fat characteristics is one of the most beneficial things you can do.

Aggravating foods such as peppermint, chocolate, most fried foods, citrus or naturally acidic items such as coffee and soft drinks need to be eliminated from the diet.

If you’ve been told to avoid whole milk, fried or cream styled vegetables, cold cuts and vegetable oils, fear not! There are a surprising amount of alternatives to the foods we tend to consume, all of which offer a healthier lifestyle.

Stick to:

  • Low Fat or fat-free in every circumstance - Some patients find short-term relief in full-fat dairy products, but this may aggravate the esophagus later.
  • 1% or 2% milk, fat-free yogurts
  • Lean meats such as chicken, fish, or turkey (without skins)
  • All sweets should be less or equal to 3g fat per serving
  • Non-processed foods such as natural produce, grains, and nuts

Taking small steps such as these will be widely beneficial in the road to a healthier esophagus.

What if I have acid reflux frequently?

Frequent episodes of acid reflux and heartburn (more than two times a week) may indicate occurrence of GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease. You may find relief in over-the-counter medications, but if complications persist, it's imperative to meet with your doctor to decide on an appropriate course of treatment. Untreated GERD may lead to further complications, such as esophagitis, voice issues, breathing issues, tooth decay, ulcers, and even some cancers, in rare cases.

If you notice symptoms of acid reflux and heartburn frequently that do not resolve with a change of diet, speak to your healthcare professional.