What is GERD – Acid Reflux?
Gastroesophageal reflux disease is a very common problem in United States. It is also known as indigestion or acidity. The classic presentation of the GERD is a burning pain felt behind the chest bone that radiates to the throat. It can also present in the form of sour taste in mouth especially after the meal. The patient can also have a nocturnal GERD whereby he experiences a burning pain while asleep and gets up all of sudden. Thus the symptoms of GERD are annoying and can affect the quality of life of a patient. The annoying symptoms are not the only problem with GERD; rather it is associated with serious complications such as esophageal strictures, Barrett’s Esophagus as well a very lethal esophageal cancer.
Thus it is of critical importance for us to treat GERD in order to get rid of the annoying symptoms as well as to prevent its complications. The treatment modalities for GERD vary from lifestyle modifications, medications as well as surgery.
What are the Life style modifications effective for the treatment of GERD (Acid Reflux)?
Life style modifications are usually the first line option recommended for the treatment of GERD. They include measures such as weight reduction, elevation of the head end of the bed, cessation of smoking and avoiding excessive alcohol.
Obesity is found to increase the frequency as well as severity of symptoms of GERD. There is enough scientific evidence available to support the fact that weight loss can effectively reduce the symptoms of obesity.
- A study was conducted to evaluate the effects of weight loss on the symptoms of GERD in overweight patients. It involved 34 obese patients with the symptoms of GERD for more than six months. Their weight was measured and the severity of their symptoms was calculated by using different technical scales. They were then instructed to lose weight. It was noted that for an average 4 kg weight loss there was about 75% reduction in the symptoms of the GERD.
Elevation of the Head End of the Bed
There is a hypothesis which supports that lying flat on the bed increases the reflux of acidic stomach content into the esophagus. It is thought to contribute particularly toward the nighttime symptoms of GERD. This is why patients with GERD are always advised to raise the head end of the bed to approximately 30 cm.
This hypothesis is now supported by the scientific evidence as well. A study was conducted involving the GERD patients. They were divided into two groups. The patients in one group used 12 inch blocks to raise the head end of the bed while patients in the other group slept on the flat beds. The frequency as well as severity of the night time GERD symptoms was found to be significantly reduced in patients who had raised the head end of the bed as compared to the patients in other group.
The other lifestyle modifications that are usually recommended for the patients presenting with the symptoms of GERD are listed below
- Smoking cessation
- Avoiding alcohol
- Avoiding citrus fruits
- Avoiding chocolates
- Avoid Coffee and caffeine
- Avoid fat rich foods
- Avoid spicy foods
- Avoid late night meals
To conclude, the main life style modifications that are scientifically proven relive the symptoms of GERD are loss of weight and elevation of the head end of the bed. However you should try to adhere to all above mentioned measures as none of them are actually going to harm you in anyway. The issue about dietary measures, such as consumption of chocolate, citrus fruits, caffeine and spicy fruits can be addressed by a simple rule. Consume the above mentioned dietary stuff if you are not having symptoms of GERD with them, and stop using any one of them associated that is associated with the increase in severity as well as frequency of the symptoms.