898 898 8787

Diet, Lifestyle, and Acid Reflux: A Simple Guide to Living Without Heartburn

Food And Nutrition

Diet, Lifestyle, and Acid Reflux: A Simple Guide to Living Without Heartburn


Medically Reviewed By
Dr Divya Rohra

Written By Kirti Saxena
on May 1, 2024

Last Edit Made By Kirti Saxena
on May 22, 2024


Acid reflux, also known as GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), happens when stomach acid backs up into your esophagus, the tube connecting your mouth to your stomach. This acid can irritate the esophagus, causing a burning sensation in your chest, commonly called heartburn. If you notice symptoms like chest pain, nausea, and even hoarseness, this might be due to acid reflux. Many people experience acid reflux from time to time. However, when acid reflux happens repeatedly over time, it can cause GERD. Therefore, it is important to notice the symptoms and severity and seek medical help to avoid severe health complications. Most people can manage the discomfort of GERD with lifestyle changes and medications. In this blog, we will understand the cause, symptoms, prevention tips, and a lot more about acid reflux. So let’s get started.

What causes Acid Reflux?

A variety of factors can cause acid reflux. Here are the most common ones:

  • Weakened Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES)- This muscle acts as a one-way valve that allows food and liquids into the stomach and prevents them from flowing back up. When the LES weakens or relaxes at the wrong time, it may cause acid reflux into the esophagus, causing heartburn and other symptoms.
  • Certain foods and drinks-  Spicy, fatty, acidic, or carbonated foods, as well as chocolate, coffee, and alcohol, can relax the LES and worsen acid reflux.
  • Large meals or lying down soon after eating—After eating a large meal, lying down immediately puts pressure on the stomach, which may increase the risk of acid reflux.
  • Pregnancy- Hormonal changes during pregnancy can weaken the LES and may cause acid reflux.
  • Hiatal hernia-  This condition occurs when part of the stomach pushes through the diaphragm and into the chest cavity, weakening the LES and making reflux more likely.
  • Certain medications-  Some medications, like painkillers or antidepressants, can relax the LES or increase stomach acid production, leading to reflux.
  • Stress and anxiety- Both physical and emotional stress can trigger acid reflux symptoms.
  • Smoking can irritate the esophageal lining and weaken the LES, worsening reflux.

What are the common symptoms of Acid Reflux?

Common symptoms of Acid Reflux-

  • Heartburn
  • Chest pain
  • Bloating and indigestion
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Regurgitation
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Sour taste in your mouth 
  • Hoarseness

Can food cause Acid Reflux?

Yes, some food can worse the symptoms of Acid Reflux- 

  • Fatty, spicy, acidic, and chocolatey treats can weaken this crucial valve, letting stomach acid flow back into the esophagus. 
  • Coffee, tea, and alcohol stimulate the stomach to produce more acid, making reflux more likely, especially on an empty stomach. 
  • Fatty and fried foods linger longer in the stomach, putting pressure on the LES and increasing the chance of acid backup.
  • Peppermint teas, onions, and garlic can directly irritate the esophageal lining, leading to discomfort.

What are the possible complications of Acid Reflux?

Acid reflux causes no severe health complications and is harmless in the short term. However, if underestimated for a long time, it may cause several complications. Here are some of the most concerning possibilities- 

  • Esophagitis
  • Barrett's esophagus
  • Esophageal stricture
  • Laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR)
  • Respiratory problems
  • Dental problems
  • Sleep disturbances

Early diagnosis and proper management of acid reflux can prevent these complications. If you experience frequent or severe heartburn, difficulty swallowing, or other concerning symptoms, consult your doctor promptly for evaluation and personalized treatment.

How to prevent Acid Reflux?

While acid reflux can be painful, there are many ways to prevent burning sensations and other uncomfortable symptoms. Here are some helpful tips:

  • Diet changes—Certain foods, such as fatty, spicy, acidic, or chocolatey treats, can trigger and may worsen your acid reflux. To prevent these complications, limit coffee, tea, and alcohol, as they can stimulate stomach acid production. Try to eat food in smaller portions and light food before going to bed. 
  • Control Weight- Maintaining a healthy weight can reduce pressure on your abdomen and lessen the chances of acid reflux.
  • Sleeping position- Elevate the head of your bed by 6-9 inches. This helps prevent acid from flowing back up into your esophagus.
  • Timing- Avoid lying down immediately after eating. Wait at least 2-3 hours after a meal before going to bed.
  • Manage stress—Chronic stress can exacerbate acid reflux symptoms. To manage stress effectively, practice relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation, or deep breathing.
  • Quit Smoking- Smoking weakens the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), the valve that prevents stomach acid from backing up, making reflux more likely.

Additional Tips

  • Wear loose-fitting clothes that don't constrict your waist and put pressure on your abdomen.
  • Chewing sugar-free gum after meals can help neutralize stomach acid and stimulate saliva production.
  • Keep yourself hydrated as it helps to dilute stomach acid and flush it out of your esophagus.

The above listed are general tips, and what works for one person might not work for another. Consult your doctor if you are not getting relief.

When to see a doctor?

While occasional heartburn is temporary, there are certain situations in which it's important to see a doctor for acid reflux. 

  • If you experience heartburn or other reflux symptoms, such as regurgitation, chest pain, or difficulty swallowing, more than twice a week, then it's an indicator that you should seek medical attention.
  • If lifestyle changes like diet changes avoiding trigger foods, haven't helped, or if over-the-counter medications like antacids provide only temporary relief, it's time to consult a doctor for further evaluation and possibly stronger medication.
  • Acid reflux can sometimes lead to unintended weight loss due to difficulty eating or nausea. 
  • If swallowing becomes difficult or if you experience frequent regurgitation of food or sour liquid, it could indicate a narrowing of the esophagus or other complications.
  • While rare, bloody vomit or black stools are serious warning signs that require immediate medical attention. 
  • If you have respiratory conditions like asthma or COPD, and acid reflux is making it worse, consulting a doctor is necessary. 

By adopting these preventative measures and consulting with your healthcare provider, you can effectively manage acid reflux and enjoy a life free from heartburn and other uncomfortable symptoms. Early diagnosis and management of acid reflux are crucial to prevent complications like esophagitis, Barrett's esophagus, and esophageal strictures. If any of the abovementioned signs raise concerns, don't hesitate to seek medical help. 

Leave a comment

Consult Now

Share MyHealth Blog