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Healthy Lifestyle: Farewell to Heartburn

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If the lower esophageal sphincter works properly, it closes as soon as food passes through the esophagus and enters the stomach. However, if the sphincter doesn’t work properly, contents in the stomach can travel back up the esophagus. This can lead to a burning sensation in one’s chest that is often referred to as heartburn.

Not everyone with acid reflux will experience heartburn. In addition to irritation in the chest and back of the throat, some people may not experience any symptoms, while others may have other symptoms, such as nausea, difficulty or pain in swallowing, a hoarse voice, etc. Adults with GERD may also experience additional symptoms, such as cavities, chronic sore throat, bad breath, inflammation of the gums, and so on.

Frequent heartburn may be a sign of Barrett’s esophagus, but many people with this condition have no symptoms. According to the American Cancer Society, those with Barrett’s esophagus are at a higher risk for developing esophageal cancer. Other complications of GERD include the reflux of fluid into the airways. This can potentially cause choking, coughing, or even pneumonia. In some patients, reflux of stomach acid may even exacerbate asthma symptoms.

GERD is associated with certain lifestyle factors. A famous saying in medicine goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This perfectly points out the importance of establishing good lifestyle habits, including quitting smoking and refraining from drinking alcohol. Even losing a small amount of weight can help lower the risk of acid reflux. Other lifestyle changes may be beneficial for preventing acid reflux. These include avoiding lying down right after a meal, eating smaller meals throughout the day, wearing loose-fitting clothing to avoid adding pressure on your stomach and using a wedge pillow to elevate your upper torso to prevent stomach contents from moving up.

“Researchers found that those eating meat had twice the odds of reflux-induced esophageal inflammation.” As high-fiber foods can make one feel satiated, individuals who consume fibrous foods will be less likely to overeat. Hence, the risk of experiencing heartburn is also lowered. Besides helping with GERD symptoms, fiber-rich veggies and fruits can help reduce the chances of high cholesterol, diabetes and constipation.
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