If you’re hoarse and have a sore throat, you may be on the verge of getting a cold or the flu. If you’ve been experiencing these symptoms for a while, it’s possible that they’re caused by a valve—your lower esophageal sphincter. It’s the muscle that closes the gap between the oesophagus and the stomach; if it doesn’t, stomach acid and food flow back into the oesophagus. Gastroesophageal reflux is the medical term for this condition, and acid reflux refers to the backward flow of acid.
Author: Dr. Sarmed Sami MBChB, MRCP, PGCME, PhD
Consultant Gastroenterologist, Founder and Director of Digestive Health UK.
Eat slowly and in moderation
More reflux into the oesophagus can occur when the stomach is very full and affects your digestive health. If it works into your schedule, you may want to try “grazing,” which means consuming small meals more often instead of three big meals a day.
Limit the consumption to certain foods
People with acid reflux used to be advised that they can consume only the most bland foods. We’ve come a long way from the days when you couldn’t eat anything.” However, certain foods, such as mint, fatty foods, spicy foods, tomatoes, onions, garlic, coffee, tea, chocolate, and alcohol, are more likely to cause reflux than others.
Stop carbonated drinks
They trigger you to burp, which causes acid to enter your oesophagus. Instead of sparkling water, drink plain water.
Keep awake after a meal
Gravity itself helps keep acid in the gut, where it belongs, whether you’re standing or even sitting. Three hours before bedtime, finish your meal. This means no afternoon naps, late suppers, or late-night snacks.
Don’t travel too quickly
After feeding, stop physical exercise for a few hours. A leisurely stroll after dinner is good, but a more strenuous exercise, particularly one that requires bending over, can cause acid to enter your oesophagus.
Sleeping on an incline is a good idea
Your head should be 6 to 8 inches higher than your feet in the ideal situation. This can be achieved by using “extra-tall” bed risers on the legs that support your bed’s head. If your sleeping partner objects, use a foam wedge support for your upper body. Stacking pillows to make a wedge isn’t a smart idea. They will not provide you with the uniform help you need.
Check your medications
Some drugs, such as postmenopausal oestrogen, tricyclic antidepressants, and anti-inflammatory pain relievers, relax the sphincter, while others, such as bisphosphonates like alendronate (Fosamax), ibandronate (Boniva), and risedronate (Actonel), which are used to improve bone density, irritate the oesophagus.
If these measures don’t work, or if you’re experiencing extreme pain or trouble swallowing, see a doctor to rule out any possibilities. Even if you make lifestyle improvements, you can need medicine to control reflux.