Rich food and booze may be common culprits, but acid reflux triggers aren’t always obvious, reports Abi Jackson.
Excess acid can build up in the stomach after a heavy, fatty meal.
WE most commonly think of acid reflux in terms of heartburn — that nasty, burning sensation in the stomach, oesophagus and sometimes back of the throat, often accompanied by a horrible taste in the mouth, which can be painful and distressing.
As Dr Jonathan Aviv points out in his new book The Acid Watcher Diet (Hay House), however, it can also cause other symptoms beyond heartburn, including a lump-like sensation in the throat that causes difficulty swallowing, chronic coughs, sore throats and hoarseness — often people may not realise these things are linked with acid reflux.
It’s important to pay your GP a visit if you’ve been experiencing acid reflux symptoms for a couple of weeks or more, so he or she can keep an eye on it and investigate further if necessary.
Certain things are known to be common triggers, such as heavy, rich meals and eating too fast.
“The stomach takes longer to get rid of stomach acid after digesting a fatty meal, which can result in excess acid. This can then leak up into the oesophagus and cause discomfort,” explains nutrionist Shona Wilkinson.
“Consuming more alcohol, coffee or chocolate can relax the muscles at the bottom of the oesophagus, which can then lead to a burning sensation.”
But what about less obvious triggers?
CHOCOLATE: Dr Aviv points out that chocolate contains methylxanthine, which increases stomach acid production.
SEED OILS: Rapeseed and sesame oil might be on trend right now, but Dr Aviv notes that while they have a borderline pH, often they’re essentially acidic, due to chemicals involved in the extraction process. Switch to extra virgin olive oil.
SIT-UPS: They may be a go-to exercise for toning and honing those abs, but if you’re prone to acid reflux, doing sit-ups can encourage gastric acid to flow upwards, resulting in symptoms, points out Dr Aviv.
CANNED SOUP AND VEG: Dr Aviv notes dietary acid can be an aggravating factor.
Canned soups and vegetables, especially if pickled or fermented, are an example. Look out for citric or ascorbic acid in the ingredients.
NOT CHEWING ENOUGH: Alison Cullen, nutrition therapist, advises to chew your food.
“Try and savour the food that you eat, and chew each mouthful at least 20 times before your swallow.”
TIGHT CLOTHES: An uncomfortably tight waistband, which puts pressure on the stomach, could make symptoms worse.
GETTING OLDER: GP Sarah Brewer points out that as we age, our digestive system becomes less effective .
STRESS: It’s a factor in so many health conditions, and can worsen acid reflux symptoms too.
“Heightened stress and anxiety can also result in indigestion, often caused by stomach acid.
"To combat this, breathe deeply and slowly through your diaphragm in order to trigger the parasympathetic nervous system,” suggests health psychologist Dr Megan Arroll.
SLEEPING ON YOUR RIGHT SIDE: Dr Brewer advises trying to sleep on your left side, if acid reflux is an issue.
A study in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology found that sleeping on your left side is the best way to avoid heartburn at night, while sleeping on your right might aggravate it.
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