What is acid reflux?
This is a very common condition where stomach acid backs up from the stomach to the food pipe or esophagus, irritating the esophagus. Normally the LES or upper esophageal sphincter, a muscle ring between the end of the esophagus and the stomach is closed preventing the movement of stomach contents in the direction of the mouth. The LES only opens to allow food movement. However, when the LES is weakened or frequently opens there may be some fluid that can leak back up.
Most commonly acid reflux manifests as heartburn, a sour taste in the mouth or a hoarse voice. If acid reflux is persistent and interferes with your life you may have GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease. You may need to be seen by a physician if this is the case.
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Avoiding reflux can be simple with lifestyle modifications then followed by medications then surgery if the previous steps do not work. A major lifestyle change will be paying attention to the drinks you are consuming, how much you consume, and habits following consumption.
What drinks should I avoid?
- Alcohol - Alcohol has two effects increasing the risk of reflux. Firstly it relaxes the LES. Furthermore, it stimulates the stomach to secrete more acid.
- Carbonated drinks - Bubbles in carbonated drinks put pressure on the LES and make acid reflux more likely.
- Caffeinated drinks - Beverages like coffee, tea and soda also aggravate reflux. Try switching to a decaf version.
- Citrus juices - Citric acid in orange juice or grapefruit juice adds to acid content in the stomach and makes the condition worse.
What beverages help acid reflux?
- Ginger tea - This is one of the limited amount of beverages that may work. Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties and can help soothe the stomach and decrease gastric acid production. However, avoid ginger ale as this is carbonated and will easily offset the benefits of ginger.
- Dairy drinks - Drinks like milk or yogurt drinks may be useful because they are alkaline and neutralize stomach acid. However, pay attention to the fat content of these drinks as high fat can actually trigger reflux.
Should I change my drinking habits?
- Aim to drink small amounts frequently - Avoid drinking a lot in one sitting as this creates pressure in your belly and may trigger acid production.
- Avoid late-night drinking - Assuming you will lie down soon afterward gravity will not be your friend.
- Stay in an upright position after drinking - In a similar vein, sitting upright can make reflux less likely as fluid will have to travel up into the esophagus against gravity.
- Avoid strenuous exercise immediately after drinking - exercise diverts blood away from the digestive system meaning functions are not as optimal. Fancy moves and bending your body can cause acid to escape from your stomach. Instead, you could go for a light stroll.
Avoiding drinks that are triggers and consuming drinks that may be beneficial are ways to beat acid reflux. Reconsider your drinking habits and what you do soon after you have had a drink to minimize the chance of getting unpleasant heartburn or other uncomfortable symptoms.