That’s because acid reflux can become a serious, chronic condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD. GERD can have several unpleasant symptoms that include difficulty swallowing, hoarseness, dry sore throat, and coughing, as well as heartburn. Depending on their severity, these symptoms can significantly impair daily quality of life. Worse yet, GERD can lead to life-threatening conditions, including esophageal ulcers and cancer.
The problem with pills
So why not just take the medications that neutralize stomach acid or restrict its production? The problem is, except for the most serious cases of GERD, these drugs are not meant for long-term or continual use. Over time, they can have negative side effects. Antacids can eventually upset the digestive tract and lead to diarrhea or constipation. Proton pump inhibitors like Prevacid and Prilosec, which are used to reduce the production of stomach acid, have been linked to increased risk of osteoporosis (brittle bone disease), pneumonia, and negative drug interactions.
And unfortunately, the many pills now available to treat acid reflux have done little to curtail its incidence. Approximately 40% of adult Americans now suffer from acid reflux. And shockingly, rates of esophageal cancer in the U.S. have increased 500% since the 1970s. Research, particularly a recent study from Denmark following more than 9, 800 GERD sufferers, has linked proton pump inhibitors with increase risk of esophageal cancer.
Have a conversation with your physician
“So, begin by talking with your doctor about the risks and benefits of extended use of drugs to treat your acid reflux,” advises Dr. Fruge.
Know the cause to know the solution
Secondly, keep in mind that, as with many things in life, the solution to a problem can often be found by examining its causes.
For the vast majority of people, acid reflux and GERD are brought on by lifestyle-related factors, including:
- Excessive alcohol use
- Diets high in fat
- Diets high in acid
- Diets high in spices
- Diets high in sugar
- Diets high in caffeine
- Large, late-night meals, especially just before bedtime
Acid Reflux Diet and Lifestyle – Pritikin Program
From this list, readers of our Pritikin Perspective newsletter can probably already discern the solution: Pritikin living. Eating healthy, exercising regularly, and reducing stress can prevent and treat more than just cardiovascular-related diseases. They are the solution to a whole host of health problems, including acid reflux and GERD.
Observes Dr. Fruge, MD, “Our guests at the Pritikin Longevity Center are amazed that not only do problems like high blood pressure and high cholesterol disappear with healthy Pritikin living, their acid reflux disappears, too.”
13 Key Lifestyle Solutions For Acid Reflux
To prevent or reduce acid reflux, start an acid reflux diet and lifestyle like the Pritikin Program. Here are 13 key lifestyle-based solutions:
- Exercise regularly.
- Employ stress-reducing skills like meditation and yoga. Even something as simple as 10 minutes daily of deep breathing can be hugely beneficial.
- Don’t lie down or go to sleep after eating. “Sit upright for at least three hours after a meal,” recommends Dr. Fruge. “A recliner set at a 45-degree angle or higher is a good option for preventing reflux in the evening after dinner. Even better, take an after-dinner walk before reclining.”
- Before falling asleep for the night, try raising your head, shoulders, and torso so that your esophagus is more upright, at a 45-degree angle, using a wedge or bed. “Just propping the head with a pillow does not work,” clarifies Dr. Fruge.
- Quit smoking.
- If you’re overweight, follow a healthy diet and exercise program like Pritikin to help shed the excess weight, and keep it off.
A Happier, Healthier Life
Following these acid reflux diet and lifestyle-related modifications can greatly increase your chances of living without the unpleasant symptoms of acid reflux, and, in the long run, avoiding the possibility of serious health consequences.
And certainly, by following a healthy lifestyle like Pritikin, “you will improve your overall health and well being,” concludes Dr. Fruge.