The epidemic of acid reflux: what you can do to help


Acid reflux disease has become much more common in the past decade. A Norwegian study found that, comparing 1996 to 2009, that the number of people who experience acid reflux at least once per week had increased nearly 50%.

Acid reflux occurs when stomach contents—food and acidic stomach secretions—travels upwards into the esophagus rather than going down as they should. This produces symptoms but, even more serious, frequent irritation of the esophagus by the acidic secretions can, over years, lead to cancer of the esophagus.

The incidence of esophageal cancer has increased by about 500 percent since the 1970s. Most people who have chronic acid reflux will never get esophageal cancer, but they will get other symptoms, including heartburn. But mysteriously, some people with reflux do not notice heartburn, but they can have other symptoms like these (and they don’t suspect that reflux is the cause):

Chronic cough


Chronic throat clearing

Difficulty swallowing

Post-nasal drip (even chronic sinusitis)


All of these problems can result from acidic stomach contents travelling upwards, which is especially likely to happen when you are lying down. When you are sitting or standing, gravity helps the food stay in your stomach, but lying down allows things to flow upward.

Many experts believe that reflux is becoming so much more common as a result of poor eating habits, obesity, and eating too late. Many people eat too much fatty, sugary, or processed food and they are eating later than in the past. More people are coming home from work later, or exercising at the gym at night, or spending time on the computer or television, but for whatever reason, they are putting off dinner until later, which is not a good thing when you are trying to combat reflux.

To decrease reflux:

Don’t go to bed or lie down for at least 2 or 3 hours after finishing a meal

Eat smaller meals, especially in the evening

Avoid snacks before bed

Avoid foods that cause symptoms (this varies per individual, but frequently includes alcohol, chocolate, mints, tomatoes, soft drinks, or fatty foods)

Smoking, obesity, and wearing tight clothes around your waist all make reflux worse

You can take medications but note they typically work better if taken BEFORE you think you might get reflux, for example, if you are going to have a late meal or eat an irritating food. Medications are fine for occasional use, but a June 2015 study concluded that people who regularly take the stronger type of stomach medications (called proton-pump inhibitors, for example Omeprazol) have a higher risk of heart attack as a side effect.

And some people find they can’t function without taking these medications daily. In effect, they become addicted. Better is to work on changing your lifestyle, such as avoiding eating late. Seeing your doctor or ideally a gastroenterologist is a good idea. You can search for a doctor with that specialty on

See also in ProcuraMed:

Binge drinking depresses immune system

How to turn a caiparinha into a healthy beverage

Esta postagem também está disponível em: Portuguese (Brazil)

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