Acid Reflux: Fact vs. Fictionby Jennifer Mitchell Wilson B.S. Dietetics, Dietitian, Health Professional
If you have acid reflux, you may have noticed that there can be conflicting or confusing information out there. This can make it really hard to make the right choices to care for your health and eliminate acid reflux symptoms. Let's take some time to clear up facts from fiction.
Milk helps sooth acid reflux.** Fiction.** While it may seem soothing to drink a glass of milk when your heartburn kicks in, it's actually counterproductive. As milk is being digested, it triggers the body to produce more acid and can cause rebound acid reflux in the long run.
Mints can help sooth heartburn and acid reflux pain.** Fiction.** Mints like peppermint and spearmint may initially cool the esophagus, but they actually lessen the pressure in the LES. This means that mints will contribute to more acid reflux and pain in the long run.
Elevating the head of the bed helps acid reflux.** Fact.** Gravity can work wonders for many people with acid reflux. Elevating the head of the bed by at least 30 degrees or sleeping propped up utilizes gravity to keep stomach contents where they belong.
Acid reflux can cause serious problems.**Fact.** While many people may consider acid reflux an occasional nuisance, if you are dealing with symptoms more than once a week, it's time to talk with your doctor. Left untreated, acid reflux can lead to complications like esophagitis, narrowing of the esophagus, strictures, Barrett's Esophagitis and even esophageal cancer.
Very few people really have acid reflux.** Fiction.** Over 60 million Americans deal with acid reflux. The average American diet, along with record numbers of obese and overweight people, all play a role in the growing population seeking to banish the burn.
Acid reflux only affects adults.** Fiction.** Unfortunately, not just adults deal with acid reflux. Infants, children and teens can all deal with this painful problem. While symptoms can differ in each age group, the treatments are fairly similar.
Alcohol is bad for acid reflux.**Fact.** Alcohol is especially bad for acid reflux because it lowers the pressure in the LES. Relaxing the LES causes even more stomach contents to bounce into the esophagus. If you frequently deal with acid reflux, limit alcohol intake.
Acid reflux can affect sleep.** Fact.** Many people with acid reflux end up with very poor sleep. Being woken up with heartburn pain, nausea or a stomachache is no way to get the rest you need. Elevating the head of the bed, eating at least two hours prior to heading to bed and adequately treating your acid reflux with appropriate medications can help get your sleep back to normal.
Jennifer has a bachelor's degree in dietetics as well as graduate work in public health and nutrition. She has worked with families dealing with digestive disease, asthma and food allergies for the past 12 years. Jennifer also serves the Board of Directors for Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association (PAGER).