Diet and lifestyle

How diet and lifestyle could be causing acid reflux

Alison Cullen
Nutritional Practitioner, BA (Hons), DN, DNT (Distinction)
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An introduction to diet and lifestyle as a cause of acid reflux

Acid reflux is experienced when the acidic content of your stomach escapes upwards and backwards through a band of muscle called the lower oesophageal sphincter (LOS) into your oesophagus. For some, it may only be a one-off episode as a result of an occasional change in diet and lifestyle, however, if bad habits persist, so could your symptoms.

This may explain why acid reflux plagues some people whereas for others it is a very rare occurrence. Although there are often a number of potential factors at play here, diet and lifestyle factors are something really worth considering. What we eat each day and how we live our lives has a huge impact on our digestive system as well as our overall health.

Here we go on to describe which foods and habits in particular could be causing you an issue. It’s very important to listen closely to your body and take note of any symptoms you might have to help understand what might be causing them!

How can diet and lifestyle cause acid reflux?

Although people often assume certain foods are ‘bad’ and others are ‘good’ there’s often a lot more to it to that. It’s important to try and understand exactly why certain foods are bad and how the way we eat can also have serious implications.

  • Excess fat or protein. Although a healthy, balanced diet is key, an excessive intake of fat or protein can put more pressure on your stomach. Fatty foods and protein take more effort, more time and more stomach acid to be properly broken down. Therefore, that’s more time for things to go wrong – plus some extra acid to contend with! Meat and dairy products fall into this category so just be sure to eat them in moderation and not in huge quantities. This may also suggest why milk may not be the best remedy for heartburn!
  • Irritants and stimulants. Unfortunately, there are certain foods which can irritate the lining of our stomach, affect our stomach acid levels and/or affect the functioning of the LOS, these can include spicy foods, citrus fruits, chocolate, fizzy drinks, alcohol or caffeinated drinks – so these are ones to avoid as much as possible, especially if you have personally identified them as being trigger foods.
  • Poor eating habits. How you eat is almost as important as what you eat and we can’t stress this enough. Habits to employ include chewing your food properly, which goes hand in hand with taking your time over meals, avoiding overeating, and to sit down with good posture rather than eating hurriedly on the go. 

What changes can I make at home in terms of diet and lifestyle for acid reflux?

There are some simple changes you can make at home in terms of your diet, eating habits and lifestyle in order to help keep acid reflux at bay:

  • Keep a food diary. Although we’ve listed some foods that could potentially exacerbate some of those symptoms, it’s important to keep a food and symptoms diary as everyone is individual. This way you can help identify triggers foods and steer clear of them
  • Employ better eating habits. This is crucial – not only in terms of your symptoms but also to help make the most the food we eat. Chewing your food properly helps support the breakdown and absorption of the food we eat meaning it can more efficiently work its way through your digestive system. Sitting up straight avoids crushing your stomach enabling it to work at its best and let those secretions flow. If you eat on the run, blood may be diverted elsewhere, for example, to your working muscles, which means the stomach becomes neglected and more things are likely to go wrong!
  • Manage your liquids. Aswell as avoiding certain liquids including caffeinated or fizzy varieties, it’s also important to separate your meals from liquids. Guzzling water at the dinner table means you risk diluting your digestive juices and did you know that acid reflux symptoms are often related to having too little stomach acid as opposed to too much? So, keep liquids 20 minutes apart from meals although be sure to drink enough water at other times in the day
  • Try adding in some bitter herbs. Bitter herbs have been traditionally used to help support digestive processes and in many countries, people will still sit down to enjoy a small bitter leaf salad before their main meals. Bitter herbs help stimulate the secretions of the stomach and pancreas which are vital for breaking down the meal ahead. If you struggle to include bitter herbs in your diet, why not try a tincture instead as we describe below. 

How can natural remedies help me?

There may be some herbal remedies which you can try adding to your regime to help keep acid reflux flare ups under control:

  • Herbal bitters. Herbal bitters such as those in our Digestisan remedy can help support the stomach and keep indigestion and acid reflux-type symptoms at bay
  • Silicol gel. This remedy can be beneficial in instances of flare ups of your symptoms. Silicol gel creates a protective barrier throughout the digestive system, helping to protect your oesophagus from excess acidity.

How can my doctor help?

If diet and lifestyle changes really aren’t doing the trick it might be time to visit your doctor. Your doctor or pharmacist can prescribe acid-reducing medication if necessary, although, it is always worth assessing how your symptoms progress whilst taking any prescribed medication and being aware of any associated side effects.

Digestisan - Oral drops for indigestion

To relieve indigestion and flatulence. Also available in 50ml size. Fresh herb tincture.
More info

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As the A.Vogel Digestion advisor, I recommend Digestisan with extracts of Artichoke and Peppermint, to help support your digestion.

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Acid reflux at night is an all-too-common problem, contributing to an estimated 7% of sleepless nights, which can lead to fatigue, increased anxiety or concentration lapses the following day.

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