Acid reflux can make eating and the time after meals very unpleasant. However, with the right diet and management of some lifestyle factors, you can eradicate the symptoms of acid reflux and improve your quality of life.

By Kepha Nyanumba- Afya pap Nutritionist.

Pain on the left

Acid reflux, also known as GERD, is a common problem, affecting millions of people worldwide. The condition occurs when contents from your stomach return into your esophagus, causing stomach acid to irritate the lining of your esophagus. While acid reflux can affect anybody and anytime, studies have shown that the condition is common in diabetics who have poor glucose control, and is mostly caused by the damage of the vagus nerve in the digestive system (Fletcher, 2019) . For most people, acid reflux is a manageable condition. If left untreated, though, acid reflux can lead to serious complications. The condition causes scarring over time as the tissue in the esophagus tries to heal itself.  Scar tissue can cause the esophagus to become too narrow (esophageal stricture). This can make swallowing difficult and painful. Stomach acid can enter into your lungs causing serious harm and lung damage that can make you more likely to have chest congestion and wheezing.

What Are the Symptoms of Acid Reflux?

Diabetes is a systemic disease that may affect many organ systems, and the gastrointestinal tract is no exception. As with other complications of diabetes, the duration of the disorder and uncontrolled glucose is associated with more severe gastrointestinal problems. Acid reflux happens when your lower esophageal sphincter doesn’t tighten or close properly. This causes digestive juices and other contents from your stomach to rise up into your esophagus. Some of the common symptoms include uncomfortable burning feeling in your chest, which can radiate up toward your neck. This feeling is often known as heartburn. If you have acid reflux, you might develop a sour or bitter taste at the back of your mouth. It might also cause you to regurgitate food or liquid from your stomach into your mouth.

Diabetes Slows Your Digestion…

High blood sugar can damage nerves throughout the body. One of them is the vagus nerve, which controls how quickly your stomach empties. When it’s damaged, your digestion slows down and food stays in your body longer. This condition can make you have trouble controlling blood sugar, feel full quickly when eating and get heartburn and acid reflux.

When the body moves food from the stomach at a slow pace, bacteria has much more time to grow and spread on ingested food, and sometimes the body’s natural defenses, such as stomach acid, is not enough to combat it, resulting in bacterial infections. In addition, people with uncontrolled blood glucose may be less capable of fighting off infections due to their weak immune system.

Management of Acid Reflux!

Acid reflux can make eating and the time after meals very unpleasant. However, with the right diet and management of some lifestyle factors, you can eradicate the symptoms of acid reflux and improve your quality of life.

Take a well-balanced diet. A well-balanced diet is essential to the management of acid reflux. Work to include a variety of foods into your diet to help keep your body health and reduce symptoms.  A well-balanced diet is one that features foods from all food groups including: protein, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. In addition, the diet should comprise of a wide variety of foods from each group throughout the week. 

Limit gas-producing foods. Some foods are known to cause more gas and bloating compared to others. It’s advisable to limit such foods since they can cause an increased production of gas in your intestines. Some of the examples include: cauliflower, dairy products, fizzy drinks (soda) etc.

Keep a food or symptom journal. The foods that trigger acid reflux may vary from person to person. If you’re not fully sure what foods set off your symptoms, start a food /symptom journal. Write down everything you eat, the symptoms that follow and the severity of the symptoms. Review your journal and see if you can make any connections.

Drink adequate fluids. In addition to eating the right types of foods, you need to drink an adequate amount of fluids. Water is the best type of fluid you can drink. Aim for at least 2 liters of water per day.

Other Important Lifestyle Factors….

  • Don’t lie down immediately after you eat.  If you lie down, the acid can trickle up your esophagus and throat. Wait at least two hours before going to sleep after you’ve finished dinner or your last meal. You may also want to try elevating your head or resting on multiple pillows to help keep acid down.
  • Stress Management: A stressful lifestyle can be a serious contributor to the flare up of your symptoms. Even small or mild stressors can set off a whole host of symptoms. To help reduce your stress, consider: reading a good book, talking to a friend, or going for a walk. If you’re having difficulty managing your stress and it continues to cause symptoms, consider seeking additional help from a counselor.
  • Stop smoking: Another irritant that can cause continued symptoms is smoking. Quit smoking immediately to help reduce some of the symptoms associated with acid reflux. Smoking decreases the function of a ring of muscle between your esophagus and stomach, allowing acid to be pushed upwards into the back of your throat.

If symptoms persist despite the lifestyle modifications, it is advisable to see a doctor for further evaluation.

Bibliography

Fletcher, J. (2019, April 12). What to know about diabetic gastroparesis. Medical News Today.

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