According to the American Gastroenterology Association, more and more people are developing acid reflux, with 25 million people reporting daily symptoms and 60 million people having heartburn once per month. Just a decade ago, 15 million people reported daily symptoms of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). An aging population, growing rate of obesity, and chronic overeating are all at blame in this increase of acid reflux.
Acid reflux occurs when the sphincter muscle, located at the top of the stomach, is weak, allowing acid to stream back up into the esophagus. This can lead to Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) symptoms such as heartburn, cough, and difficulty swallowing. Pregnant women and obese people are particularly vulnerable to acid reflux because of increased stomach pressure. Even people who have modest weight gain are more susceptible to symptoms.
Chronic Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) over many years can eventually alter the cells in the esophagus, sometimes leading to a condition called Barrett’s esophagus. Left untreated, Barrett’s esophagus may contribute to esophageal cancer.
If you are experiencing heartburn or acid reflux, there are a few things you can do to reduce or prevent symptoms such as not eating late at night or going to bed on a full stomach. Also, make sure you don’t sleep on your back, as this contributes to symptoms as well. Cut down on trigger foods and beverages, such as chocolate, tomatoes, spicy foods, mints, alcohol, and anything citrus. Overweight and obese people are at a higher risk for heartburn, as are those that smoke, so quitting smoking and losing weight may help a great deal in reducing the symptoms of your heartburn. If heartburn is a concern for you, changing your eating habits and shifting to an overall healthier lifestyle may be all the help you need!