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Acid reflux can strike at any time, with symptoms, such as heartburn usually occurring shortly after eating large meals or when lying down. However, did you know that approximately 8 out of 10 heartburn suffers will experience nighttime symptoms? Therefore, if you suffer from bedtime heartburn, you need to know what to do for acid reflux to help prevent symptoms from occurring.
First of all, you may be wondering why heartburn occurs at night. There are many reasons why acid reflux is more likely to occur while you sleep, such as:
• Relaxed lower esophageal sphincter (LES) – when you sleep all of the muscles in your body naturally relax, which can encourage acid to leak into your esophagus.
• Absence of swallowing – During sleep, the swallowing reflex is inhibited. Swallowing allows saliva to neutralize any digestive fluids that may be in the esophagus lining.
• Laying flat – laying flat in your bed enables stomach acid to easily flow into the esophagus and remain in the esophagus for a longer period of time, which can lead to heartburn.
To stop nighttime heartburn flare ups from causing damage to your esophagus, and interrupting your sleep, here’s what you can do for acid reflux relief:
1. Eat 3 hours before bedtime and eliminate foods from your diet that trigger acid reflux. Avoid foods and beverages that are known to trigger acid reflux (I.E. high fat foods, citrus fruits, caffeinated beverages, alcohol, etc.) Do not indulge in late night snacking and make sure the last meal you eat is one of a moderate portion. If you must have a large meal, eat a more substantial serving of food at lunchtime. Furthermore, limit your liquid intake to water before bed.
2. Sleep on an incline. Prop your head and shoulders up with a few pillows or a wedge pillow so that you are not lying flat on your back. The slight slope you create with your body helps to prevent acid from traveling further up your esophagus and remaining there to initiate heartburn.
3. Sleep on your left side. Some studies have found that sleeping on the left side can aid acid reflux nighttime prevention, as this position appears to help remove stomach acid from the esophagus. On the other hand, sleeping on the right side has shown to make heartburn worse.
4. Sleep in loose fitting pajamas or clothes. Clothing that is constricting around your torso, especially your abdomen or waist, such as tight elastic pants, places pressure on the stomach which can force digestive contents and fluids against the LES and up into the esophagus.
5. Take an antacid before going to bed. Although your first “what to do for acid reflux” instinct shouldn’t be to take medications, if your nighttime heartburn is exceptionally bothersome, taking an antacid or two before bed will work to quickly neutralize acid and treat your symptoms or prevent an episode from occurring. If longer relief is necessary, an H2 blocker may be more effective.
Finally, if you are finding that the above techniques are not helping in alleviating heartburn, what to do for acid reflux at this point, is visit your health care provider for a proper diagnosis and a new treatment plan. You may find that you are suffering from a more serious condition such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a peptic ulcer, or a hiatal hernia.
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