Lifestyle Education May Reduce Heartburn and Acid Reflux Pain

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Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, affects up to 40% of South Georgia’s population. It is usually a chronic condition in which stomach acids comes up from the stomach and into the esophagus, commonly referred to as acid reflux.

A common symptom of GERD is heartburn, but people may also experience trouble swallowing (dysphagia), cough, sour taste in the mouth, laryngitis, nausea and chest pain with this condition. GERD can also cause injury to the esophagus, including a narrowing of the esophagus, Barrett’s esophagus, and even cancer. Fortunately, lifestyle intervention, rather than medication only, may help to reduce the pain of heartburn and acid reflux associated with GERD.

According to a November 2010 study conducting in London of 42 participants with symptoms of GERD, such as heartburn and acid reflux, patients that participated in weekly educational sessions for a month, experienced fewer symptoms and were less stressed about their GERD. Further, they had a better understanding of acid reflux and were less bothered by it than they were before the intervention. During the educational sessions, patients were instructed to examine their diet, record their symptoms, identify and manage stress, establish goals and recognize the three most significant problems that their GERD caused.

Although this study is small, the results suggest that being educated about GERD, learning about its symptoms and triggers, and managing stress may have a positive impact on the level of pain associated with heartburn. Keeping a heartburn diary or log may help you understand your acid reflux triggers to manage your GERD better. Likewise identify stress triggers to manage life’s pressures better. Exercise, deep breathing and yoga are helpful techniques to manage stress. While medication is frequently required to treat severe GERD, lifestyle changes can be incorporated into your treatment plan to further reduce your symptoms.

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