You just finished a meal when the delicious flavors you enjoyed are replaced by a foul aftertaste. And the next thing you know, a burning sensation crops up in your chest.
Do you relate to this scenario? You’ve probably experienced reflux, also known as acid reflux.
While the occasional bout isn’t cause for alarm, frequent symptoms can be deeply bothersome.
If your reflux flares up more than twice a week, you could have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a serious condition that affects some 20% of the US population.
Dr. Sreelatha Reddy and the team at Houston Gastrointestinal & Liver Clinic, P.A. in Sugar Land, Texas, diagnose and treat reflux issues to improve your overall health and well-being.
Let’s take a closer look at reflux, including ways to prevent symptoms after age 40.
Why reflux happens
Stomach acid plays an important role in your health by breaking down food and protecting you from harmful pathogens. It’s a potent acid, however, and can cause irritation if it lands in the wrong place.
Your stomach lining is designed to protect itself from the acid, but your esophagus isn’t. That’s often just fine, thanks to a ring of muscle that works like a valve to keep the acid from moving back up. When the valve fails, though, your stomach regurgitates the acid.
The regurgitation of acid from your stomach into your esophagus is acid reflux. If you notice a burning sensation, you’re dealing with heartburn too.
Age and acid reflux
A range of factors can increase your risk of reflux, including smoking, obesity, inactivity, pregnancy, and certain medications. Age is another major risk factor.
As you age, your stomach muscles weaken, which may cause part of your stomach to bulge into your chest cavity (a hiatal hernia) and your diaphragm to reposition. That can weaken the system that keeps stomach acid in its place, leading to or exacerbating reflux symptoms.
How to prevent reflux
There’s no sure way to prevent all reflux symptoms, but you can significantly lower your risk. Doing so becomes increasingly important after 40.
Smart ways to prevent acid reflux include:
- Avoiding foods that trigger your symptoms, such as fatty or spicy meals
- Eating smaller amounts of food more often versus fewer large meals
- Losing excess weight
- Avoiding lying down immediately after eating
- Quitting smoking
If your reflux symptoms wake you up at night, you might also benefit from shifting your sleep positions. Sleeping on your left side may enhance your digestive process, for example. You could also raise your head with an extra pillow to create an incline.
If you can’t get a grip on your reflux symptoms on your own or your symptoms are severe or long-lasting, Dr. Reddy and her team can create a personalized treatment plan after an exam. Your plan may include lifestyle changes, medication, and for especially severe cases, surgery.
To learn more about acid reflux after 40 or get started with the care you need, call Houston Gastrointestinal & Liver Clinic, P.A. or request your appointment online today.