If you are experiencing symptoms of acid reflux and indigestion more than you used to, and your diet hasn’t changed, it’s not your imagination. Many women in perimenopause and menopause report these gastrointestinal problems. Here’s why and, more importantly, what you can do about it.
What is acid reflux?
Acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), is a condition in which stomach acid travels up from the stomach through the sphincter in the esophagus and enters the throat and mouth, causing irritation to the esophagus lining. This may occur occasionally or frequently.
Along with regurgitation, other symptoms of acid reflux can include upper stomach discomfort or pain, difficulty swallowing, heartburn (usually after eating, consisting of a burning sensation that can travel from your stomach to your chest), and a feeling of a lump in the throat. If you experience acid reflux during the night, you may also have a recurring cough, inflamed vocal cords, and new or worsening asthma.
How is acid reflux associated with menopause?
As estrogen levels decline, your stomach acid production changes. This hormone reduction, along with the stress that often accompanies this time of transition, can result in symptoms of acid reflux and indigestion, which can include bloating, gassiness, upper abdominal discomfort, and a burning sensation.
In fact, research shows that women in perimenopause and menopause are 2.9 times more likely to have symptoms of GERD than women not going through this transitional time of life. In the study, nearly 42 percent of perimenopausal and 47 percent of menopausal women reported symptoms.
How to manage acid reflux naturally
Numerous lifestyle and dietary changes can help you effectively manage acid reflux and indigestion naturally. Be sure to try more than one tip!
Eat mindfully. It’s so easy to eat without thinking about it, which often results in eating too fast and not chewing thoroughly. If you put down your spoon or fork after each mouthful and chew your food until it turns to liquid before swallowing, you will be doing your digestive system a huge favor. Digestion begins in the mouth, so send your meal off to your stomach with a mindful sendoff.
Sit up straight. Slouching while eating and digesting your food can hinder the ability of your stomach and intestinal tract to optimally breakdown your food.
Sleep left. On your left side, that is. If you are a side sleeper, research has shown that those who lie on their left side with the head slightly elevated reduce their exposure to acid by up to 71 percent. Sleeping on your right side allows stomach acid to cover the opening (sphincter) in the lower esophagus, which increases the risk of reflux.
Pamper your sphincter. The lower esophageal sphincter, which is the round muscle located where the esophagus opens into the stomach, is usually weak or malfunctioning in people with acid reflux. To reduce stress on this opening, eat smaller, more frequent meals.
Limit alcohol. Wine, beer, and spirits can increase levels of stomach acid, weaken the lower esophageal sphincter, and make it more challenging for the esophagus to eliminate acid. It’s recommended you reduce or eliminate alcohol from your diet.
Allow a 3-hour window. You can better manage acid reflux if you don’t eat close to when you retire. Experts found that individuals who went to bed within three hours of eating were significantly more likely to experience reflux.
Reduce the bubbles. Carbonated soft drinks are full of carbon dioxide gas bubbles, which increases burping. This can in turn increase the amount of acid that reaches the esophagus and thus worsen acid reflux symptoms.
Raid your kitchen. Right now you probably have a few of the many natural remedies for acid reflux and indigestion on your pantry shelves. Some of the possibilities include aloe vera juice, American ginseng, apple cider vinegar, baking soda, bananas (ripe), ginger, honey, marshmallow root, papaya, slippery elm, and turmeric/curcumin.
When to call your doctor
If your acid reflex episodes are not responding to natural management techniques and are affecting your daily life and activities, contact your doctor. You also should call your physician if you experience shortness of breath, sweating, dizziness, chest pain, or nausea associated with acid reflux.
Women in perimenopause and menopause frequently experience acid reflux and/or indigestion. If you incorporate several lifestyle changes into your routine, you can enjoy significant relief from this gastrointestinal condition and have an easier journey through menopause.