Bed Wedges for Acid Reflux
Heartburn affects over 60 million Americans each year and causes a variety of issues ranging from minor discomfort to serious illness. If you’ve ever experienced a burning sensation in your chest or an acidic, bitter “regurgitation” following a large or heavily seasoned meal, you’ve likely been one of them. However, if you experience such symptoms twice per week or more, you may suffer from a more serious condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), also known as acid reflux.
Acid reflux doesn’t just have to involve heartburn. In fact, several other physical symptoms can indicate acid reflux disease, including:
- Bloody or black stools
- Frequent vomiting
- Narrowing of the esophagus, or frequent difficulty swallowing
The causes of acid reflux are generally related to the upper part of the stomach and the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), two parts of the digestive system that lay within the upper torso of the body. When acid passes from the upper stomach to the LES, heartburn occurs. There are many reasons why this could occur, including:
- Hiatal hernia: When the upper stomach and LES move above the diaphragm, the constant upward motion of breathing can push up stomach acid, causing heartburn.
- Large meals: Eating large or heavy meals can fill the stomach and push acid up in the process.
- Lying or bending over: After eating, stomach acid is most prevalent. Lying down or bending over at the waist can cause it to move from the upper stomach to the LES.
- Obesity: Being overweight can put pressure on the contents of the stomach and the LES, causing movement of stomach acid between the two.
- Snacking close to bedtime: Eating something before falling asleep will get stomach acid pumping, and prolonged lying down can enable the movement of stomach acid into the LES.
- Eating certain foods: Some foods are more prone to causing heartburn due to their acidity or ingredients. Citrus fruits, tomatoes, chocolate, mint, garlic, onions, and spicy or fatty foods are common culprits of heartburn and acid reflux.
- Certain drinks: Alcohol, carbonated drinks, coffee and tea can be acidic themselves, adding more acid to the stomach and encouraging heartburn.
- Smoking: Cigarette introduces chemicals and other complications within the esophagus and can also irritate the stomach. A combination of the two can create heartburn.
- Pregnancy: When a woman is pregnant, the baby in her uterus pushes up on the stomach which, in turn, can push stomach acid into the LES.
- Medication: Aspirin, ibuprofen, blood pressure medicine, muscle relaxers and other types of medications can irritate the stomach and produce excessive acid, creating an environment for heartburn. Some vitamins and other supplements may also have this effect.
Though it is easy to shrug off heartburn as a natural occurrence, acid reflux should be taken more seriously. Left untreated, acid reflux can contribute to some serious medical conditions:
- Esophagitis: Inflammation and irritation of the esophagus is known as esophagitis, a condition that can be painful and dangerous. Esophagitis that is not treated can lead to ulcers, esophageal bleeding and scarring.
- Strictures: When scarring occurs in the esophagus, the skin becomes less flexible. Since the esophagus is the passage that allows us to eat and swallow, constrictions of this tube can prevent food or drink from entering our system.
- Barrett’s Esophagus: Chronic, untreated acid reflux can lead to a serious condition called Barrett’s Esophagus. This condition results when repeated damage to the esophagus causes cells in the esophageal lining to be replaced by cells that are not typically found in that area, which can then lead to esophageal cancer.
Treatments for heartburn and acid reflux vary according to the severity of the condition. Over-the-counter and prescription medications have been used effectively to treat these conditions using different strategies including:
- Antacids: Neutralize stomach acid.
- Acid Blockers: Limit acid production.
- Promotility Agents: Stimulate the stomach to keep acid from sitting in it.
Those seeking alternatives to medication can also explore natural heartburn relief by:
- Eating small meals slowly and early in the day.
- Avoiding alcohol and smoking.
- Losing weight.
- Wearing loose-fitting clothing.
- Using bed wedges and other props to keep the LES upright.
Bed wedges are natural, effective, temporary tools that heartburn and acid-reflux sufferers can use to treat or prevent symptoms. They can be used alone or in combination with other remedies, and do not require complicated setup or use. Using a bed wedge in the evening keeps the torso upright while allowing the lower body to relax in bed or even on the floor. This helps to ensure that the LES stays above the upper stomach so that it is more difficult for stomach acid to reach into the esophagus.
The Roloke Good N Bed Adjustable Wedge is an exceptionally constructed wedge that allows users to increase or decrease the level of incline with simple removable inserts. This is especially useful for pregnant women whose bodies are changing at a rapid rate, or for people who need bed wedges to also work with couches, chairs or other recliners.
The Hermell Dual Position Foam Bed Wedge is another great example. With its large, sloped construction and stiff foam material, it provides durable, long-lasting support for acid reflux and respiratory sufferers alike. Since these two conditions often coexist, this bed wedge becomes an especially vital part of a comfortable night’s sleep.
While heartburn is a common condition, acid reflux should not be treated as such. Left untreated, acid reflux can result in serious medical conditions and even increase a patient’s need for developing esophageal cancer. Luckily, there are a wide variety of treatments available to help patients control their acid reflux and prevent further damage to their body. While several over-the-counter and prescription medications have proven effective in treating heartburn and acid reflux, natural remedies are also available for more moderate conditions. The use of a bed wedge to keep the torso elevated while resting is an easy way to prevent acid reflux while avoiding medications that can sometimes irritate the stomach even more.
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WebMD – Acid Reflux, Heartburn, & GERD