Sound advice for those who have acid relux at night

In a recent column I explored how keeping blood sugar levels stable in the small hours helps to promote restful sleep and reduces the risk of unwanted awakenings in the night. This week, I was reminded of another food-related influence on slumber by a study which found that many individuals with sleep issues suffer from stomach acid reflux at night. For many individuals, feelings of rising acid at night will cause obvious symptoms. However, this new research has found that this digestive issue has the capacity to disturb sleep, without there being any obvious symptoms of reflux. It seems that when stomach contents rise at night, our chances of getting a decent night’s sleep can go belly up.

While episodes of acid reflux can be effectively suppressed with medication, my experience in practice is that this issue almost always responds to a natural approach. The risk of night-time regurgitation is reduced by taking steps which help to ensure that the stomach has made a good job of digesting supper before bed we retire to bed. Ensuring that supper is had at least three or four hours prior to getting our head down helps in this respect, though busy lives can make it difficult to achieve this ideal. However, one way of mitigating against the effects of a late supper is to at least limit the size of this meal. One simple tactic that can help here is to reduce our appetite in evening by having a snack (e.g. some fruit and nuts) in the late afternoon.

Not being too ravenous at suppertime also reduces the risk that we will bolt our food and eschew thorough chewing – proper mastication aids digestion, principally by breaking food up into smaller particles that are more easily penetrated by stomach acid and other digestive juices. Another simple mealtime tip that ensures more efficient digestion is to drink as little as possible during the meal and for a few hours afterwards: significant quantities of fluid in the upper digestive tract dilutes stomach acid and enzymes in the small intestine, which serves only to impair our digestive capacity.

One other dietary tactic that may help combat nocturnal reflux is to keep proteins-rich foods (such as meat, fish and egg) away from starches (such as potatoes, rice and pasta) apart at suppertime. In theory, this makes the job of digestion easier for the body, and increases the chances that the stomach will be relatively empty by bedtime. Meals which comply with this way of eating include meat or fish combined with vegetables other than the potato, or a pasta or rice-based dish accompanied by vegetables only. My experience in practice is that this approach is usually highly effective in controlling symptoms such as indigestion and heartburn. Taking steps to enhance digestion helps ensure that acid reflux isn’t anything to lose sleep over.

7 Responses to Sound advice for those who have acid relux at night

  1. raymond 7 September 2007 at 11:39 am #

    Having acid reflux disease I find you article most helpful. There is however one other thing that you can do at night and that is sleeping in a more upright position with the head and torso elevated. This can be achieved with wedge pillows or bed wedges.

  2. TL Tipton 21 June 2008 at 4:23 am #

    Very valid points. I also find that avoiding acidic drinks and eating dinner at least 4 to 5 hours before bedtime helps with my night time acid reflux

  3. Momo 31 August 2008 at 8:38 pm #

    I’ve suffered from acid reflux as well as stomach ulcers for years. I’ve been to no less than 5 doctors regarding my ulcers do to relocations for work. It is amazing how each doctor’s suggested treatment was identical to the previous doctor’s. As far as the GERD (acid reflux), I’ve been to several doctors all prescribing Prilosec. I will tell you that none of the acid reflux medications have worked for me. After spending thousands of dollars for “medical treatment” I finally decided to research my problems myself. Through my research I discovered that acid reflux is often mis-diagnosed by medical professionals. To understand why, we must first understand what acid is. Acid is the opposite of alkaline on the pH scale. Although alkali is its opposite it has the same effects on human tissue. Therefore a proper diagnosis cannot be made without a pH test. The medical “industry” has no such test for acid reflux. If a diagnosis of acid reflux is given and the patient’s pH balance is actually more alkali then the acid reflux medicine prescribed will actually make the problem worse by making an already alkali pH even more alkali. I’m sure you have already heard about the apple cider vinegar cure. Vinegar is an acid and therefore will not cure true acid reflux however if the patient is actually suffering from alkaline reflux, vinegar will lower the pH and have tremendous results. Ovbiously the confusion lies in that no medical terminology is yet available for “alkaline reflux”. I can tell you that I was one of the millions that was mis-diagnosed and have found relief from the apple cider vinegar cure.

  4. Jess 20 October 2010 at 1:39 am #

    I have just been diagnosed with Acid Reflux. Im wondering if anybody has advice on what i can and cannot eat??

  5. Diane McMullen 27 September 2011 at 10:56 pm #

    Could you please tell me how to use the apple cider vinegar cure my husband has just been diag. with reflux and does not want to take omeplrazole tabs. I would be most grateful.

  6. varun 29 March 2012 at 9:07 am #

    i m also suffering from acid reflux form the last so many years , and continuously taking antiacid tablets.which increase the ph level whereas apple cider lower the ph level. therefore what should i do now?which treatment should i take?

  7. Rebecca 18 August 2013 at 3:56 pm #

    The most useful thing I find for controlling my reflux (better even than the medication) is cutting out caffine completely. Alcohol and chocolate are other triggers for me but caffine is the worst.

    I am confused by some other respondent’s explanations of reflux as there appears to be little scientific rationale to back up their suggestions. I would suggest that anyone with reflux should carefully discuss treatment options with their doctor.

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