By: Shelagh McNally for Reflux1
In the United States, at least 50 percent of the population experiences heartburn at least once a month. A new study released in May by the University of Arizona has found a direct link between nighttime heartburn and the consumption of soda and certain sleeping pills.
| Tips to beat nighttime heartburn:|
Eat smaller meals at least 2 to 3 hours before bedtime to give the body time to digest the contents and empty into the intestinal tract.
Elevate the head of the bed four to six inches to help prevent acid backup from creeping up the esophagus while lying down.
Wear loose-fitting pajamas without a waistband.
Lose excess weight and stop smoking.
Avoid foods that aggravate your GERD. Trigger foods for many people include: Fried or fatty foods, spicy foods, onions, alcohol, coffee, chocolate and peppermint.
For the study, researchers surveyed more than 15,000 adults looking for common factors associated with nighttime heartburn. Overall, 24.9 percent of those surveyed said they experience heartburn during sleep. Those who were overweight were more likely to report acid reflux but researchers also found a link between soft drinks and heartburn at night. Soft drinks have a high acid content – often higher than caffeine – and the carbonation that introduces carbon dioxide into the stomach. The combination often leads to heartburn, which seems to be most intense in the evening leading to disrupted sleep.
“For the first time, we found a close relationship between soft drink consumption and severe heartburn," said lead researcher Dr. Ronnie Fass, director of the Southern Arizona VA HealthCare System's Gastrointestinal Motility Laboratories. “Individuals who drank one or more servings of carbonated soft drinks per day were at 31 percent higher risk of developing heartburn at night compared to individuals who stayed away from these types of beverages. That's no small matter, because acid reflux during the night tends to be more harmful for patients - it's associated more with complications, such as narrowing of the esophagus, alterations of the esophagus and, most importantly, cancerous changes of the esophagus and esophageal cancer. That's a big price to pay for a can of Coke." He recommended avoiding carbonated beverages altogether for those with severe heartburn especially after dinner and before bedtime.
Fass and his team also studied the link between nighttime heartburn and people taking a class of prescription sleeping pills known as benzodiazepines. This includes the popular sleeping aids as Ativan, Valium, Xanax and Halcion. “We know from physiological studies that benzodiazepines weaken the barrier between the esophagus and the stomach, allowing acid reflux to occur," Fass said. He advised that patients who take these drugs and experience nighttime heartburn visit their doctor and ask for a non-benzo sleeping pill in order to reduce acid reflux.
Heartburn refers to the fiery sensation in the chest caused when stomach acids move up into the esophagus. Frequent heartburn is often an indication of gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, a disorder in which the muscular valve between the esophagus and stomach fails to close properly allowing acids to back up into the throat. Left untreated GERD can cause corrosive changes in the esophagus that make swallowing difficult, disrupt sleep and lead to a condition known as Barrett's esophagus, where cells in the esophageal lining become abnormal, sometimes leading to cancer. Nighttime acid reflux is thought to be a symptom of a more severe type of GERD.