Managing Acid Reflux with Portion Control

By Justin Kaechele

Imagine yourself filling up a water balloon. Once you have finished, you have one hand holding the bottom supporting the weight and another using your fingers to pinch the end so as to keep the water from shooting upward out of the balloon (some people like to use this function as a makeshift water gun).

If you were to lessen your pinch, water would shoot out of the top, right?  This pinch that obstructs water from shooting upward is much like the essential function of your Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES).

In the same way water is pressured to shoot upward out of the water balloon, a full stomach of food can essentially create that same pressure and seep upward into our esophagus — our LES (the pinch) is our essential barrier to this occurrence.

It’s all about the LES

The LES can weaken over time and lose its ability to perform its essential function. One of the primary causes of this weakening is overeating.  When we overeat, our stomachs stretch to create the capacity needed — this stretching is what compromises the effectiveness of the LES.

The top of your stomach (where it meets the esophagus) can, after years of overeating, widen the LES to a point where its spigot function proves to be incapable in keep acids and food down which can result in chronic reflux and heartburn.

Essentially, overeating can be a significant factor in the development of gastroesophageal reflux disease. One of the best ways to avoid overeating is to incorporate portion control discipline into your eating habits.  Portion control is exactly what it sounds like – control of your food intake by eating smaller portions.

Pew Research Center found that 60% of Americans believe they eat more than they should at a meal, and this phenomenon may be a factor in the increasing number of diagnosed reflux sufferers every year.

The first step is always the hardest step

Getting started on portion control is hard, but once your body adjusts to smaller portions the thought of binge eating will soon be less appealing. Over time, that never-ending temptation to take a second and third helping will soon begin to disappear.

So before you make a commitment to this lifestyle change, take a minute and accept the fact that you will have to go through a struggle to get the results you want.

You are changing an old habit and if you understand it will be a challenge, you will have a much higher potential to succeed.  In fact, take delight in your struggle as you win each little battle!  What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger, right!  With your sacrifice and each challenge, your resolve will strengthen, you will gain more self-confidence, and you will realize long-term success.

Things you can do

There are a few methods to help manage your portion control; the biggest and most important factor is acknowledging your “danger zones”.  For instance, if you are at a buffet or enjoying family-style dining where you prepare your own plate, start by preparing a plate with half your normal amount.

It will be easier to deny yourself when you’re not staring at it with fork in hand. Don’t give yourself a chance to fail, nip it in the bud before you have the chance to make an error.

Eat slowly.  Let your digestive system catch up with your brain.  Before you know it, you will feel like you have eaten enough and additional food will not seem appealing.  One trick to this is to chew slowly and put your silverware down in between bites.

Engage in other activities. Join in the conversation during your meal. The discussion will allow you to do something other than picking up that fork over-and-over. Some people find success by looking around and enjoying the environment. The enemy is mindless and thoughtless eating – so battle that impulse!

Eat more small meals. Try to eat five small meals during the day instead of the traditional three. Schedule set times to eat, for example, every three hours (8 AM, 11 AM, 2 PM, 5 PM and a light snack at 8 PM).  Find a schedule that works for you and your lifestyle. As you eat smaller snacks during the day you will find that you are not experiencing excessive hunger, which can drive binge-eating sessions.

Be a Planner! Planning is a large part of changing your eating habits. This will not only provide you an effective model, but you will gain confidence and satisfaction. You will be surprised, and as you follow through with your plans you will feel better, see the results in your waistline, and your overall health will improve.

For other home remedies, check out our acid reflux home remedy summary.

This article has been reviewed by Dr. William Dengler of Legato Medical.

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