Heartburn is common on infants, but is also known to afflict seniors as well. For children acid reflux (heartburn) occurs during feeding, crying, and other factors that causes stomach content reflux to the esophagus. In seniors, however, the problem poses a much greater threat than their younger counterparts. The LES deteriorates in capacity as we age. The more it weakens, the more acid is pumped back up to the esophagus.
For seniors, acid reflux is also caused by other factors, such as:
- Overweight (obesity)
- Hiatal hernia
- Eating foods that are high in cholesterol (fatty foods) and acid
- Lifestyle (smoking, drinking, wearing tight clothes, etc.)
- Heartburn Treatment for Seniors
Unlike young adults, seniors should take extra precaution when taking medication for their heartburn problems. In most cases, heartburn is considered to be natural in the human body. You may experience it for a short time after you have eaten a large meal or when you eat too much food that is high in fat and acid.
There are some cases, however, where heartburn is a prelude to GERD. Symptoms for such include:
- Frequent occurrence of heartburn — usually 3 to 4 times a week.
- Temporary relief after taking an antacid then returns when the medicine wears off.
- Extreme burning sensation
If these scenarios occur, then you may be suffering an onset of GERD — which will eventually lead to other complications putting your health in jeopardy. If this is the case, you need to consult your healthcare provider for treatment. In most cases, lifestyle change is one of the best solutions in treating acid reflux and GERD. We discussed these previously, but there are some slight differences for seniors so let’s review them here:
- Avoid or lessen the intake of foods that are high in cholesterol and acids. This includes meat products, fruits (lemon, citrus, etc)
- Wear loose clothing to reduce the pressure on your LES
- Stop smoking
- Reduce or avoid drinking alcoholic beverages
- Avoid large meals — change your diet plan to incorporate 5 small meals in regular intervals rather than eating large meals 3 times a day
- For obesity-caused acid reflux or GERD, losing weight is advised
- Avoid eating food before going to bed
It is also advisable for seniors to avoid or reduce strenuous activities that will often lead to heartburn. Since the LES of seniors is weakened with age, a slight pressure or disturbance in the lower esophageal tract or stomach will trigger a fresh flow of stomach content into the esophagus; resulting in heartburn. Also, lessening the occurrence of acid reflux avoids other complications that will lead to health risks, like cancer, infection, and so on.