We’ve all heard the complaint about acid reflux. Many medicines are available in the market for acid reflux and the stomach ache that follows. Let us get a broad overview of what acid reflux is, what causes it, acid reflux symptoms, and how to treat and ease it.
What is Acid Reflux:
Acid reflux is a common symptom featuring a burn-like sensation with some uneasiness and pain in the lower abdominal or chest area. It is also sometimes called heartburn and is caused by the reflux or backward flow of stomach acids that get up and into the food pipe or esophagus.
The esophagus opens out into the stomach and has a valve at the end that prevents the flow of acids back into it. If this valve isn’t closed properly or if it remains open too often, the acids produced in the stomach can travel back up into the esophagus. This causes the symptom of heartburn and stomach ache and is sometimes also called acid indigestion or pyrosis.
Acid reflux is fairly common amongst many individuals and doesn’t occur too often. However, if this happens twice a week for a prolonged period of time, you could be suffering from Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD).
What causes Acid Reflux?
The stomach contains hydrochloric acid which is used in the systematic breakdown of food and also to protect against harmful bacteria. The stomach lining is protected against the hydrochloric acid but the esophagus is not. The valve at the end of the esophagus protects it from damage from the acid in the stomach, but when it fails and stomach contents are pushed back up the esophagus or food pipe, the acid flows with the undigested food and burns the esophageal lining. This causes a heartburn-like sensation.
Some causes of acid reflux are obesity, pregnancy, smoking, immediately lying down after eating, consuming foods like garlic, tomatoes, fatty and oily foods, citrus foods, chocolate, taking medications like blood pressure pills, ibuprofen, aspirin, antihistamines, antidepressants, sedatives, drinking too much coffee (high levels of caffeine), low diet in fiber, excessively drinking carbonated drinks, consumption of alcohol, and so on.
Acid Reflux Symptoms:
Acid reflux symptoms are quite easy to identify like heartburn and regurgitation (where you get a sour taste in your mouth from undigested food and acid backing up into your throat).
Some other symptoms that can be used to identify acid reflux are constant burping (with a foul acidic taste), nausea, hiccups (chronic), bloating sensation in the stomach and chest area, vomiting blood, passing dark or bloody stools, dry coughing, wheezing, chronic sore throat, and dysphagia (narrowing of the esophagus causing a sensation of food getting stuck in the throat), chronic indigestion, not enough physical exercise, and chronic stomach ache.
Another symptom of acid reflux could be rapid weight loss for no apparent reason. This could also be caused by the constant regurgitation of food where the body does not get enough nutrition.
Acid Reflux Treatment:
Instead of increasing your medical bills, a few strategic lifestyle changes should help ease the acid reflux issue. The easiest way to do this is to stop consumption of foods and drinks that cause acid reflux.
Visit a dietician to set a dietary plan and eat smaller meals throughout the day, quit alcohol, caffeine, and smoking, start working out to lose extra pounds and get healthier and fitter, and avoid wearing tight and skin-hugging clothes. Try and get minimum 6 – 7 hours of sleep at night and keep a strict sleep schedule. Eat healthier foods like salads and avoid spicy, oily, and bitter foods. Switch to freshly squeezed juices instead of carbonated drinks.
If the symptoms of acid reflux still persist despite the lifestyle changes, consult a physician who will treat you with proper medication. PPIs (Proton Pump Inhibitors) like rabeprazole and omeprazole, H2 blockers like Zantac and cimetidine, and antacids are some of the prescribed medicines. People suffering from chronic GERD are advised PPIs and H2 blockers.
How to ease Acid Reflux:
Acid reflux can be eased with the above-mentioned lifestyle changes. However, if you have chronic GERD, then over-the-counter medication like antacids can help tremendously. Acid reflux can also be treated through surgery by placing a ring known as LINX around the outside of the end of the esophagus or by fundoplication that uses the top of the stomach lining to create a valve and prevent acid reflux.
Most surgical procedures are only conducted as last resorts and should be done only after trying all other viable lifestyle change options.