Acid Reflux - Everything You Need To Know
Written By: Dr. Saeed Al Shaikh
Dr. Saeed Al Shaikh is a gastroenterologist with a Doctorate of Medicine in Hepatology from the University of Dublin - Nui, Ireland. He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, Ireland (FRCPI).
What is acid reflux?
Acid reflux is a common condition that primarily presents as a burning pain in the lower chest area. This usually happens when stomach acid travels back up into the food pipe towards the throat area. It can be caused by a variety of triggers, including irregular eating habits & spicy dishes. Pharmacy-available remedies & changes to eating habits can remove the cause of the complaint. If the condition persists, however, it can point towards a need for a surgical procedure & the sufferer should seek medical guidance.
Acid Reflux Symptoms
The most regular sign of acid reflux is discomfort or a burning sensation. This occurs initially in the stomach & moves to the lower chest area or throat. It is known by most people as heartburn. Regurgitation can also be a symptom. This is where a sour or bitter-tasting acid backs up into the mouth or throat.
Common Symptoms of Acid Reflux:
- A bloated sensation
- Persistent hiccups
- Frequent burping
- Bad breath
- A feeling of nausea
- Unexplained weight loss
- Dental deterioration
- Hoarseness, wheezing, a dry cough or sore throat
- Vomit that contains blood or stools that are black or bloody
- A sensation that food is lodged in the throat, known as Dysphagia
Acid Reflux Causes
Acid reflux happens when the valve at the entrance to the stomach - the lower esophageal sphincter - doesn’t do its job properly. The valve, a ring of muscle, normally closes as soon as food passes through. But if it opens too often, or doesn't close all the way, acid produced by the stomach can find its way into the esophagus, resulting in discomfort. A stomach abnormality known as a hiatal hernia can be a frequent cause of acid reflux disease. This can happen when the upper part of the stomach & the lower esophageal sphincter move above the diaphragm, which usually helps keep acid in our stomach. A hiatal hernia allows acid to move into the esophagus, resulting in acid reflux symptoms.
Common causes of acid reflux are:
- Acidic food & drink like coffee, tomatoes, citrus, oily food, spicy food
- Being overweight or obese
Acid Reflux Risk Factors
Risk Factors of Acid Reflux Include
Acid reflux isn’t always avoidable, but there are common risk factors that can prompt its onset. These can include:
- Consuming a large or rich meal
- Bending over at the waist or lying on your back soon after eating
- Eating snacks shortly before going to bed
- Beverages such as fizzy drinks, alcohol, tea or coffee
- Obesity or an overweight condition
- Blood pressure medication
- The taking of ibuprofen, aspirin & certain muscle relaxants
- Foods types including chocolate, garlic, onions, citrus fruits & spicy or fatty foods can be a trigger
If acid reflux is causing you severe pain or discomfort on a regular basis, please consult a Medcare specialist.
Acid Reflux Treatment
What are some treatments for acid reflux?
- Pharmacy Medication: There are plenty of over-the-counter treatments & acid reflux remedies available to manage the symptoms of acid reflux. Popular brands of antacids are designed to neutralize troublesome acid from your stomach. Overuse, however, can bring on either constipation or diarrhea, so it is recommended you seek products that contain aluminum hydroxide & magnesium hydroxide.
- Consult a Doctor: If these antacids prove ineffective, advice should be sought from your Medcare specialist. The doctor may suggest medications, prokinetics, proton pump inhibitors & H2 blockers may also be a given option.
Acid Reflux Home Remedies
Some organisations, experts & word-of-mouth recommendations suggest a variety of natural home remedies for acid reflux. You too may wish to consider the following to help you decrease the presence of stomach acid:
- Basil Leaves
- Cumin Seeds
- Cold Milk
Acid Reflux Prevention
Are there ways to prevent acid reflux?
Keeping in mind some of the potential causes of acid reflux, lifestyle & dietary changes can be effective in avoiding the condition or can act as an acid reflex remedy. Identify & consider omitting the foods & drinks that regularly promote the symptoms of acid reflux. But be sure to make considered choices & seek your doctor’s advice should you be in doubt.
Other adjustments you can make to your habits or routines include:
- Consume more modest meals.
- Chew your food well.
- Eat more frequently rather than in one sitting.
- Eat at least two or three hours before bedtime or lying down.
- If you smoke, quit!
- Avoid wearing tight belts of clothing.
- Take daytime naps in a chair.
- Lose weight if obese or overweight by adopting dietary changes & exercising.
- Place blocks under the head of your bed to raise it four to six inches.
- Ask your doctor whether medication could be triggering symptoms.
Acid Reflux Complications
When to see a doctor about an acid reflux cure?
- Your acid reflux could be a symptom of another medical condition. Should you find that your acid reflux symptoms are occurring more than twice a week, it may be that you have acid reflux disease. This is also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease, gastric reflux disease or GERD.
- Need for surgery. Your doctor could recommend surgery if symptoms persist & are severely hindering your life. One approved procedure involves surgically placing a ring - or TIF (Transoral incisionless fundoplication) which is an advanced endoscopy procedure - around the outside of the lower end of the esophagus, thus preventing stomach contents from backing up into it.
Under a Fundoplication procedure, an artificial valve is created using the top of your stomach. Surgeons wrap the upper part of the stomach around the lower esophageal sphincter to strengthen it, prevent acid reflux, & repair a hiatal hernia. These are viewed as last resort procedures when medication has failed.
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