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Acid Reflux: Causes, Treatment and Symptoms

Acid Reflux: Causes, Treatment and Symptoms

Screen Shot 2022-08-19 at 6.28.38 PM

Acid reflux is a common condition that is characterized by a burning pain called heartburn in the lower chest. It occurs when stomach contents flow back to the esophagus. This process is also called acid regurgitation or gastroesophageal reflux.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is diagnosed when acid reflux occurs twice weekly.

 

Common symptoms of acid reflux are:

  • Heartburn - A burning sensation in the middle of the chest

  • Regurgitation

  • An unpleasant sour taste in the mouth caused by stomach acid.

  • A cough or hiccups that keep coming up

  • A hoarse voice

  • Bad breath

  • Chest pain

  • Difficulty swallowing

  • Discomfort when lying down or bending over

  • Flatulence and nausea

Symptoms are likely to be worse after eating, lying down, and bending over.

Causes of acid reflux

A common cause of acid reflux disease is an abnormality of the stomach called a hiatal hernia. It occurs when the upper part of the stomach and the LES push over the diaphragm, the muscle that separates the stomach from the chest. Normally, the diaphragm helps keep the acid in the stomach. However, if you have a hiatal hernia, the acid can rise into the esophagus and cause the symptoms of acid reflux disease.

Other common risk factors of acid reflux:

  • Eating large meals or lying down immediately after a meal
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Eating a heavy meal and lying on your back or bending at the waist
  • Snacking just before going to bed
  • Eating certain foods like citrus fruits, tomatoes, chocolate, mint, garlic, onions, spicy or fatty foods
  • Drinking certain drinks such as alcohol, carbonated drinks, coffee, or tea
  • Smoking
  • Being pregnant
  • Taking aspirin, ibuprofen, certain muscle relaxants, or blood pressure medicines

Lifestyle changes that can help treat acid reflux include:

Eating smaller mealsScreen Shot 2022-08-19 at 8.28.41 PM
When your stomach is full, it puts pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which can cause acid to seep back up into your esophagus. One of the most important is to eat smaller meals. This gives your stomach a chance to digest food more slowly and prevents it from becoming overloaded. It's also important to avoid trigger foods, such as coffee, chocolate, and spicy dishes. Instead, focus on eating healthy, balanced meals that include plenty of fruits and vegetables.

Avoiding trigger foodsScreen Shot 2022-08-19 at 8.29.24 PM
One of the best things you can do is to avoid trigger foods. These are different for everyone, but common ones include fatty foods, spicy foods, citrus fruits, and caffeine.

Avoid lying down for 3 hours after eating
 While this may not always be possible, it is important to try to be upright as much as possible in order to keep acid where it belongs - in the stomach. Lying down flat on your back immediately after eating allows gravity to do its job and keep the acids whereScreen Shot 2022-08-19 at 8.31.35 PM they need to be. So, next time you have a big meal, remember to take a walk or at least sit up for a few hours before hitting the hay!

Elevating the head of the bed
This gives your food time to digest and helps to prevent stomach acid from flowing back up into the esophagus. After you finish a meal, resist the urge to lie down and take a nap. Instead, take a walk or do some other activity that will help you stay upright andScreen Shot 2022-08-19 at 8.35.26 PM reduce your risk of Acid Reflux.

There are a variety of over-the-counter (OTC) medications that can help treat acid reflux. Antacids are the most commonly used OTC medications for acid reflux. They work to neutralize stomach acids and provide relief from the symptoms of heartburn. H2 blockers, such as cimetidine (Tagamet) and ranitidine (Zantac), work to decrease the production of stomach acid. Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), such as omeprazole (Prilosec) and lansoprazole (Prevacid), also work to reduce the amount of stomach acid. All of these medications are available without a prescription. If you are experiencing frequent or severe heartburn, you should speak with your doctor to determine the best course of treatment.

 
Leena Mahtani

Leena Mahtani

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