What is acid reflux?
Acid reflux is a common condition, which occurs when stomach contents rise from your stomach into your esophagus. It is often called heartburn. However, you do not have to have heart problems for acid reflux to affect you. A more critical condition of heartburn is termed Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Nevertheless, you can consult with a doctor for acid reflux treatment if symptoms trouble you.
What are the symptoms of acid reflux?
The most common symptom of GERD is heartburn. It is a burning sensation that starts in your stomach and spreads up to your throat. You might also have a sour taste in your mouth or feel like you have a lump in your throat. Moreover, other symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and chest pain.
What causes GERD?
When acid reflux symptoms are active, it is usually a result of too much stomach acid. Stomach acid has a crucial part in the digestive procedure. It provides the necessary environment for essential enzymes to break down nutrients from food and aid their absorption into the body. However, acid reflux occurs due to the leakage or dripping of stomach acid into the esophagus. It often happens because the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), a valve that separates the stomach and esophagus, does not close properly. Nevertheless, your doctor may identify the exact cause and begin your acid reflux treatment as soon as possible.
What factors can trigger GERD?
Numerous factors can induce the symptoms of acid reflux. However, some of them include-
Hiatal hernia is a health problem in which the upper division of the stomach sticks out through an opening in the diaphragm. The diaphragm is a muscle that detaches the chest and abdominal sections. This condition can cause heartburn by allowing stomach acid to move up into the esophagus.
Cigarette smoke irritates the digestive tract and relaxes the LES. It can cause acid reflux symptoms.
Being overweight makes it more likely that stomach acid will back up into the esophagus. Excess weight around the abdomen puts pressure on the stomach, which forces gastric juices upwards.
Hormonal changes during pregnancy can cause the LES to loosen and allow stomach acid to move up into the esophagus.
Eating a large meal
Eating a large or fatty meal can increase the pressure on the LES and contribute to acid reflux. Therefore, making this change is vital for your acid reflux treatment.
Alcohol can relax the LES and increase the amount of stomach acid.
The carbonation in sparkling water and bubbly drinks like champagne and soda can pressurize the stomach and force acids to escape.
Some medicines can weaken the LES pressure. Such drugs include the following-
- Calcium channel blockers (used for high blood pressure), Nitrates
- Antibiotics such as Cipro and Naxopren
- Ibuprofen aspirin and other medications falling under the category of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
Sometimes acid reflux is caused by a medical condition that makes its presence felt through nausea or vomiting rather than heartburn or other reflux symptoms.
What are the complications of acid reflux?
Some of the complications that can occur because of acid reflux include-
GERD is a long-term condition where stomach contents rise into the esophagus, causing heartburn and other symptoms. GERD may erode your teeth, damage your vocal cords, and cause chest pain.
Nevertheless, taking acid reflux treatment as prescribed by your doctor can help prevent this risk.
- Stomach ulcers
Stomach ulcers are open sores. They can form on the inside of the stomach. Moreover, they can also cause pain in the upper abdomen, bloating, and nausea.
- Pancreas problems
The pancreas is a gland located in the abdomen that produces enzymes to help digest food. Pancreas problems, such as chronic pancreatitis, cystic fibrosis, and cancer, can cause acid reflux.
- Esophageal spasms
Esophageal spasms are uncontrolled, sudden contractions of the muscles in the lower esophagus. They may cause food to move too quickly into the stomach and contribute to heartburn.
- Eosinophilic esophagitis
Eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE) is an allergic condition, which affects the tissues of your food pipe (esophagus). There is no cure for EoE. Nevertheless, some treatments can help relieve symptoms and prevent them from coming back.
Using acid reflux treatment timely is crucially important. An absence of proper treatment can lead to pre-discussed complications.
What are some types of medication for GERD?
Some medications that can treat or prevent acid reflux include-
- Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs)
Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are medications, which can help reduce the production of acid in your stomach. PPIs work by preventing the cells of your stomach lining from producing acid. However, commonly used PPIs are omeprazole or lansoprazole.
- H2 antagonists
H2 antagonists, such as cimetidine and ranitidine, work by blocking histamine receptors in your stomach. Histamine is a chemical released when you feel an ulcer forming in your stomach lining, which causes acid production to increase.
Antacids are alkaline substances that neutralize acidity in the stomach. They are commonly used to treat acid reflux symptoms. Moreover, antacids come in tablet, liquid, or effervescent form and include brands such as Mylanta, Rennie, and Tums.
- Acid suppressants
Acid suppressants such as famotidine reduce the amount of acid your stomach produces. They work by decreasing the amount of histamine produced by your body and support your acid reflux treatment.
- Bile reflux medications
Bile reflux medications such as ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) can treat bile reflux. This is when bile, a digestive juice made in the liver, flows back up into the food pipe (esophagus).
What surgical treatment options are available for GERD?
If you are considering surgery to treat acid reflux, there are a few different procedures. You can sit with your doctor and decide which is the most suitable for you. Nevertheless, the common surgical methods are-
- Nissen fundoplication
In this procedure, the surgeon wraps the upper part of the stomach (fundus) around the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). It helps keep LES closed and reduces the chances of heartburn. This process can also be carried out using laparoscopy. It is an operation conducted using a small camera placed in the abdomen.
Gastroplasty is a type of acid reflux treatment. It involves shrinking or removing part of the stomach to reduce the amount of food you eat. This process declines the quantity of acid produced by your stomach.
Pyloroplasty deals with expanding the gap between the stomach and small intestine. It assists the food to bypass your digestive system more easily. However, this can be performed using several surgical techniques, including gastric bypass surgery (Roux-en-Y) and Billroth II Gastrectomy.
When is surgery appropriate for acid reflux?
Surgery for GERD may be an option in some cases. It includes if-
- You have a hiatal hernia
- Your esophagus is severely damaged by the acid
- There are other health problems caused by long-term acid reflux
- Your doctor thinks that medication is not helping to control your symptoms
- You have trouble swallowing (dysphagia) because of acid reflux
- You are pregnant and have severe heartburn
What are the risks of surgical procedures?
As with any surgery, some potential complications may occur. Here, the dangers may include the following-
- Anesthesia risks
- Damage to organs
- Hernia recurrence
What are the dietary tips for acid reflux treatment?
You can follow a few dietary tips to help with GERD treatment. They are-
- Have smaller portions of food repeatedly throughout the day as a substitute for three bulky meals.
- Avoid eating spicy or fatty foods and drinking caffeine and alcohol.
- Eat slowly and chew food thoroughly.
What is the best food for acid reflux?
Some of the healthiest foods can cause problems with GERD. These include spicy foods, fatty foods, caffeine, and alcohol. Foods high in fat or grease may be more difficult to digest. Moreover, acidic fruits such as oranges and pineapples may also contribute to heartburn.
Other foodstuffs that can make acid reflux include-
- High-fat meals like steak or fried chicken
What are the effective home remedies for heartburn?
Many home remedies can help with acid reflux treatment. However, some of the most effective remedies, include-
- Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar neutralizes stomach acids. Moreover, it can help to relieve symptoms of acid reflux. You can add 1-2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to a glass of water and drink before meals.
Ginger is a natural anti-inflammatory product. It can help to soothe the stomach. You can add 1-2 teaspoons of fresh ginger to tea or water and drink before meals.
Probiotics help to restore balance in the gut. Moreover, they can help to relieve symptoms of acid reflux. You can use a probiotic supplement every day.
- Aloe vera juice
Aloe vera juice can soothe and repair the digestive tract while reducing inflammation. You can drink 1-2 tablespoons of aloe vera juice before meals. However, do not exceed 8 ounces per day.
- Raw milk
Raw milk contains stomach enzymes, which help to neutralize stomach acids. Drinking 1-2 cups with each meal can help with acid reflux treatment.
- Tart cherry juice
Tart cherries help calm the stomach. Moreover, they are also anti-inflammatory. You can drink 8 ounces of tart cherry juice twice per day.
- Marshmallow root
Marshmallow root helps soothe and protect the digestive tract. You can drink 1-2 teaspoons of marshmallow root in water before bed.
There are many home remedies for heartburn. However, if you are struggling with the condition, try a few of these remedies and see which works best for you. Have a discussion with your doctor if you have any queries or concerns.
What are dietary changes for acid reflux treatment?
The cause or causes of acid reflux are diverse. Therefore, dietary changes can help treat the condition. There are some changes that most people find helpful. Here they are-
- Stop eating all foods except for drinking water (and other clear liquids) and tea (without milk or cream) Three hours before bedtime.
- Avoid eating fatty foods, spicy foods, caffeine, and alcohol.
- Have small portions of food more often throughout the day as an alternative to three big meals.
- Make an effort to eat little by little and chew up your food well.
By making some or all of these dietary changes, you may find that your condition improves or goes away altogether.
How can you prevent acid reflux?
From the moment you begin to digest your food, it travels through a tube called the esophagus into your stomach. However, when you have acid reflux, this process goes awry, and some of your stomach’s contents travel backward up into your esophagus. It causes heartburn.
Some of the helpful steps to prevent GERD are-
- Elevate the head of your bed six to eight inches by adding wood blocks under the bedposts at the head of your bed. It allows gravity to help keep acid in your stomach where it belongs instead of letting it flow back into the esophagus.
- Relax for two hours before you go to sleep at night.
- Avoid wearing tight-fitting clothing or clothing that has metal buttons or zippers. They can irritate your stomach and may aggravate acid reflux symptoms.
- Quit smoking, or if you cannot quit smoking, cut down on the number of cigarettes you smoke each day to support your acid reflux treatment.
- Eat smaller meals more often during the day instead of three large meals. It will help reduce pressure on your stomach.
- Stay away from drinking alcohol and caffeine. They can worsen acid reflux symptoms.
- Drink plenty of fluids, especially water, throughout the day to help flush out the acid that may be irritating your esophagus.
- If you are overweight, try to lose weight because being overweight puts added pressure on your stomach. It can aggravate GERD symptoms. Therefore, manage your weight to support your acid reflux treatment.
- If you are pregnant, consult with your doctor about how to treat acid reflux because it is a common problem during pregnancy.
These are some preventive measures, which can help put off the risk of GERD. They can sometimes reduce the severity of your symptoms and prevent the worsening of your condition.