Acid Reflux: Everything You Need To Know
There is hardly anyone who has not been the victim of acidity. Known as reflux, this condition can be painful and frequent if not taken care of at the first chance. But to solve it, you should first understand how and why you get reflux symptoms. Here is everything you need to know about acid reflux.
What is Acid Reflux?
The stomach produces acids that are necessary for the digestion of food. A ring-like muscle is located at the top of the stomach known as the esophageal sphincter. This muscle opens when food is ingested, and closes immediately after, thus stopping the acid from moving up. However, in some cases, the muscle fails to close immediately. The acid moves up and causes a burning sensation in the chest and throat. This is known as acid reflux.
Another form of reflux, known as acidity, occurs when the stomach produces too much acid. This can cause a burning sensation in the chest, known as heartburn.
Acid Reflux vs GERD
Quite often, acid reflux and GERD are considered the same. While the two are closely related, there are clear medical distinctions between the two.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a more severe version of reflux. In most cases, reflux occurs occasionally or due to a certain lifestyle trigger. It can also be easily treated with lifestyle changes. However, when a person gets reflux often, perhaps twice or more times a week, it can be termed as GERD. GERD is a serious condition that is hard to treat at home. Clinical consultation and medications would be the way to treat GERD.
Causes of Acid Reflux
A number of factors are responsible for causing acid reflux, which are as follow:
- Unhealthy eating habits like skipping meals, eating meals at irregular times, and overeating
- Certain food items can also lead to acidity. These include a high intake of salt, low consumption of fibre, and excessive spicy food. Consumption of alcohol, caffeine, and fast food also contribute to the condition.
- Some medicines are known to have reflux as a side-effect. These include NSAID (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), antibiotics, anti-depressants, and medicines for hypertension.
- Inherent stomach disorders like GERD, peptic ulcers, tumours, etc. can also cause reflux.
- Lifestyle factors like smoking, sleeping disorders, sedentary lifestyle, etc. can also cause reflux.
Symptoms of Acid Reflux
While reflux has two major symptoms, it also has many minor symptoms that could indicate the following conditions:
- Heartburn: a burning or painful sensation in the stomach, chest, or throat. It can last from a few seconds to a few hours.
- Regurgitation: The taste of an acid-like substance in the throat. Alternatively, it can also leave a bitter-sour taste in the mouth.
- Difficulty in swallowing food, or just the sensation that something is stuck in the throat
- Recurring hiccups or burps for a long time
- Constipation and indigestion
- Nausea and restlessness
- Feeling heavy or bloated after meals
Treatment for Acid Reflux
If the condition is severe or you are suffering from GERD, it would be best to seek medical help at once.
The primary medications for acid reflux are antacids. These medicines are aimed at neutralizing the excess acid in the stomach. Most antacids contain magnesium hydroxide and aluminium hydroxide. However, excess use of antacids can cause side-effects like diarrhoea and constipation.
H2 blockers like Pepcid can reduce the production of acid in the stomach. Proton pump inhibitors also perform a similar function.
Prokinetics are substances that help in strengthening the esophageal sphincter and cause faster emptying of the stomach. In such a way, they help in reducing reflux symptoms. Foaming agents are substances that coat the inner lining of the stomach and reduce the burning sensation.
Home Remedies for Acid Reflux
In most moderate cases of acid reflux, taking some steps at home can solve the condition for good.
The esophageal sphincter in the stomach acts as a valve and prevents the stomach acids from going up in the digestive tract. However, when you eat a large meal, the valve finds it more difficult to close, leading to acid reflux. Hence, eat moderate portions of meals to avoid it.
The diaphragm is a muscle that acts as a support for the esophageal sphincter. However, in the case of obese people, the excess fat pushes the diaphragm. This stops it from supporting the esophageal sphincter from closing and preventing the acid from going up. Losing weight would solve this issue.
Limit Your Alcohol
Alcohol is an acidic drink that increases the acidity in the stomach. This increases the chances of getting reflux. Even moderate consumption of alcohol, as well as low-alcoholic drinks like beer and wine, could cause reflux. If you get reflux symptoms often, it is better to stop alcohol consumption.
Chew More Gum
Chewing gum can help in solving reflux in many ways. First, a gum often contains bicarbonate which can be effective in reducing the acidity of the stomach. Chewing a gum also produces saliva which helps in regulating the acidity levels in the stomach. Lastly, chewing more gum can stop you from overeating and even help in reducing weight.
Limit Soda Consumption
Soda water and carbonated drinks are associated with frequent reflux symptoms. They could contribute to increasing the acidity of the stomach. These drinks also weaken the sphincter muscles which makes them more difficult to close. The carbon dioxide in these drinks also causes excessive belching which risks in stomach acids flowing upwards.
Sleep In an Inclined Bed
The position in which you sleep can also help or aggravate reflux symptoms. Sleeping in the wrong position, like on the right side, can hinder the diaphragm and hence the esophageal sphincter. However, sleeping in an inclined bed with the head raised can help in preventing the reflux of acid.
Keep Gap between Dinner and Sleep
Some research indicates that eating a late dinner and/or going to sleep just after dinner can aggravate reflux symptoms. The stomach needs sufficient time to start digesting food. Having dinner at least 3 hours before going to bed can help in reducing the chances of reflux.
Eat Certain Food
Certain food items are known to help in reflux. Coconut water, buttermilk, watermelon juice, lime juice, and boiled cumin water help in reducing the acidity of the stomach. Food items like bananas and yoghurt aid in digestion and reduce chances of acidity. Drinking lukewarm water on an empty stomach, adequate water at regular intervals, and some apple cider vinegar has also been shown to help in reducing the effects of reflux.
Acid reflux can be a painful nuisance that can abrupt your lifestyle frequently. But it is entirely in your hands to get rid of it. With a few changes in lifestyle, you can bid goodbye to acidity forever. Not only acidity but a simple change in your lifestyle can also help you control your high BP.