What is acid reflux?
The site where the food pipe joins the stomach is guarded by a valve (the lower esophageal sphincter). The valve prevents the backflow of the stomach contents into the food pipe. When the lower esophageal sphincter does not close properly when the food enters the stomach, acid reflux occurs. Because the stomach contents are acidic, the backwash then flows back up through the food pipe into the throat and mouth, which gives a strong sour taste.
GERD needs medical attention, not just to relieve the symptoms, but because it may lead to more serious problems (such as narrowing of the esophagus and difficulty in swallowing) if left untreated.
What are the common signs of acid reflux?
The common symptoms of acid reflux are as follows:
- Heartburn: An uncomfortable sensation in the middle of the chest usually after eating food, this condition may worsen on lying down, which may disturb the person during sleep. It is caused by irritation to the inside of the food pipe because of stomach acid.
- Chest pain
- Sour taste in the mouth
- Dysphagia (difficulty in swallowing)
- Feeling of food caught in the throat
- Weight loss
- Long-term cough
- Sore throat
- Hoarse voice
- Difficulty in breathing
Who is at risk of acid reflux?
Acid reflux can affect anyone. Some risk factors, however, may increase the chances of acid reflux:
- Eating heavy or large meals
- Lying down right after a meal
- Being obese or overweight
- Eating or snacking right before bedtime
- Having certain foods, such as spicy or oily foods, citrus, tomato, mint, garlic, onions, and chocolate
- Consuming certain drinks, such as alcohol, carbonated drinks, coffee, or tea
- Smoking or being frequently exposed to second-hand smoke
- Being pregnant
- Taking medications, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and some muscle relaxants
- Hiatal hernia (a condition in which the upper part of the stomach bulges into the diaphragm—a muscle that separates the stomach from the chest)
How do you get rid of acid reflux?
The treatment of acid reflux includes the following:
- Lifestyle and home remedies:
- Eat small meals
- Eat your food slowly
- Avoid certain foods and beverages, such as spicy and oily foods, citrus, tomato, mint, garlic, chocolate, tea, coffee, carbonated drinks, and alcohol
- Do not lie down right after eating
- Do not snack before bedtime
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Do not smoke
- Antacids to neutralize stomach acid
- H2 blockers to reduce acid production
- Foaming agents to coat the stomach to prevent reflux
- Proton pump inhibitors to reduce the amount of acid the stomach makes
- Prokinetics to help strengthen the lower esophageal sphincter, empty the stomach faster, and reduce acid reflux
- Surgery: If the medications do not provide lasting relief and the symptoms are severely interfering with everyday activities, your doctor may recommend the following surgery options:
- LINX device placement: The procedure involves surgically placing a ring (LINX device) around the outside of the lower end of the esophagus.
- Fundoplication: The procedure creates an artificial valve using the upper part of the stomach.
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Heartburn is a burning sensation experienced from acid reflux (GERD). Symptoms of heartburn include chest pain, burning in the throat, difficulty swallowing, the feeling of food sticking in the throat, and a burning feeling in the chest.
Causes of heartburn include dietary habits, lifestyle habits, and medical causes.
Treatments for heartburn include lifestyle changes, OTC medication,prescription medication, and surgery.
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Heartburn Causes, Symptoms and RemediesHeartburn is a symptom of acid reflux that causes chest pain when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus. Heartburn symptoms may mimic chest pain that occurs during a heart attack. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) may produce other symptoms.
Heartburn vs. Acid Reflux (Differences and Similarities)
Heartburn and acid reflux are not the same thing. Heartburn is actually a symptom of acid reflux. Heartburn gets its name because it feels like a burning sensation around the heart. Another symptom that occurs with heartburn is a bitter or sour taste in the mouth, usually when you eat or lye down. Heartburn affects more than 60 million people in the US at least once a month. Acid reflux, or GERD, occurs when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus, which irritates it. Heartburn is just one symptom of acid reflux. Other symptoms of acid reflux include:
- Nausea after eating
- A feeling of fullness during or after eating
- Abdominal bloating
- Upset stomach
- Reflux laryngitis
- A tightness in the throat
- Problems swallowing
- In some people, vomiting
Causes of acid reflux and heartburn include:
- Being obese
- Slouching (poor posture)
- Medications like calcium channel blockers, theophylline, nitrates, and antihistamines
- Foods and drinks like caffeine, citrus fruits and vegetables, alcohol, and chocolate
- Increase in stomach acid
- Eating a heavy meal
- Eating before bed
The treatment for heartburn and acid reflux is to treat the underlying cause, for example, GERD, with over-the-counter (OTC) medicine, prescription medicine, natural remedies, and lifestyle changes like a eating a healthy, less fatty, spicy diet, not eating big meals, not eating before bed, and getting regular exercise to improve your posture.
Sometimes a heart attack can mimic heartburn and acid reflux because they feel very similar. If you have symptoms of chest pain, tightness in the chest, heartburn, acid reflux, jaw, tooth, or head pain; shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, sweating, discomfort in the upper middle of the abdomen, arm or upper back pain, or the general feeling of being ill, go to the nearest Emergency Department immediately because these are the symptoms of a heart attack.
American College of Gastroenterology. "Acid Reflux." 2017.
familydoctor.org. "Heartburn." Updated: Mar 2014.
National Library of Medicine; PubMed Health. "Heartburn and GERD: Treatment options for GERD." Updated: Nov 18, 2015.
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