Acid reflux might sound intense, but it’s a surprisingly common health issue. Approximately 3 in 5 adults suffer from acid reflux symptoms per year, with half of those battling the condition each week. Whilst acid reflux isn’t usually particularly problematic to your general long-term health, the immediate symptoms can be unpleasant, so knowing how best to address it when it occurs can save some hassle and discomfort. The article will help clear up exactly what acid reflux is, what causes it, and how best to treat it so you can go about your day without it having a substantial negative impact on your life.
What’s Acid Reflux?
Acid reflux describes the process of acid from the stomach flowing in the reverse direction, reaching the esophagus. Upon doing this, the lining of this food pipe can become irritated and cause an unpleasant taste, heartburn (a burning sensation in the chest and throat, nothing to do with your heart!) and regurgitation.
If you are unlucky enough to experience acid reflux more than once or twice per week, this is classified more chronically as gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD for short.
What Are The Causes?
We all have a group of muscles at the bottom of our oesophaguses called the lower oesophageal sphincter. Once food passes down your body and into your stomach, these muscles contract and close off the pathway, so that stomach acid and anything else can’t travel back up the tube. When the LES fails to properly close, some stomach contents might re-enter the oesophagus, causing acid reflux.
There are a number of lifestyle and dietary elements that are likely triggering your acid reflux, such as the following:
- Being obese or overweight
- Being a smoker
- Eating certain foods
- Being pregnant
- Being stressed or suffering from anxiety
- Being on a certain medication
- Having what’s known as a hiatus hernia, where your stomach moves up towards your chest.
What Food To Avoid?
Acid reflux affects different people in different ways, and the types of food you eat can play a significant part. Here are some foods to steer clear of:
- Alcohol (red wine can be particularly
- Black pepper
- Onions (when raw)
- Foods containing spice
- Citrus fruits and food products containing these, like juices
- High-fat foods
Regardless of the foods you’re eating, acid reflux can occur off the back of the way in which you’re eating. Sometimes eating too much food or eating your meal too quickly, can result in acid reflux symptoms. If this is a recurring issue, then try to eat your final meal of the day at least 2 hours before heading off to sleep so your food has enough time to work its way down the food pipe and into your stomach, as lying in a horizontal position hinders digestion.
What Are The Symptoms?
Although acid reflux affects different people in different ways, and in numerous levels of severity, the most common symptom is heartburn, an aching sort of pain in the chest or throat. Other symptoms also include:
- Trouble swallowing
- Regurgitating food or liquids
- A lump in your throat feeling
- Producing more saliva
- Feeling nauseous
If you frequently have acid reflux at night, you may experience some more serious symptoms, including:
- Severe coughing
- Sudden onset of asthma or asthma that’s worse than usual
- Difficulty sleeping
What Treatments Should I Use?
Thankfully a variety of medications exist that can help tackle and reduce the chances of acid reflux, which come as either over the counter or prescription.
Treatments that are OTC are effective due to creating what’s known as a raft, a barrier that protects the LES from anything travelling back up into it. This treatment takes effect fairly quickly, but can wear off in a few hours so you may need to reapply throughout the day. The majority of people are typically responsive to this type of treatment, although some may experience side effects, like constipation, diarrhoea or stomach cramps to name a few. Obviously, if you were to take this treatment and experience severely uncomfortable side effects, you should stop your course of the treatment and explore another treatment avenue.
Prescription medication also exists for acid reflux, and presents a better option should you be someone who suffers from GERD or more regularly bouts of acid reflux. They usually come in the form of tablets consumed in the morning once per day, such as omeprazole or pantoprazole. With prescription medication comes the benefits of what’s called proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs), which affect the secretion of stomach acid. The effects of these medications are suitably prolonged, giving lasting relief without needing to take regularly for long stretches of time. The most appropriate strength of the dose available will depend on the severity of your symptoms. In the majority of instances, up to a 2 week short-term use of PPIs is sufficient without the need for longer courses, with more long-term use sometimes resulting in adverse side effects such as tiredness or muscle spasms. According to Pharmica, In a few cases, you may need to consult your doctor before going ahead with this treatment, namely if you are deficient in vitamin B12, you’ve ever had liver disease, you’ve got an upcoming endoscopy or you have allergic reactions to PPIs. Similar to over-the-counter meds, most people have no trouble taking prescription medication when prescribed, but in some instances may react to it in one of the following ways: headache, nausea, diarrhoea, being sick, constipation or stomach pain. Any more serious side effects, like liver problems or pains in the joints with an accompanying skin rash, should be dealt with immediately by a doctor.
In terms of other methods in which to prevent acid reflux, you could try eating food which is higher in levels of fibre, or reducing your intake of table salt, tea and coffee, or fizzy drinks.
For more information on the science behind acid reflux, as well as all the various methods of treating and preventing the symptoms from disrupting your day, visit, the UK’s trusted online pharmacy.