Information on acid reflux symptoms such as heartburn, indigestion and burning stomach pain.
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- What is Acid Reflux?
- What Causes Acid Reflux?
- Diagnosing Acid Reflux
- Help for Acid Reflux
- More Information on Acid Reflux
What is Acid Reflux?
Acid reflux is a digestive condition where the stomach acids flow back into the esophagus (the gullet or tube which connects the stomach to the throat). It causes a burning sensation as well as pain in the abdomen and chest.
This condition is very common and affects millions of Americans daily. It can become quite serious if left untreated and lead to inflammation of the esophagus, anemia, an ulceration of the esophagus and cancer of the esopahgus.
The symptoms and signs of acid reflux may include or be accompanied by:
- Indigestion (dyspepsia)
- Pain and discomfort in upper abdomen
- Bloating or fullness in stomach
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Dental erosion
What Causes Acid Reflux?
At the end of the esophagus, the lower esophageal sphincter is found and functions as a valve which prevents the stomach acids from travelling upwards.
If this valve is weak, the stomach contains too much food or gastric juices, or there is too much pressure on or in the stomach, acid reflux may occur. Factors that may also contribute to acid reflux include eating large meals, certain foods and beverages such as fatty, spicy foods, coffee, tomatoes, oranges, coffee, milk and alcohol.
Lying down too soon after a meal, bending or lifting heavy objects may also bring about acid reflux. Being overweight, pregnancy, hiatal hernia and constipation can also cause acid reflux as increased pressure on the stomach pushes gastric juices back into the esophagus.
Diagnosing Acid Reflux
The diagnosis of acid reflux is based on the symptoms presented, a thorough physical examination and review of your medical history. Certain diagnostic tests such as barium x-rays, endoscopy, biopsy and PH testing may be performed to confirm the diagnosis.
Help for Acid Reflux
How to best relieve symptoms of acid reflux involves making lifestyle changes such as avoiding certain foods, losing weight, stopping smoking and exercising regularly. A wide variety of over-the-counter medications such as antacids, anti-gas or ant-flatulence drugs, oral suspension and H-2 receptor blockers are available to provide temporary relief.
Avoid the overuse of over-the-counter medications as they may cause side effects such as constipation and diarrhea. For more frequent and severe episodes of acid reflux, your doctor may prescribe medications such as proton pump inhibitors. If lifestyle changes and prescription medications fail to offer improvement, surgery may be recommended.
More Information on Acid Reflux
How to relieve the symptoms of acid reflux:
- Keep a diary to record your symptoms and the foods that you eat and in this way you can monitor which foods are affecting you
- Make certain dietary changes by eliminating foods with a high acidic content such as coffee, alcohol, carbonated soft drinks, fatty and spicy foods, milk, peppermint, tomatoes, and oranges
- Eat small meals at regular intervals throughout the day
- Eat slowly and always sit up when eating
- Maintain a healthy weight – being overweight can worsen symptoms
- Keep your posture upright after eating and avoid lying down – gravity plays a crucial part in keeping acid out of the esophagus
- Exercise regularly by jogging, cycling, stretching and doing aerobics will offer relief from acid reflux and improve overall health
- Avoid eating before bedtime – it is generally suggested that you eat at least 2-3 hours before going to bed
- Elevate your head or feet with pillows, or raise your bed with a bed wedge by at least 4 to 6 inches to reduce acid reflux
- Learn to relax and reduce stress by practicing deep breathing exercises, listening to soothing music or having regular massages
- Avoid smoking as it only worsens acid reflux
- Drink apple cider vinegar to soothe the stomach
- Products such as Acid Free-Flux can temporarily relieve symptoms of heartburn, acid reflux and indigestion.