Acid reflux is a condition that affects people worldwide. It is unpleasant and uncomfortable. Let’s look at the symptoms of this condition and the treatment involved.
Acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease, is a painful and uncomfortable condition that affects the digestive system. The condition occurs when the ring of muscle called the lower oesophageal sphincter opens and closes as food comes through into the stomach. When this muscle does not close properly or opens too many times, the acid from the stomach can bubble up into the oesophagus.
Acid reflux can be caused by:
- Eating late at night, eating large meals or eating before bedtime.
- Other medical conditions such as pregnancy, hiatal hernia, diabetes and rapid weight gain.
- Unhealthy lifestyle which includes use the of alcohol and cigarettes, obesity and poor posture (slouching).
- Medications such as calcium channel blockers, nitrates and antihistamines.
- Diet – eating fatty and fried foods, chocolate, garlic, onions, caffeinated drinks, spicy food, acidic food such as citrus fruit and tomatoes.
There are certain warning signs that you should look out for with this condition. Let’s look at these signs below:
- The first sign would be heartburn. Heartburn or a burning sensation or pain in the chest is one of the first noticeable signs of acid reflux. When heartburn is paired with a few of the other symptoms then it could be acid reflux. The chest pain can indicate that the stomach acid is going into the oesophagus. However, when chest pain is involved it is always important to seek medical advice.
- Bloating can also be caused by acid reflux. Bloating is caused by excess gas in the stomach which causes an uncomfortable pressure in the abdomen.
- Burping can also be an early warning sign of acid reflux. The acid in the stomach and the way that it rises into the oesophagus can be the cause of this. Burping is a way of relieving the pressure and gas that the rise in acid causes.
- Acid reflux can cause severe cramping and straining which results in blood in the faeces. When there is any kind of bleeding involved in the intestines, black-coloured stool can occur.
- Dysphagia is a condition whereby the person has difficulty swallowing. Acid reflux can cause scarring which means that there can be swelling in the lower oesophagus. The oesophagus will become narrower and this makes it difficult to swallow food. Cut the food into smaller pieces and chew thoroughly to try and avoid pain.
- Nausea is a common symptom of acid reflux and it usually occurs straight after a large meal
- Weight-loss can occur due to acid reflux as it causes a lot of digestive problems including cramping as mentioned above. As a result, many people struggle to eat large or adequate meals, others are too scared to eat as they do not want to incur any of the symptoms mentioned above and thus skip meals or eat very small portions.
- If you experience a sore throat after eating, acid reflux might be causing this as the throat becomes inflamed.
- When the stomach acid rises into the oesophagus then it is possible to regurgitate the bitter acid. This usually occurs when sleeping or bending over. Use mouth wash regularly to avoid the lingering taste in your mouth.
- It is also possible to incur pain when lying down as all the acid can drain into the oesophagus causing pain and heartburn.
- Wheezing and a persistent dry cough mayalso occur.
It is important to note that although each of the above symptoms can be linked to acid reflux, it could also be caused by something else. Thus, it is necessary for you to seek medical advice from your doctor.
If you notice that you have many of these symptoms, please see your doctor, he or she will be able to diagnose whether you have acid reflux by listening and observing the various signs.
Treatments for acid reflux can include:
- A diet and lifestyle change first.
- These diet and lifestyle changes include the following:
- Don’t lie down straight after eating.
- Don’t eat within 3 hours of bedtime.
- Avoid spicy food, chocolate and acidic foods.
- Elevate the head of your bed by 6 inches with blocks as gravity helps prevent reflux.
- Eat smaller meals more frequently throughout the day.
- Lose excess weight, as people of healthy weight are less likely to get acid reflux.
- Stop smoking, as smoking weakens the oesophageal sphincter and increases reflux.
- Maintain good posture as this helps the food move through the stomach.
- Over the counter antacids which neutralize stomach acid and can provide quick relief. However, these medications will not heal an inflamed oesophagus which has been damaged by stomach acid. Overuse of these antacids can also cause some side effects such as diarrhoea or kidney problems.
- The doctor can also prescribe medication to reduce acid production. These are known as H2-receptor blockers. These medications do not provide relief as quickly as the antacids, however the relief they do provide might be longer lasting.
Most of the time acid reflux can be treated with medications as well as changes in lifestyle and diet. However, there are cases where the doctor can recommend surgery and other procedures.
Acid reflux might be uncomfortable; however, it is treatable. Please do not be scared to go to the doctor if you have any of the above symptoms as he or she will be able to help you and provide you with the necessary treatment so that you can live a longer and healthier life!