Do you suffer from acid reflux symptoms? Well you’re not alone. It has been estimated that over 60 million American adults suffer from acid reflux disease at least once a month, and at least 25 million of those suffer from it everyday! Fortunately, there are things you can do to minimize and possibly even eliminate acid reflux symptoms.
What are the symptoms of acid reflux?
Also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), only a doctor can diagnose you for sure. The most common symptoms include heartburn, upset stomach, and regurgitation.
Heartburn: Do you get a burning sensation in your esophagus after eating a large meal, lying down, or maybe you get it even without a specific trigger? Well, heartburn is caused by stomach acid passing up from the stomach into the esophagus. Left untreated, this acid reflux symptom can lead to ulcers, scar tissue, coughing, and permanent cell mutation in the esophagus. Although rare, it can eventually lead to esophageal cancer over time.
As you probably know, this symptom doesn’t actually involve the heart, but they call it “heartburn” since the burning sensation is in the middle of the chest.
Upset Stomach: Also known as dyspepsia, this can refer to one or multiple symptoms that occur within the upper-middle part of the stomach. Symptoms may include bloating, burping, and feeling nauseous after eating.
Regurgitation: Sometimes referred to as a “wet burp” this symptom describes when stomach acid reaches the throat or mouth. Not only is this disgusting, but the acid can also irritate and damage the tissue in these areas. If it reaches the mouth, it can permanently damage the enamel of your teeth.
A person may suffer from only one of the above acid reflux symptoms, or they may suffer from all of them. Whatever the case, these symptoms should not be ignored.
There are a number of things we can control that may worsen acid reflux, however the root cause is usually the malfunctioning of the lower esophageal sphincter – this is the valve between the stomach and the esophagus that is supposed to prevent acid from flowing up. When this valve doesn’t close as it should, acid can makes its way upwards. Usually the only effective remedy is to treat the acid reflux symptoms using medication. That being said, here are some things which have been known to worsen acid reflux that you should speak to your doctor about:
• What you eat and drink: large meals (especially those high in fat), spicy foods, alcohol, citrus fruits, caffeine, carbonated beverages, and chocolate have all been known to worsen the symptoms of acid reflux for some people.
• Laying Down: Some sufferers report relief by not laying down for at least two or three hours after eating a meal. Furthermore, sleeping on an incline – either pillows or by propping up the head of the bed a few inches – has helped some people.
• Health issues: Smoking or being overweight can worsen the symptoms. Medications for blood pressure or muscle relaxants have also been known to intensify the symptoms (Do NOT discontinue use of medications. Ask your doctor for advice). It has also been estimated that 50% of pregnant women suffer from acid reflux at one point or another, however this is often caused by hormonal changes, increased diaphragm pressure, and other things the mother has no control over (after birth the acid reflux symptoms usually go away).
What are the most effective acid reflux treatments?
Fortunately there are a number of treatments available for acid reflux symptoms. Although most are available over-the-counter, you should talk to your doctor to find out which is best for you:
Antacids: These are substances that neutralize stomach acid by helping to balance the pH. Their ingredients consist of base (alkali) ingredients such as sodium bicarbonate, calcium carbonate, and magnesium or aluminum salts. These were the earliest remedy for acid reflux symptoms, but today there are more advanced options. Examples of antacids include Tums, Rolaids, Mylanta, Pepto-Bismol, etc.
H-2 Receptor Blockers: These work by helping to block the production of stomach acid. They accomplish this by blocking histamine2, a chemical which signals the stomach’s parietal cells to produce acid. There are four name brands of H-2 receptor blockers sold in the US: Pepcid, Zantac, Axid, and Tagamet.
Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs): These are the newest treatments available to fight acid reflux symptoms. They work by blocking the enzyme in the stomach’s wall that makes acid. This newest generation of treatment offers two major advantages: they are often effective and are taken less frequently (many are only once-a-day). Some examples of PPIs brands sold in the U.S. include Prilosec, Nexium, Protonix, and Prevacid.