If you’ve ever experienced that burning sensation in your chest after eating a big meal, you know what it feels like to have acid reflux. While the occasional bout of acid reflux is no big deal, chronic acid reflux can lead to more severe health problems. In this post, we’ll look at the causes of acid reflux, its symptoms, and some of the best ways to treat it.
What is acid reflux?
Acid reflux is when stomach acid flows back up into the esophagus, causing heartburn and other unpleasant symptoms. It is relatively common, affecting about one in five adults. Acid reflux can be triggered by certain foods and drinks, such as spicy or fatty foods, citrus fruits, tomatoes, caffeine, alcohol, and chocolate. It can also be caused by pregnancy, obesity, smoking, and certain medical conditions.
Fortunately, there are several things you can do to help ease the symptoms of acid reflux. These include avoiding trigger foods, eating smaller meals more frequently, and elevating your head. At the same time, you sleep and avoid tight-fitting clothing. If these measures don’t alleviate your symptoms, you may need to consult a Gastroenterology specialist for additional treatment options.
Acid reflux is caused by a variety of factors. One of the most common is a structural problem with the valve that separates the stomach from the esophagus. This valve, called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), typically opens to allow food and liquids to pass from the esophagus into the stomach. It closes to prevent stomach contents from flowing back up into the esophagus. If the LES is dysfunctional, it may not close properly, allowing stomach acid to flow back into the esophagus. This can cause heartburn and other symptoms.
Other potential causes of acid reflux include:
This condition occurs when the upper part of the stomach protrudes through the opening in the diaphragm. This can weaken the LES and allow stomach acid to flow back into the esophagus.
The increased levels of hormones during pregnancy can relax the LES and cause acid reflux.
Excess weight can put pressure on the LES and cause it to open.
Cigarette smoke can weaken the LES and irritate the esophagus lining, which can lead to acid reflux.
Certain medical conditions:
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), diabetes, and hiatal hernia can all contribute to acid reflux.
The most common symptom of acid reflux is heartburn, which is a burning sensation in the chest. Other symptoms include:
- Regurgitation. This occurs when stomach acid flows back up into the throat.
- Dyspepsia. This is a general term for abdominal discomfort or pain.
- Belching. This occurs when gas from the stomach is expelled through the mouth.
- Bloating. This occurs when the stomach feels full and bloated.
- Nausea. This is a feeling of nausea or sickness in the stomach.
There are several things you can do to ease the symptoms of acid reflux. These include:
Avoiding trigger foods and drinks
Treatment for acid reflux typically involves avoiding trigger foods and drinks. Common trigger foods and beverages include citrus fruits, tomatoes, chocolate, fatty foods, caffeine, and alcohol. Milk and mint may also trigger acid reflux in some people.
Eating smaller meals more frequently.
One standard treatment for acid reflux is eating smaller meals. This can be helpful because it reduces the amount of stomach acid produced. It also means less food in the stomach, so the acid has less to work on. Another benefit of eating smaller meals is that it can help keep the weight down. This is important because being overweight can put pressure on the stomach, making acid reflux worse. Eating small meals more often can also help keep the body fuller for longer and prevent hunger pangs.
Elevating your head while you sleep
If you suffer from acid reflux, you may find relief by elevating your head while you sleep. This helps to keep stomach acid from flowing back up into the esophagus. There are several ways to promote your head while you sleep. One option is to use extra pillows to prop up your head and shoulders. Another option is to raise the head of your bed by 6-9 inches. You can do this by placing blocks under the legs of your bed frame or by using an adjustable bed frame.
If these measures don’t alleviate your symptoms, you may need to consult a doctor for additional treatment options. Acid reflux can often be managed with lifestyle changes and over-the-counter medications. In some cases, surgery may be necessary.
The bottom line
Acid reflux is a common condition that can cause symptoms such as heartburn, regurgitation, and belching. Treatment typically involves lifestyle changes and over-the-counter medications. If these measures don’t work, surgery may be necessary. If you’re experiencing any symptoms of acid reflux, it’s essential to see a doctor to rule out any other potential health problems.