While living in a world where people barely watch what they eat, it’s easy to suffer from diseases and conditions which affect our bodies.

What is acid reflux?

Acid reflux is a common condition which comprises of a burning pain, mainly known as heartburn, in the lower chest area. This takes place when stomach acid flows back up into the food pipe. It could be a very lethal condition if not properly taken care of.

Acid reflux is also known by other common terms such as heartburn, acid indigestion or pyrosis. A more medical term for acid reflux is gastroesophageal reflux. Basically, it happens when some of the acidic stomach contents (food) go back up into the esophagus and try to come out.

What are the causes of acid reflux?

For a condition such as acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux, there may be a number of causes. Some of them include:

  • Hiatal hernia – an abnormal condition of the stomach, where the upper part of the stomach and LES move above the diaphragm which is a muscle which separates your stomach from your chest and helps keep acid in our stomach. But if you suffer from having a hiatal hernia, the acid can move up into your esophagus from the diaphragm and may cause the symptoms experienced during an acid reflux episode.
  • Persistent GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) – GERD is a more severe form of a reflux. Repeated attacks of GERD may be considered fatal.
  • Being overweight or obese is one of the leading causes of acid reflux.
  • Certain foods and drinks such as coffee, tea, alcohol, chocolate, and fatty or spicy foods may cause an episode.
  • Eating large meals or lying down right after a meal.
  • Stress and anxiety may rarely cause an episode of gastroesophageal reflux, but it is also a main cause.
  • Some medicines, such as anti-inflammatory painkillers (like ibuprofen or aspirin) are known to cause episodes of acid reflux.
  • More than recommended intakes of caffeine, alcohol, table salt, chocolate, carbonated drinks, and acidic juices and a diet low in dietary fiber also put you at risk of acid reflux.

Prevention from the above-mentioned causes is necessary to avoid suffering from episodes of acid reflux.

What are the risk factors of acid reflux?

Acid reflux affects people of all ages, not just a specific age group, often for unknown reasons. Sometimes, it may be due to a lifestyle factor, but sometimes it could also be because of causes that cannot be prevented.
Risk factors for acid reflux include smoking, low levels of exercise, snacking close to bedtime, eating a heavy meal and bending over at the waist, pregnancy, medications such as drugs for asthma, calcium-channel blockers, antihistamines, painkillers, sedatives, and antidepressants or eating certain foods such as citrus, tomato, mint, garlic, onions, or spicy or fatty foods.

What are the symptoms of acid reflux?

During an episode of acid reflux, the victim may experience the following conditions or symptoms:

  • Heartburn – an uncomfortable burning sensation that occurs in the esophagus and is felt behind the breastbone area. It tends to get worse if the sufferer is lying down or bending over. It often worsens after eating food and can be experienced for several hours. The pain sometimes moves from the heart to the neck and throat. In some cases, stomach fluid goes to the back of the throat which produces a sour and bitter taste in the mouth, also known as regurgitation.
  • Wheezing
  • A dry, persistent cough
  • Hiccups that keep coming back
  • Bad breath
  • Bloating and feeling sick
  • Throat issues such as a hoarse voice, soreness, or laryngitis
  • Nausea and bloody vomiting
  • Asthma
  • Persistent pneumonia
  • Difficulty or pain when swallowing
  • Dental erosion
  • Chest pain or abdominal pain
  • Bloody or black stools
  • Burping
  • Weight loss for no reason

What are the treatment options available for acid reflux?

There are a number of ways to treat a condition such as acid reflux. Acid reflux treatments include over the counter medicines called antacids such as Alka-Seltzer, Maalox, Mylanta, Rolaids, or Riopan help ease your symptoms, and can be obtained from a pharmacy. These help with heartburn. PPIs, such as omeprazole, rabeprazole, and esomeprazole can also be suggested to help. H2 blockers, such as cimetidine, ranitidine, and famotidine are also recommended.

Acid reflux remedies are what most people turn to when suffering from an episode. These include:

  1. Ginger Tea
    Place a few thin slices of ginger root tea in a mug and steep in hot water for 10 – 20 minutes. Then drink.
  2. Baking Soda
    It helps neutralize acid in your stomach. Just swallow a teaspoon of it when you’re experiencing pain.
  3. Gum
    As you swallow this excess saliva, it helps in diluting and clearing the acid from unwanted areas.
  4. Kimchi
    Fermented foods raise the pH level of your food and typically produce a strong ammoniacal smell. They relieve inflammation in your stomach and actually heal your stomach’s lining.
  5. Mustard
    Consuming a spoonful of mustard during the beginning of acid reflux symptoms can help soothe your heartburn by balancing your pH levels.
  6. No spicy food
    Stay away from hot peppers, hot sauce, horseradish, wasabi paste, red chili pepper flakes, cayenne and chili powder.
  7. Aloe
    Aloe helps soothe the inside of your body and calm your esophagus, avoid irritation, and limit inflammation.
  8. Fruits
    Eating fruits such as bananas and apples which contain natural antacids can help relieve or prevent an onset of acid reflux.
  9. Chamomile Tea
    This is another way to help balance your stomach’s acid levels. If you drink it before sleeping, it provides soothing relief that can help you sleep through the night.

Other lifestyle changes known for preventing and curing acid reflux include improving posture – sitting up straighter, wearing loose clothing, losing weight if overweight or obese, avoiding increased pressure on your abdomen, most likely from tight belts or doing sit-up exercises, stopping smoking, eating smaller, more frequent meals, trying to relax, not eating at least 2 to 3 hours before lying down, reducing intake of alcoholic beverages and asking your doctor if any medication could be triggering your heartburn or other symptoms of acid reflux disease.