How to Manage Acid Reflux

How to Manage Acid Reflux

What is Acid Reflux?

Acid reflux occurs when the stomach acid flows back to the esophagus.

At the stomach entrance, we have a circular muscle called the Lower Esophageal Sphincter that joins the esophagus and the stomach. LES tightens the stomach as soon as food passes through.

If LES is weak or doesn’t tighten properly, the contents in the stomach both acidic and non-acidic flow into the esophagus, causing a burning sensation.

Although most people confuse acid reflux, heartburn, and GERD, these three are distinct but closely related.

  • Heartburn is the burning sensation and chest tightness that causes a bitter taste in your throat and mouth. Sometimes heartburn can be mistaken for a heart attack because of severe chest pain.
    Heartburn is common and occurs after eating a large meal, and it is a symptom of acid reflux and GERD, but it’s not a cause.
  • GERD is a chronic acid reflux disease. You are diagnosed with Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease after two or more episodes of heartburn in a week.

Symptoms of GERD include regurgitation of food, chest pain, especially when lying down, difficulty swallowing and coughing.

Causes of Acid Reflux

Although poor diet is a known cause, hiatal hernia has been linked to acid reflux. A hiatal hernia occurs when the upper part of the stomach moves above the diaphragm, and it is characterized by heartburn and dysphagia, among others.

There are other risk factors that can predispose you to acid reflux;

  • Being overweight
  • Eating large and heavy meals
  • Lying down immediately after eating
  • Snacking before bedtime
  • Eating acidic foods like citrus, tomato, garlic, and spicy foods
  • Drinking caffeinated coffee, black tea, alcohol, carbonated drinks
  • Smoking
  • Pregnancy
  • Taking certain medications like blood pressure medication and muscle relaxers

What are the Symptoms to Look Out for?

Common acid reflux symptoms include; heartburn, regurgitation, bloating, burping, dysphagia, nausea, bloody stools and vomiting, hiccups that don’t disappear, and dry cough.

When to See a Doctor

Over time acid reflux can cause inflammation and other conditions. Seek urgent care near you if you start to experience any of the following symptoms.

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Esophageal stricture—the narrowing of the esophagus will cause swallowing problems
  • Dizziness
  • Esophageal ulcers
  • Lightheadedness

How to Manage Acid Reflux

Lifestyle changes combined with medication can help control the symptoms.

  • Antacids

Antacids can neutralize stomach acid. However, they cause constipation and diarrhea if overdosed. It’s best to choose antacids that contain magnesium and aluminum hydroxide, and don’t use more than one type of antacid without doctor’s guidance.

  • Eat small meals

When your stomach is full, the LES muscles may loosen, causing reflux.

  • Pay attention after eating

You should eat food in a relaxed environment. Avoid foods that may irritate the stomach lining. Food like chocolate, peppermint, alcohol, caffeinated beverages, black tea, garlic, tomato products, foods high in added fats, and carbonated beverages increase burping.

  • Don’t lie down immediately after eating

When you are seated, the stomach acid stays in your stomach. So, stay for three hours after eating before going to bed. That means no naps after eating lunch, late dinners, or snacking before bed.

Plus, don’t engage in vigorous exercise after eating, especially if it involves bending over.

  • Use wedge pillows

If you suffer from GERD, sleeping on an inclined position will help relieve the discomfort, and a foam wedge pillows can help.

Don’t create a wedge using your bed pillows as they won’t offer uniform support.

  • Lose weight

Weight affects LES decreasing the pressure and elasticity, which can cause reflux.

  • Pay attention to your medications

Certain medications like postmenopausal estrogen, antidepressants, anti-inflammatory pain relievers can relax the sphincter and irritate the esophagus.

Your doctor may recommend surgery as a last resort when all the above-mentioned strategies and medications don’t work.

Take Action

Mild acid reflux does not require medical attention. Lifestyle change and the use of antacids can help relieve the discomfort. However, visit our doctor at the Crossing Urgent Care if you experience acid reflux two or more times a week or if the medications don’t work.

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