Overview of acid reflux or gastric reflux
Acid reflux is a common condition called heartburn in the lower chest. This happens when acid from the stomach backs up into the esophagus.
If you have acid reflux symptoms more than twice a week, you may have a condition called Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD).
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is diagnosed when acid reflux occurs more than twice a week. Most people experience acid reflux from time to time. GERD is mild acid reflux that occurs at least twice a week or it is a moderate to severe acid reflux that occurs once a week.
Symptoms of gastric reflux
Acid reflux can cause an uncomfortable burning feeling in your chest, which can radiate up toward your neck. This feeling is often known as heartburn.
If you have acid reflux, you might develop a sour or bitter taste at the back of your mouth. It might also cause you to regurgitate food or liquid from your stomach into your mouth.
In some cases, GERD can cause difficulty swallowing. It can sometimes lead to breathing problems, like chronic cough or asthma.
Causes of acid reflux
A common cause of acid reflux disease is a stomach abnormality known as a hyaline hernia. This occurs when the upper abdomen and the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) move above the diaphragm, which separates your abdomen from your chest. In general, the diaphragm helps keep acid in our stomach. If you have a hyaline hernia, acid can enter the oesophagus and cause symptoms of acid reflux disease.
Gastric reflux affects people of all ages, sometimes for unknown reasons. It is often caused by a lifestyle factor, but it can also be caused by factors that cannot always be prevented.
An unavoidable cause is a hyaline (or intermittent) hernia. A hole in the diaphragm allows the upper abdomen to enter the chest cavity, sometimes leading to GERD.
Other risk factors are more easily controlled:
- Smoking (active or passive).
- Less exercise
- Medications including asthma, calcium channel blockers, antihistamines, pain relievers, narcotics, and antidepressants.
- Acid reflux is also caused by the added pressure on internal organs caused by pregnancy.
Diet and Eating Habits Associated With Acid Reflux:
- Excessive intake of table salt
- Low fibre diet
- Eat a great meal
- Lie down for 2 to 3 hours after eating.
- Consumption of chocolate, carbonated drinks and acidic juices
- A recent study suggests that dietary options, such as the use of proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), may be effective in treating acid reflux.
How gastric reflux diagnosed?
If your doctor suspects you might have GERD, they’ll conduct a physical exam and ask about any symptoms you’ve been experiencing.
They might use one or more of the following procedures to confirm a diagnosis or check for complications of GERD:
- Barium swallow: after drinking a barium solution, X-ray imaging is used to examine your upper digestive tract.
- Upper endoscopy: a flexible tube with a tiny camera is threaded into your esophagus to examine it and collect a sample of tissue (biopsy) if needed.
- Esophageal manometry: a flexible tube is threaded into your esophagus to measure the strength of your esophageal muscles.
- Esophageal pH monitoring: a monitor is inserted into your esophagus to learn if and when stomach acid enters it.
Treatment options for acid reflux
Your doctor may recommend that you try lifestyle changes and over-the-counter medications first. If you don’t feel relief within a few weeks, your doctor may recommend medicine or surgery.
Over the counter drugs Options include:
For people who experience heartburn or indigestion infrequently, perhaps in association with occasional food and drink triggers, OTC treatments to reduce the acidity of the stomach contents are available.
These liquid and tablet formulations are called antacids, and there are dozens of brands available, all with similar effectiveness. They may not work for everyone, and any need for regular use should be discussed with a doctor.
Antacids provide rapid but short-term relief by reducing the acidity of the stomach contents.
They contain chemical compounds such as calcium carbonate, sodium bicarbonate, aluminium, and magnesium hydroxide. They can also inhibit nutrient absorption, leading to deficiencies over time.
Lifestyle and home remedies
Lifestyle changes can help reduce the frequency of acid reflux.
- Keep a healthy weight. The extra pounds put pressure on the abdomen, pushing the stomach upward and causing acid reflux into the esophagus.
- Smoking. Smoking reduces the ability of the lower esophageal sphincter to function properly.
- Do not lie down after a meal. Wait at least three hours before going to bed or before going to bed.
- Eat food slowly and chew well. Squeeze the fork after each bite and pick it up again after chewing and swallowing.
- Avoid foods and drinks that trigger reflux. Common triggers include fatty or fried foods, ketchup, alcohol, chocolate, mint, garlic, onion, and caffeine.
- Avoid tight clothing. Clothing that fits snugly at the waist puts pressure on the abdomen and lower esophageal sphincter.
Alternative medicine has not been tried to treat GERD or reverse damage to the esophagus. Some complementary and alternative therapies can provide some relief when combined with your doctor’s care.
Talk to your doctor about which alternative GERD treatments are safe for you. Options can include:
- Herbal. Liquorice and chamomile are sometimes used to relieve GERD. Herbal remedies can cause serious side effects and interfere with medication. Ask your doctor about a safe dose before you start taking any herbal medicine.
- Relaxation therapies. Methods to relieve stress and anxiety can reduce the signs and symptoms of GERD. Ask your doctor about relaxation techniques, such as progressive muscle relaxation or guided imagery.