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Understanding Acid Reflux: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Acid reflux, also referred to as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), is a common digestive disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. It occurs when stomach acid flows back into the esophagus, causing a range of uncomfortable acid reflux symptoms. In this blog, we will explore the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for acid reflux. A few causes of acid reflux include…

Causes of Acid Reflux

  • Weak Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES)

The LES is a ring of muscle located below the oesophagus that acts as a valve, preventing stomach acid from flowing back up. When the LES becomes weak or relaxes inappropriately, it allows high stomach acidity symptoms to reflux into the oesophagus.

  • Hiatal Hernia

This occurs when part of the stomach pushes through the diaphragm and into the chest. This can disrupt the normal functioning of the LES, leading to acid reflux.

  • Obesity

Excess weight puts pressure on the abdomen, which can cause the LES to weaken, leading to acid reflux symptoms.

  • Certain Foods and Beverages

Certain foods and drinks can trigger or worsen acid reflux. These include spicy foods, citrus fruits, tomatoes, onions, fried or fatty foods, chocolate, caffeine and carbonated beverages.

  • Lifestyle Factors

Smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and certain habits like lying down immediately after eating large meals can contribute to acid reflux symptoms.

Symptoms of Acid Reflux

  • Heartburn

It is characterized by a burning sensation or discomfort in the chest, often after meals or when lying down.

  • Regurgitation

The sensation of acid or food reversing in the throat or mouth is known as regurgitation. It may be accompanied by a bitter or sour taste.

  • Chest Pain

Some individuals may experience chest pain that resembles a heart attack. It is important to seek medical attention to rule out any serious high stomach acidity symptoms or cardiac conditions.

  • Difficulty swallowing

Acid reflux can cause the oesophagus to become narrow, making it difficult or painful to swallow.

  • Chronic Cough and Hoarseness

Acid reflux can irritate the throat, leading to a persistent cough or hoarseness.

Treatment for Acid Reflux

  • Lifestyle Modifications

Making certain lifestyle changes can help manage acid reflux symptoms. These include:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight and engaging in regular physical activity.
  • Avoiding trigger foods that cause acid reflux.
  • Eating smaller, more frequent meals and avoiding late night meals.
  • Elevating the head of the bed to reduce nighttime acid reflux.
  • Medications

Over-the-counter antacids can provide temporary relief by neutralizing stomach acid. Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) and H2 blockers are available by prescription and can help reduce what causes heartburn every day. However, long-term use of these medications should be under medical supervision.

  • Dietary changes

Working with a registered dietitian or nutritionist can help identify trigger foods and develop a personalised diet plan that reduces acid reflux symptoms. This may involve avoiding specific foods, incorporating more fibre-rich foods, and practicing mindful eating.

  • Surgical Interventions

In severe cases or when other treatment options fail, surgical procedures like fundoplication may be considered. These procedures aim to strengthen the LES and prevent acid reflux.

It is important to consult a healthcare professional if you experience persistent acid reflux symptoms to receive an accurate diagnosis and develop an appropriate treatment plan. Untreated acid reflux can lead to complications such as esophagitis, ulcers, and even an increased risk of esophageal cancer.

In conclusion, understanding the causes, recognizing the symptoms, and implementing appropriate lifestyle changes, along with medical interventions, can help manage acid reflux and improve quality of life.