Acid Reflux Symptoms, Diet, Treatment, Disease, What Is Acid Reflux?

What Is Acid Reflux? What Causes Acid Reflux?

Acid reflux is a condition in which stomach acids rise up into the esophagus because the valve that separates the stomach contents from the esophagus is faulty.

The word "reflux" comes from the Medieval Latin word refluxus which comes from the Latin word refluere, meaning "to flow back, to recede".

Acid Reflux Symptoms

Lots of people are intimately familiar with acid reflux symptoms. More than 60 million Americans experience acid reflux at least once a month. Acid reflux disease, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), can produce a variety of symptoms.

What Are the Common Acid Reflux Symptoms?

Heartburn, regurgitation, and dyspepsia are a few of the most common acid reflux symptoms.

Heartburn. Also called acid indigestion, heartburn is a burning pain or discomfort that can move up from your stomach to the middle of your abdomen and chest. The pain can also move into your throat. Despite its name, heartburn doesn't affect your heart.

Regurgitation. Another common symptom of acid reflux is regurgitation -- or the sensation of acid backing up into your throat or mouth. Regurgitation can produce a sour or bitter taste, and you may experience a "wet burp" or even vomit some contents of your stomach.

Dyspepsia. Many people with acid reflux disease also have a syndrome called dyspepsia. Dyspepsia is a general term for stomach discomfort. Symptoms of dyspepsia include:

  • Burping

  • Nausea after eating

  • Stomach fullness or bloating

  • Upper abdominal pain and discomfort

Symptoms of acid reflux may be a sign that stomach acid has inflamed your esophagus. When that happens, stomach acid can damage the lining of your esophagus and cause bleeding.

Although acid reflux is extremely common and rarely serious, don't ignore your acid reflux symptoms. Making a few lifestyle changes and using over-the-counter antacids usually are all you need to control acid reflux symptoms.

When Do Acid Reflux Symptoms Occur?

Acid reflux symptoms most often occur:

  • After eating a heavy meal

  • When bending over or lifting an object

  • When lying down, especially on your back

People who have frequent acid reflux symptoms most often experience them at night. Nighttime GERD also produces the most pain. However, the level of pain does not always indicate the degree of damage to your esophagus.

More than half of all pregnant women experience heartburn during pregnancy. Increased hormones and pressure from a growing fetus can combine to produce this acid reflux symptom. In most cases, heartburn goes away after delivery.

What Makes Acid Reflux Symptoms Worse?

Certain foods can make the symptoms of acid reflux worse. To lessen your symptoms, try avoiding:

  • Citrus fruits

  • Chocolate

  • Caffeinated drinks or alcohol

  • Spicy, fatty, or fried foods

  • Garlic and onions

  • Peppermint

  • Tomatoes

Are There Potential Complications With Acid Reflux Symptoms?

Usually, acid reflux symptoms cause no complications. In a few cases, continued esophageal damage can lead to scarring, which may cause the esophagus to narrow. The narrowing creates strictures and makes it difficult to swallow. You may have dysphagia, a sensation that food is stuck in your esophagus. In some cases, cells in the lining of the esophagus develop an abnormal shape and color in response to the constant acid irritation. This is Barrett's esophagus, which can develop into cancer.

When Should I Call the Doctor With Acid Reflux Symptoms?

Be sure to call your doctor if you don't get lasting relief from medications or if you have heartburn more than two times a week for more than two weeks. Also call the doctor if you have any "alarm" acid reflux symptoms, such as these:

  • Unexpected weight loss

  • Blood in vomit

  • Black, tarry, or maroon-colored stools

  • Difficulty or pain with swallowing

Other acid reflux symptoms that should prompt a call to your doctor include:

  • Asthma-like symptoms, such as wheezing or dry cough

  • Hoarseness, especially in the morning

  • Chronic sore throat

  • Hiccups that don't let up

  • Nausea that lasts for weeks or months

Sometimes, people confuse the symptoms of heart attack with symptoms of acid reflux disease. That's because pain in the chest can feel like heartburn. When in doubt, call your doctor.

Call 911 if you have any of these symptoms of heart attack:

  • Chest pain, pressure, or fullness lasting more than a few minutes or that goes away and comes back

  • Pain or discomfort in your neck, shoulder, or jaw

  • Shortness of breath, with or without chest pain

  • Dizziness, lightheadedness, or nausea

  • Sweating along with chest pain

Diet for Acis Reflux

What Kind of Diet Changes Can Help Acid Reflux?

One thing you can do to reduce your risk for heartburn and acid reflux disease is to eat low-fat, high-protein meals. Also, eat smaller meals more frequently; stop eating before you get full.

It may also help to avoid certain beverages and foods.

Avoid beverages that seem to trigger heartburn or make it worse, such as:

  • Coffee or tea (both regular and decaffeinated)

  • Other beverages that contain caffeine

  • Carbonated beverages

  • Alcohol

Avoid foods that seem to trigger your heartburn or make it worse, such as:

  • Citrus fruits, such as oranges and lemons

  • Tomatoes and products that contain tomatoes, such as tomato sauce and salsa

  • Chocolate

  • Mint or peppermint

  • Fatty or spicy foods, such as chili or curry

  • Onions and garlic

What Other Lifestyle Changes Can Treat Acid Reflux?

In addition to acid reflux diet changes, see which of the following lifestyle changes you can make.

Quit smoking. Smoking may increase your risk for heartburn and acid reflux disease in many ways. For example, it may increase the amount of acid secreted by your stomach and interfere with the function of muscles that help keep acid down.

Reduce reflux while sleeping. These steps will help reduce reflux when you sleep:

  • Put blocks under the head of your bed to raise it at least 4 to 6 inches. This helps keep your stomach's contents down. However, it doesn't work to simply use lots of extra pillows because this position may increase pressure on your abdomen.

  • Stop eating at least two or three hours before lying down.

  • Try sleeping in a chair for daytime naps.

  • Lessen the pressure. Often, extra pressure around your abdomen increases acid reflux. Try these steps:

    • Don't wear tight clothes or tight belts.

    • If you're overweight or obese, take steps to lose weight with exercise and diet changes.

Can Medication Help Heartburn?

Over-the-counter medicine can help neutralize stomach acid. Antacids give quick, short-term relief for many people. Don't overdo it, though, or you may trigger other side effects, such as diarrhea or constipation. Brands that contain both magnesium hydroxide and aluminum hydroxide can help reduce these side effects.

Other medicine helps block the production of acid. Called H2 blockers, these include Axid AR, Pepcid AC, Tagament HB, and Zantac 75. A third type of medicine -- proton pump inhibitors -- can help if you have heartburn often, more than twice a week for 14 days. These include Prevacid 24HR, Prilosec OTC, and Zegerid OTC.

If you find you need to take heartburn medicine for more than two weeks, see your doctor. Also, ask your doctor whether any medication could be triggering your heartburn or other symptoms of acid reflux disease. These are examples of medications that may trigger acid reflux:

  • Aspirin or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, Nuprin)

  • Some muscle relaxants

  • Certain blood pressure drugs

Safe Foods for the Acid Reflux Diet

Food Group

Foods With Little Potential to Cause Heartburn

Fruit

• Apple, fresh
• Apple, dried
• Apple juice
• Banana

Vegetables

• Baked potato
• Broccoli
• Cabbage
• Carrots
• Green beans
• Peas

Meat

• Ground beef, extra-lean
• Steak, London Broil
• Chicken breast, skinless
• Egg whites
• Egg substitute
• Fish, no added fat

Dairy

• Cheese, feta or goat
• Cream cheese, fat-free
• Sour cream, fat-free
• Soy cheese, low-fat

Grains

• Bread, mult-grain or white
• Cereal, bran or oatmeal
• Corn bread
• Graham crakers
• Pretzels
• Rice, brown or white
• Rice cakes

Beverages

• Mineral water

Fats / Oils

• Salad dressing, low-fat

Sweets / Desserts

• Cookie, fat-free
• Jelly beans
• Red licorice
• Potato chips, baked

Interesting Facts About Acid Reflux

Do You Know Why Acid Reflux And Stress Are Not A Good Mix?

Time has become a rare commodity. Many of us are rushing around relentlessly trying to meet our responsibilities to family, friends and ever tighter deadlines at work. This leaves us with very little time for ourselves – to relax and chill out. This can all lead to stress and if we are regularly stressed out, we are going to damage our health. A major concern that many people have in this situation is the relationship between acid reflux and stress. So…..can stress cause acid reflux?

Stress And Acid Reflux

First of all, it is important to make it clear, that stress does not cause acid reflux or GERD. Acid reflux is a term used to describe stomach acid flowing back up (reflux) into your esophagus. The condition is a functional problem relating to a valve located in your esophagus, called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES).

The LES is a circular muscle at the bottom of your esophagus. When working properly the valve opens to allow food to enter the stomach. However, in certain people the LES can fail to close properly and this allows the stomach acid to enter the esophagus.

There are many contributory factors that can increase the symptoms of acid reflux and stress is one of them.

How Stress Increases The Risk Of Acid Reflux

When you are stressed it can affect your body and central nervous system in many ways. It can interfere with your digestive system and if the level of stress is high it can actually shut it down.

When you're under stress your body will begin to transfer blood from your internal organs to the muscles as a coping mechanism to deal with stress. This transfer of blood to the muscles means less blood for your digestion system to carry out its functions.

The lack of blood slows down the digestion process resulting in food not being digested and remaining in the stomach longer than it should. Undigested food is one of the most common factors that leads to acid reflux.

With more food in your stomach the volume level of gastric acid rises. This builds up pressure against the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), forcing it to open and allowing the acid to escape into the esophagus.

When the gastric acid enters the esophagus it can trigger a number of acid reflux and stress symptoms. One of the most common is heartburn, which is a burning sensation that travels up your chest area causing pain. This is a reaction to corrosiveness of the gastric acid irritating the sensitive lining of the esophagus.

In chronic cases of acid reflux the gastric acid can reach up as far as the throat. This can also result in a severe sore throat and bad breath in certain people.

The Way You Cope With Stress Could Be Making Your Acid Reflux Worse

When we become stressed out we can find ourselves unable to cope mentally and emotionally. Some of us may turn to moderately drinking alcohol or eating fatty foods as a way of comforting ourselves. While these actions may provide some degree of comfort they will in the long run make the acid reflux worse.

For example, let's take alcohol. This substance irritates the lining of your stomach and intestinal tract. It also destroys a lot of your friendly bacteria, which are essential for a healthy digestion. Alcohol can also relax the functioning the lower esophageal sphincter making it stay open for longer periods.

Comfort foods in the form of fried foods for example, are hard for your digestive system to digest. Your stomach will need to produce more gastric acid to break it down and this can increase the risk of more acid reflux.

Ironically, the worst thing you can do is eat when you are stressed out because your digestion is not going to work. Therefore, you need to be in a relaxed state when you eat to enable your stomach to digest your food properly.

Acquire the habit of taking time out - no matter how busy you are - to relax yourself when you are eating. This can involve finding a quiet place where you can eat and contemplate or have a meal with people whose company you enjoy.

Acid Reflux And Stress Natural Remedies

You will find literally hundreds of pharmaceutical drugs and medications on relieving acid reflux and chronic heartburn. However many of these proton pump inhibitors and antacids can do more damage than good. These drugs can actually increase your acid reflux because they reduce or inhibit the production of stomach acid.

A lack of acid is a common cause of acid reflux. It can prevent the proper digestion of food and the absorption of essential vitamins and minerals. A lack of acid can affect the functions of the LES because it is acid sensitive. If it detects low levels of acid in the stomach it will relax more.

It is better to try natural relief remedies first to see if they work. A popular treatment is raw apple cider vinegar. This contains ascetic acid, which has a lower acidity than your own stomach acid. This dilutes the gastric acid in your stomach, which helps to rebalance your ph (acidity) levels.

Why Not Stop Your Acid Reflux For Good

Although acid reflux disease as a result of stress can be alleviated by omitting alcohol and fatty foods from your diet as well learning how to relax - they will not cure the condition.

You see – acid reflux is a warning sign that your digestive system is unbalanced. Antacids and over the counter medications provide short term relief from your acid reflux symptoms – they do not address the cause - they just hide it!

An unbalanced digestive system is one that has being overrun by pathogenic bacteria and disease causing microbes. To rebalance it, you need to create the optimal environment for your good bacteria to grow and repopulate your digestive tract.

A good place to start is by eating foods that are high in dietary fiber and prebiotics. The dietary fiber will keep you regular and remove toxic waste from your system fast. The prebiotics play the important role of feeding and strengthening your good bacteria so they can keep the bad bacteria in check and under control.

Foods that you can add to your diet are fruit, raw vegetables and wholegrains. It is better to eat vegetables in their raw state as cooking can diminish the prebiotics and enzymes. These enzymes are important for breaking down food more efficiently. By doing so, your stomach does not have to produce as much acid.

I understand raw vegetables are not to everyone's taste and there are people who won't have access to fresh organic produce all the time. For these reasons, a prebiotic dietary supplement can be very useful to ensure your digestion gets the prebiotics, dietary fiber and enzymes it needs.

Top Treatments for Acid Reflux

When you suffer from chronic heartburn, whether it's caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or some other digestive disorder, it's important to know how to treat the heartburn. Untreated acid reflux may lead to complications, including esophageal cancer. Listed below are the nine most often used treatments for acid reflux. It's important that you discuss any treatment options with your doctor.

1. Lifestyle Changes

One of the first steps doctors advice their patients to take when treating chronic heartburn is lifestyle changes. Heartburn symptoms can often be relieved if sufferers make a few of these lifestyle changes.

2. Diet

Approximately 94 percent of sufferers can link their heartburn symptoms to specific foods. Therefore, it is important that heartburn suffers manage their diets as a way to treat their heartburn. There are foods that are usually pretty safe for heartburn sufferers to eat, that have little risk of causing acid reflux, while other foods should be avoided as they are major heartburn triggers.

3. Histamine Receptor Antagonists - Over-the-counter Remedy

This type of drug works by decreasing the amount of acid the stomach produces, and is used to treat conditions in which the stomach produces too much acid and conditions in which acid comes up into the esophagus and causes heartburn, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease, or (also known as acid reflux disease).

4. Antacids - Over-the-counter Remedy

Antacids work by neutralizing acid in the stomach. Antacids neutralize acid on contact to provide heartburn relief.

5. Proton Pump Inhibitors - Prescription Medications

Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are a group of prescription medications that prevent the release of acid in the stomach and intestines. Doctors prescribe PPIs to treat people with heartburn (acid reflux), ulcers of the stomach or intestine, or excess stomach acid (Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome).

6. Promotility Agents

Promotility agents are used to improve GERD symptoms for patients with slow gastric emptying. They speed digestion, which prevents acid from staying in the stomach too long. They may also be used for patients with GERD when therapy with H2 blockers or PPIs does not work

7. Alternative Treatments

For many chronic acid reflux sufferers, they want an alternate, natural way of treating their acid reflux. These range from folk and homeopathic remedies to healthy diets to lifestyle changes.

8. Fundoplication

The laparoscopic surgery for treatment of GERD, fundoplication, involves constructing a new "valve" between the esophagus and the stomach by wrapping the upper portion of the stomach (the fundus) around the lowest port of the esophagus.

9. Stretta Procedure

The Stretta procedure is an approved technique for acid reflux disease. The Stretta procedure uses radiofrequency energy delivered to the lower esophageal sphincter and gastric cardia (uppermost part of the stomach) which inproves the function of the LES.

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