Jun 23, 2022

What You Need to Know if You Suffer From Acid Reflux

It's a safe bet that we will all experience acid reflux sometime in life. It might be after a spicy meal or from overeating. Or from being stressed or eating too close to bedtime. No matter the case, that burning sensation in our chest and throat is bound to happen at some point. 

However, stomach acid persistently flowing back into your esophagus is considered a chronic condition. Acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is one of the most commonly diagnosed digestive disorders in the United States, affecting around 20% of Americans

So, how do you know if you have acid reflux? When should you see your doctor? We put together this guide on signs that you might be suffering from acid reflux. 

What causes acid reflux?

Our stomachs contain hydrochloric acid, which helps break down food and protects against harmful bacteria. The stomach lining protects the stomach from this strong acid. 

The esophagus doesn't have the same protection. The gastroesophageal sphincter, a ring of muscle fibers at the bottom of the esophagus, allows food to enter into our stomach but not back up. However, when it doesn't work how it's supposed to, whatever is in our gut can be regurgitated back into the esophagus, known as acid reflux.

What can cause the esophageal sphincter to fail? There are several things, including:

  • overeating

  • being overweight or obese

  • pregnancy

  • smoking 

  • frequent exposure to secondhand smoke

  • lack of physical activity

  • medications (alpha-blockers, anti-inflammatories, sedatives, nitrates, calcium-channel blockers, antihistamines, painkillers, and antidepressants)

  • certain foods and beverages (caffeine, alcohol, fatty foods, spicy foods, acidic juices, tomato-based sauces, garlic, and onions)

  • hiatal hernia

Symptoms of acid reflux

The two most common signs of acid reflux are:

  • heartburn- a burning sensation in your chest that can run up to your neck and throat. 

  • unpleasant, sour taste in your mouth

Other symptoms that may occur from acid reflux include:

These symptoms may worsen after eating, lying down, and bending over.

How to treat acid reflux

GERD treatment helps manage the pain and heal the esophagus while preventing future heartburn episodes and possible damage from acid reflux

Lifestyle changes

Making some simple adjustments may prevent heartburn from happening. These lifestyle changes include:

Acid reflux medications

If these lifestyle changes aren't relieving your symptoms, your doctor may recommend an over-the-counter (OTC) medication like:

If the OTC medicine doesn't help, your physician will most likely recommend a prescription-strength GERD medication: 

Surgery/ medical procedures

One of the below three medical procedures might be an option if your GERD symptoms aren't manageable through lifestyle changes and medications. 

Final thoughts 

Suffering from acid reflux now and then is normal. But, if you're experiencing acid reflux more than twice a week over several weeks, and symptoms keep returning even after treatment, you may have GERD. 

You should make an appointment to see your healthcare provider if your acid reflux is recurring and if you have to take over-the-counter heartburn medications at least twice a week. Most OTC acid reflux and heartburn medicines are not meant to be taken long-term, so consult your doctor before starting any. 

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