What is acid reflux?
Acid reflux is a health problem that takes place when stomach acid drips off into the esophagus. It is also known by the name Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). The condition can cause heartburn, chest pain, and other symptoms. However, effective acid reflux treatment can help ease your problem.
What are the causes of GERD?
Heartburn takes place when the muscle at the last part of your esophagus, called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), relaxes. Usually, the lower esophageal sphincter remains closed to keep stomach acid in the stomach where it belongs. However, for some people, the stomach valve opens up too often. It does not close tightly enough in some cases.
Other than the weakness or abnormal function of LES, additional causes may also be responsible for GERD. These causes may include the following-
- Sugary and fatty foods
- Eating within 3 hours of bedtime
- Eating large meals
- Drinking alcohol
What are the symptoms of acid reflux?
There are various signs and symptoms of GERD. However, the most common among them are as follows-
It is a burning sensation in the chest that often occurs after eating.
- Chest pain
A sharp and stabbing pain may radiate from the stomach to the chest.
It is the sensation of acid or food coming back up from the stomach into the mouth.
- Sour taste in the mouth
It is caused by regurgitated stomach acids.
If you experience these symptoms, consult your doctor for acid reflux treatment. Timely medical attention can prevent complications.
What increases your risk of indigestion?
Many things can increase your risk of Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD. However, some of the most frequent among them include the following-
- Being overweight or obese
- Eating a diet high in fatty foods
- Eating spicy foods
- Drinking alcohol
- Consuming caffeine
- Having a hiatal hernia
- Taking certain medications, including over-the-counter drugs such as ibuprofen (Advil®)
Is GERD curable?
There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for heartburn. The time needed to cure GERD may vary depending on the underlying cause of the condition. However, in general, it may take several weeks or even months for indigestion to be cured completely.
In some cases, lifestyle changes and over-the-counter medications may be all that is needed to cure heartburn. However, in cases where the condition is caused by a more serious underlying health problem, such as gastritis or pancreatitis, you may need medical treatment.
If you are experiencing symptoms of Gastroesophageal reflux disease, it is significant to see a doctor determine the underlying cause of the condition and begin acid reflux treatment. At the same time, you can do various things to improve your symptoms. They include the following-
- Eating smaller and more frequent meals
- Avoiding foods and drinks that trigger heartburn
- Quitting smoking
- Exercising regularly
- Managing stress
If you are pregnant, it is vital to seek medical care for GERD. An untreated condition can lead to serious health problems, which may affect both the mother and baby.
What medications can help treat indigestion?
There are ample medications accessible in the market. They aim at calming down your digestive system and reducing GERD symptoms. However, you can find medications such as antacids, H2 receptor antagonists, and proton pump inhibitors.
Antacids help with neutralizing stomach pH. They usually contain some kind of sodium bicarbonate or a similar substance. However, they also contain aluminum and other substances that can disrupt the absorption of some medications, such as levothyroxine or warfarin.
- H2 receptor antagonists
H2 receptor antagonists act directly on the parietal cells to block histamine receptors. They suppress stomach acid production. These medications are also known by the name H2 blockers. However, doctors prescribe this type of medication to older adults who cannot use proton pump inhibitors (PPIs).
- Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs)
Proton Pump Inhibitors are also called PPIs. They can help in acid reflux treatment. These drugs work by blocking the hydrogen or potassium-ATPase enzyme system. By inhibiting this enzyme system, they suppress stomach acid secretion and reduce GERD symptoms. In addition, doctors prescribe them to persons who cannot use H2 receptor antagonists. People with severe symptoms of indigestion also use proton pump inhibitors (PPIs).
In addition to antacids, H2 blockers, and PPIs, a few other medications can help treat GERD. However, they are typically only used on a short-term basis. Such medications include-
- Bile Acid Sequestrants
These medications work by binding to bile acids in the intestine. Moreover, they also prevent them from being reabsorbed. It increases the proportion of bile acids in the intestine, which can help to stimulate the gallbladder to contract and release cholecystokinin (CCK). It is a hormone that helps to slow down stomach emptying.
Dicyclomine increases sphincter pressure by antagonizing parasympathetic action on smooth muscle. However, it is generally used only in the short term.
- Motility Agents
These medications help increase the speed at which food moves through the digestive system. It can help reduce the amount of time stomach acids are in contact with the esophagus. Consequently, it ultimately helps in acid reflux treatment.
If you are experiencing indigestion regularly, it is vital to talk to your doctor about the best treatment plan. There are varieties of medications available that can ease the symptoms. However, your doctor can help find the right one for you.
What are the side effects of acid reflux medications?
There are many potential side effects associated with GERD medications. However, some of the most frequent among them include the following-
- Rash or hives
If you experience any of these side effects, be sure to talk to your doctor about them. They may be able to adjust your medication dosage or prescribe a different medication altogether. Additionally, it is significant to find a treatment plan that helps relieve your symptoms and keep you feeling comfortable.
What are the home remedies for GERD?
Several home remedies can help relieve the symptoms of Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). However, some of the effective ones include-
- Elevating the head of your bed
Elevating your bedhead can support your acid reflux treatment. It will help hinder your stomach acids from traveling up into your esophagus. Nevertheless, do not elevate your head more than 6 inches above the mattress when you sleep. It will cause the stomach acids to flow up and into your throat.
- Avoiding acidic and spicy foods
These foods can aggravate the symptoms of Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). In addition, you should also avoid eating 3 hours before bedtime. It will cause your stomach to be full and increase the chances of reflux.
- Drinking plenty of water
This habit may help keep your digestive system functioning properly. Drinking water during or after a meal can dilute your digestive juices. Moreover, it makes it easier for your body to break down food and absorb nutrients.
- Chewing gum
Chewing gum can assist in increasing the production of saliva. It can help to neutralize stomach acids. Moreover, chewing gum with a meal may protect the esophagus lining.
- Taking over-the-counter antacids
These medications can help to neutralize stomach acids. Counteracting the stomach acid can help with acid reflux treatment.
- Eat smaller meals
Eat smaller and more regular meals all over the day. It may assist you in avoiding overloading your stomach at any one time.
- Carry a water bottle
Carry a bottle of water with you when you go outside during hot weather or when you go to be exercising heavily at work or home. It will help keep your body hydrated and reduce the risk of acid reflux.
- Stress-relieving practices
Practicing stress-relieving techniques, such as yoga or meditation, can lend you a hand in getting rid of symptoms like heartburn. Stress can aggravate the symptoms of indigestion. Therefore, learn to get over it.
See a doctor if your symptoms do not improve after trying these home remedies. Your doctor may prescribe you medications.
Many at-home remedies are listed above. However, you should consult with your doctor before using any of them. Some remedies can help with your healing. On the other hand, some of these “home remedies” actually cause your GERD to be worse or can make a nasty case of acid reflux turn into hellfire. Therefore, be sure to talk with your doctor before using any home treatment.
What are the complications of indigestion?
A few complications can arise from GERD. Therefore, taking acid reflux treatment is crucial. Complications due to GERD can include the following-
- Esophageal cancer
Esophageal cancer is the most common complication of acid reflux. It is a type of cancer that starts in the esophagus. The esophagus is the pipe that hooks up your mouth and stomach. In addition, esophageal cancer is more common in men than in women.
- Barrett’s Esophagus
This condition causes a change in the cells lining the esophagus. Most people with Barrett’s Esophagus experience no symptoms. However, some may have heartburn, nausea, or a hoarse voice
If you have chronic acid reflux, it can irritate the larynx and cause inflammation. This condition is known as laryngitis.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can also lead to pneumonia. The stomach acid that comes up into your esophagus when you have heartburn or indigestion is very similar to the stomach acid present when you inhale food into your lungs. Therefore, if you experience frequent reflux, some of this fluid may go down into your lungs. This condition leads to infection. Taking your acid reflux treatment on time is crucially important to prevent further complications.
Some people with asthma find their asthma getting worse when they have indigestion. This happens because the stomach acid can irritate the airways and make it harder to breathe.
- Tooth decay
If you have GERD symptoms, the stomach acid can get on your teeth and cause decay. However, you can prevent it by wearing a night guard while you sleep.
How can you prevent acid reflux?
Acid reflux is a common problem. If you have Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), you may experience the following symptoms-
- Hiccups, hoarse voice, or chronic cough
- Regurgitation of food or a sour liquid (acidic stomach contents coming back up into your throat)
- Chest pain or pressure
- Pain in the upper abdomen
- Discomfort after eating
If you experience any of these symptoms, it is vital to see your doctor. Acid reflux treatment includes lifestyle changes, medications, and surgery. In some cases, you may need to make some changes to your diet as well.
Nevertheless, if you are looking for ways to prevent heartburn, here are some tips-
- Avoid acidic foods and drinks
Acidic foods and drinks can aggravate GERD symptoms. Foods, which contain acid include citrus fruits, tomatoes and tomato products, coffee, tea, alcohol, and spicy foods. In addition to avoiding such foodstuffs, it is best to eat small and frequent meals.
- Do not rest on your bed right after a meal
Wait at least 3 hours after eating before lying down or going to bed if you have GERD symptoms. It ensures that food passes out of your stomach and does not reflux back up into the esophagus. Backing up stomach acid in the food pipe leads to heartburn.
- Wear loose-fitting clothes
Wearing tight clothing can increase pressure on your abdomen and push stomach acid up into your esophagus. For the same reason, do not wear a tight belt around your waist.
- Do not smoke or chew tobacco products
Smoking irritates the lining of your esophagus and could make it more difficult to control your GERD symptoms. Therefore, quitting smoking is an essential component of your acid reflux treatment.
- Manage your stress levels
Stress can aggravate GERD symptoms. For this reason, try to find ways to manage your stress, such as yoga, meditation, or exercise.
If you are experiencing indigestion symptoms, it is vital to see your doctor. Many treatments are available for GERD, including lifestyle changes, medications, and surgery. In some cases, dietary and lifestyle changes can bring effective results. However, for more preventive tips on acid reflux, talk to your doctor.