Acid reflux or Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) affects millions of people. It occurs when the acidic contents in your stomach leak into your esophagus. When this happens, it causes pain and aggravates other diseases such as asthma, sinusitis, laryngitis, and even eczema. Nevertheless, effective acid reflux treatment can help manage your condition and prevent complications.
How common is acid reflux in the UK?
There is a good chance you are not alone. Around 25% of Brits who claim to suffer from acid reflux (or heartburn as it is more commonly known) say that their symptoms cause them problems at least once a week. Moreover, if your heartburn is severe, there might be another condition to add to the list of possible causes.
What is heartburn?
Heartburn is a common condition, which occurs when stomach acid leaks up into the esophagus. It is the pipe that takes food from your mouth to your stomach). Chest pain or heartburn is the most common symptom of gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD) and can make you feel like you have a burning sensation in your chest. Moreover, other symptoms of GERD can include difficulty swallowing, vomiting, and a persistent bitter taste in your mouth.
How many people do get heartburn?
According to recent research, around two-thirds of people in the UK experience heartburn at least once a month, with nearly half, experiencing it more than once a week. Heartburn is most common among those aged 35 to 44 years old, and it is twice more likely to affect women than men. In addition, people who are overweight or obese also tend to suffer more often. Look for acid reflux treatment if symptoms trouble you.
Is heartburn always a severe condition?
Most people with heartburn feel better by changing their lifestyle habits like diet, smoking, and drinking too much alcohol. However, in severe cases, it can be associated with more serious problems. It is also possible that when you experience heartburn frequently (more than once a week), it could be a sign of something more health problem. In some cases, the stomach acid can damage the lining of your esophagus, which can cause an ulcer or stricture (a narrowing of the esophagus). Moreover, frequent chest pain is also associated with a rare form of cancer called adenocarcinoma, which occurs in the gland cells of the esophagus.
Why does heartburn occur?
When you eat, especially a heavy meal, your stomach produces acid to help digest food. After your meal is digested, you have less acid in your stomach. It is ordinary for the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) to relax and allow small amounts of acid to flow into the esophagus when it isn’t busy with food. However, if your LES relaxes too much or doesn’t close all the way, stomach acid can seep out, cause pain, and get damaged within 2-3 hours after a meal.
Who is at risk of acid reflux?
Drugs such as calcium channel blockers, relaxants, and steroids can weaken the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) and cause heartburn. Other causes of heartburn may include the following-
- Eating in bulk
Eating large or fatty meals relaxes the Lower Esophagus Sphincter and slows digestion. This delays stomach emptying, allowing more time for the acid to be in contact with the esophagus.
Smoking weakens the stomach valve and irritates the lining of your esophagus. Quitting smoking can assist in acid reflux treatment.
- Inadequate chewing of food
It can also slow digestion and support the stomach acid to remain in contact with the food pipe for more time.
Being overweight puts excess pressure on your abdomen and pushes up the LES. Abdominal fat is also associated with the extra production of stomach acid.
- Alcohol or caffeinated drinks
Drinking alcohol or caffeine calms down the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), causes rapid swallowing, and may result in reflux.
- Conceiving a baby
Pregnancy increases pressure on the abdomen, which relaxes the stomach valve and can cause heartburn for hormonal reasons.
- Using certain medications
Taking certain medications such as painkillers (like aspirin), calcium channel blockers, decongestants, or nitrates loosen the LES.
What are the main acid reflux foods to avoid?
Acid Reflux trigger foods may include-
- Caffeine (coffee, colas, and chocolate)
- Carbonated drinks
- Citrus fruits and juices (orange, grapefruit, and apple)
- Fatty and fried foods (fried chicken and French fries)
- Tomatoes and tomato-based products (ketchup, spaghetti sauce, and pizza)
- Peppermint and spearmint, onions, garlic, and other spicy foods
How can you prevent acid reflux?
The following lifestyle changes can help prevent GERD symptoms can support acid reflux treatment-
- Manage your weight
- Avoid uncomfortable clothing
- Do not lie down for somewhat three hours after a meal
- Avoid taking any meal or snack within two hours of going to bed
- Elevate the head of your bed four inches by propping up the headboard or placing wood blocks under the feet at the foot of your bed
- If you smoke, ask your doctor about programs to help you quit
- Avoid foods and beverages known to promote heartburn
- Eat slowly and chew your food thoroughly
- Avoid eating in bulk
- Do not drink alcohol or caffeine (coffee, colas, and chocolate) unless prescribed by your physician
Is there an acid reflux diet?
Some doctors will recommend a “reflux diet” for people with symptoms of Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This diet can help reduce symptoms of GERD. However, it does not treat the root cause of the problem. If you are overweight, your doctor may suggest weight loss as an effective treatment for severe chest pain.
Some people who suffer from acid reflux claim that certain foods make their heartburn worse, while others say that certain foods seem to make their heartburn better. There is nothing, which can claim about what works for one person will work for another. However, you can keep a diary of the food you eat, the amount you eat, and whether or not your symptoms get worse after eating a particular food.
What medications can help in acid reflux treatment?
Many people who suffer from frequent heartburn end up taking medications for this condition. These medications reduce the symptoms of GERD and acid regurgitation. Not all types of heartburn respond to the same medications. Therefore, you may need to try out a couple of different medicines before finding the right one for your particular case. Many patients end up with prescriptions for two or three medications at once. Here are some of the most common heartburn drugs used today-
These medicines neutralize stomach acid to reduce the amount of reflux you experience. There are many over-the-counter remedies available. However, assure to go through the labels watchfully before buying any drugs. Talk to your doctor about whether or not an antacid is suitable for you. Antacids may cause side effects in some people, including diarrhea, constipation, and nausea.
- H2 Blockers
These medicines prevent histamines from stimulating acid production in the stomach. They are often used when a patient has a condition called Barrett’s Esophagus. If you have this, taking H2 blockers may be necessary even if you do not experience acid reflux. However, take them before meals and at bedtime for maximum effectiveness.
- Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs)
These heartburn drugs are more potent than H2 Blockers and work by completely stopping stomach acid production. PPIs allow the esophagus to rest and reduce inflammation, which can help in acid reflux treatment. These drugs are often used when other heartburn drugs do not work. Since they stop acid at its source, you should not take these medicines on an empty stomach.
The most prescribed medications under the above-discussed drug classes are-
- Pepcid AC
Pepcid AC is an H2 blocker, available over the counter. It does not stop stomach acid production. However, it can help relieve heartburn symptoms. This drug comes in tablets and chewable forms to make taking it very simple.
Pro-Sla is a specially coated tablet used to treat patients who are at risk for developing ulcers. It is a very powerful form of Famotidine, which is an H2 blocker that reduces stomach acid secretion.
Tums is another type of antacid, which helps relieve symptoms of heartburn and counter back excess stomach acid. This drug comes in chewable tablets. Therefore, you can take it as soon as you experience any symptoms.
Zantac is an H2 blocker that relieves heartburn. It comes in regular strength and extra strength liquid. You can get the accurate kind for your requirements. There are also chewable tablets available if you prefer those to take shots of liquid medicine.
Zegerid is a combination medicine that contains both an H2 blocker and a Proton Pump Inhibitor. It reduces stomach acid production while stopping it at the source in patients who have not responded well to other heartburn medications. Zegerid offers an effective acid reflux treatment.
Protonix is another form of PPI used to reduce gastric acid. Although this drug does not stop acid production like other proton pump inhibitors, it does offer the same kind of relief as Zegerid. It halts stomach acid at its source before it gets into the esophagus.
Dexilant is used to treat patients with Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). However, it works differently than most other acid reflux medications. This drug reduces stomach acid by slowing the emptying of your stomach contents after meals. It also increases pressure within the stomach to help food stay there for a longer time, preventing acid from coming back up.
What are the do’s and don’t’s while undergoing GERD treatment?
- Increase fiber level in your diet by eating more beans, whole grains, and vegetables.
- Drink plenty of fluids to help maintain a soft, bulky stool that is easy to pass.
- Eat slowly and chew thoroughly. Put down your fork between bites and take a break for a few minutes before going back to eating.
- Chew until all food is completely masticated, and swallow when the food in your mouth has been liquefied.
- Eat smaller, recurrent meals rather than eating a bulk at once. Avoid overeating and eating late at night when gastric emptying slows down. Eating well before sleeping is another way to reduce symptoms if you have a mealtime problem.
- Swallow a glass of water before going to bed, get up, and eat something if you awaken during the night feeling hungry.
Don’t’s while undergoing acid reflux treatment-
- Don’t sit back for somewhat three hours after a meal. Wait at least one hour before lying down or going to bed after eating a larger than normal meal. You can do some light activity such as reading or writing during this time period.
- Avoid fatty foods, spicy foods, and peppermint. These may lead to GERD symptoms.
- Don’t take any meal or snack within two hours of going to bed.
- Wait three or more hours after eating before lying down if you are overweight or pregnant.
- You should not sleep on your stomach if you are overweight.
- Don’t drink liquids while eating. Instead, either take a full meal break between drinks or don’t drink with meals at all to prevent diluting your stomach acid. Drink fluids 30 minutes before or after meals to reduce symptoms of GERD.
- Don’t eat your first meal of the day within three hours of exercising. Wait a few hours after eating before exercising if you have GERD symptoms.
If heartburn is a problem, avoid eating foods that promote acid reflux, such as chocolate, fried or fatty foods, and spicy foods. Moreover, you can consult with your doctor for more measures, which can help eliminate heartburn and assist in acid reflux treatment in the long run. Keep using your medication on time and implement preventive measures for successful results.