What is acid reflux?
The site where the food pipe joins the stomach is guarded by a valve (the lower esophageal sphincter). The valve prevents the backflow of the stomach contents into the food pipe. When the lower esophageal sphincter does not close properly when the food enters the stomach, acid reflux occurs. Because the stomach contents are acidic, the backwash then flows back up through the food pipe into the throat and mouth, which gives a strong sour taste.
What are the common signs of acid reflux?
The common symptoms of acid reflux are as follows:
- Heartburn: An uncomfortable sensation in the middle of the chest usually after eating food, this condition may worsen on lying down, which may disturb the person during sleep. It is caused by irritation to the inside of the food pipe because of stomach acid.
- Chest pain
- Sour taste in the mouth
- Dysphagia (difficulty in swallowing)
- Feeling of food caught in the throat
- Weight loss
- Long-term cough
- Sore throat
- Hoarse voice
- Difficulty in breathing
Who is at risk of acid reflux?
Acid reflux can affect anyone. Some risk factors, however, may increase the chances of acid reflux:
- Eating heavy or large meals
- Lying down right after a meal
- Being obese or overweight
- Eating or snacking right before bedtime
- Having certain foods, such as spicy or oily foods, citrus, tomato, mint, garlic, onions, and chocolate
- Consuming certain drinks, such as alcohol, carbonated drinks, coffee, or tea
- Smoking or being frequently exposed to second-hand smoke
- Being pregnant
- Taking medications, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and some muscle relaxants
- Hiatal hernia (a condition in which the upper part of the stomach bulges into the diaphragm—a muscle that separates the stomach from the chest)
How do you get rid of acid reflux?
The treatment of acid reflux includes the following:
- Lifestyle and home remedies:
- Antacids to neutralize stomach acid
- H2 blockers to reduce acid production
- Foaming agents to coat the stomach to prevent reflux
- Proton pump inhibitors to reduce the amount of acid the stomach makes
- Prokinetics to help strengthen the lower esophageal sphincter, empty the stomach faster, and reduce acid reflux
- Surgery: If the medications do not provide lasting relief and the symptoms are severely interfering with everyday activities, your doctor may recommend the following surgery options:
- LINX device placement: The procedure involves surgically placing a ring (LINX device) around the outside of the lower end of the esophagus.
- Fundoplication: The procedure creates an artificial valve using the upper part of the stomach.