Acid reflux occurs when acid from your stomach travels up to your throat. This causes a burning feeling in your chest which is referred to as heartburn. Acid reflux symptoms include heartburn and a bad taste in your mouth, caused by the stomach acid travelling upwards to your throat and chest. GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) can be diagnosed if you experience acid reflux symptoms twice a week or more.
What is acid reflux?
The most common acid reflux symptoms are a burning sensation in your chest (heartburn) or throat and a bad taste in your mouth. Acid reflux can also cause burping, hiccups and bloating. In some cases, acid reflux can make you feel like you are going to be sick, or you can actually vomit.
Acid reflux is caused by stomach acid travelling up your food pipe. Food and drink is passed down your throat and into the stomach after it has been consumed. After a few hours, the contents of your stomach pass into the intestines. For a reflux-free body, this is a one-way system and any food or drink consumed will stay in your stomach. If you experience acid reflux, it means the acidic stomach content is passing its way back up the stomach and into the lower oesophageal sphincter. Acid reflux means that your lower oesophageal sphincter isn’t doing its job properly.
What causes acid reflux?
There’s often no actual cause as to why this happens other than your lower oesophageal sphincter not doing its job properly, but it can be caused or made worse by certain foods and drinks such as coffee, alcohol, chocolate, tomatoes, fatty or spicy food.
People who are overweight are more likely to suffer from acid reflux as it can mean your body weight is putting too much pressure on the lower oesophageal sphincter. Losing weight should significantly decrease your risk of experiencing acid reflux symptoms.
Acid reflux can also be caused by stress or anxiety. Stress can cause excess production of stomach acid, leading to heartburn and other acid reflux symptoms.
A hiatus hernia is a condition in which some of your stomach slides up into your chest. This can cause acid reflux. Hiatus hernias are very common in people over 50. It’s not known what causes a hiatus hernia but it’s most common in people over 50, pregnant people or if you are overweight.
Other reasons you may experience acid reflux are if you are pregnant, take certain medications or if you smoke.
A lot of people who suffer from acid reflux have a combination of the above factors.
Acid reflux treatment
There are many different options for acid reflux treatment.
If your acid reflux is mild and lasts a few weeks, you can treat this yourself. There are many non-prescription medications available to treat heartburn, a symptom of acid reflux. Gaviscon Advance Oral Suspension is a popular option which is used for the treatment of symptoms of gastro-oesophageal reflux such as acid regurgitation, heartburn and indigestion which may occur following meals or during pregnancy, and for symptoms of excess stomach acid (hyperacidity).
Antacids can be purchased over the counter and work to provide symptom relief by neutralising stomach acid. Antacids are safe to use, but side effects vary depending on which active ingredient they contain. Antacids containing magnesium can cause diarrhoea, whereas antacids which contain aluminium can cause constipation. Setlers Antacid Spearmint Tablets contain calcium carbonate to neutralize excess stomach acid. They are used to relieve the symptoms of acid indigestion, heartburn, wind and nausea.
If you have acid reflux symptoms for more than three weeks, or if you experience acid reflux for more than three days within a week, see your GP. If you suffer from long-term acid reflux or GERD, you may need a prescription treatment. There’s a wide range of prescription acid reflux treatment available, such as Lansoprazole Capsules. This acid reflux treatment is a proton pump inhibitor (PPI), meaning it inhibits excess production of stomach acid, allowing inflamed areas such as gastro-oesophagitis and ulcers to heal. It works to relieve acid reflux symptoms and you see faster results with this medication compared to other options.
When choosing how to treat your acid reflux symptoms, its important to begin by looking at any potential underlying causes. If you suspect that your acid reflux is caused by your diet, try eating smaller meals, eating plenty of fibre and protein and following a low fat diet. Avoid eating any bigger meals within three hours of going to bed as this can worsen acid reflux symptoms.
If you are overweight or obese, there is a higher risk factor for suffering from acid reflux. Losing weight is likely to improve any acid reflux symptoms.
Natural acid reflux treatment
Some people choose to relieve heartburn and other acid reflux symptoms using natural treatments. There are many options available, such as:
- Mixing a teaspoon of bicarbonate with half a glass of water and drinking this every two hours
- Eating freeze-dried myrtle berries
- Taking iberogast, a herbal formulation which contains various herbs to combat acid reflux symptoms
- Practising relaxation and breathing techniques to combat stress or anxiety
GERD or GORD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) affects 20% – 30% of people in Western countries according to a 2013 study into oesophageal diseases. GERD is the most common outpatient diagnosis in gastroenterology and is extremely prevalent within the general public.
If you experience acid reflux symptoms twice a week or more, you may have GERD. You can test to see if you have GERD by contacting your GP who will refer you to have a gastroscopy, which is a procedure in which a thin tube with a camera is passed down your throat.