Acid Reflux: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention

Heartburn

What is acid reflux and it’s causes?
Acid reflux, commonly known as heartburn is a condition often characterised by a searing feeling in lower chest. It’s happens when stomach acid and other digestive juices flow up our esophagus or food pipe. Normally, our food pipe when functioning normally relaxes and opens up when we swallow food. After gulping down the food, it closes again.

When we suffer from acid reflux, the food pipe doesn’t close the way it should which allows stomach acid and partially digested food to travel back up the food pipe. Our stomach is has a protective lining of special tissue to protect itself from stomach acid which is comprised of hydrochloric acid, which helps us in properly break down the food we eat and also protects us by destroying harmful bacteria and even dissolving solid food or foreign particles which are sometimes eaten inadvertently.

Even though the stomach is well protected against the digestive acids, our esophagus or food pipe has no such protective layering. Our food pipe has small muscles at the end of it called esophageal sphincter, which is kind of a valve and functions by closing and opening when we eat food. Sometimes, this valve malfunctions and causes our undigested food and stomach acid to travel back the food pipe, causing acid reflux.

As to what foods or other bad habits can cause acid, here are some of them for your reference:

1) Eating too sweet and too salty/spicy foods at the same time: Such a practice is quite unhealthy as it kind of confuses our digestive system and causes a chain of processes which leads to too much stomach acid buildup, which can ultimately increase the chances of acid reflux.

2) Taking milk with salty/spicy or other acidic foods: Milk has lactose, a type of sugar found in dairy products. This lactose is broken down and digested differently by our stomach as compared to salty/spicy foods. Taking this combination of foods with milk is a very unhealthy practice that many people are unaware of. Salty/spicy foods are acidic in nature and when eaten alongside milk can cause disruption is stomach acid and cause acid reflux.

3) Lying down after having eaten large meal with drinks: We should not go to sleep right after a heavy diet, especially combined with drinks. This has been a known to cause acid reflux in many people. While on the subject, we should always try avoiding eating or drinking for that matter, while lying down.

4) Smoking: This is often linked to causing acid reflux, as the nicotine and tobacco smoke is acidic. When eating or drinking alcohol, combined with smoking causes disruption of our normal balance of stomach acids and can cause acid reflux.

5) Drinking too much alcohol while eating or after eating: Alcohol or any other drinks in excess should be avoided when eating solid foods. As our stomach treats solid and liquid intake a bit differently, drinking heavily causes disruption of stomach acids and has been linked to cause acid relux.

What are the various symptoms someone experiences when suffering from acid reflux?
Acid reflux can be very uncomfortable for us, causing chest pains and even difficulty in breathing. The symptoms of acid reflux have been know to exacerbate if you lie down in sleeping or head half-upright or resting on a pillow.

Here we are mentioning some of the common symptoms one suffers from having acid relux:

  • Acid flow from the stomach up the food pipe causes people to develop sour, bitter or bad salty taste inside our mouth.
  • Bloating
  • Nausea
  • Hiccups
  • Soreness or hoarseness in throat
  • Coughing
  • Bad breath

What are the different treatment options for acid reflux?
There’s couple of medications available which help to relieve symptoms of bad acid reflux such as:

1) Antacids, which help in reducing the production and secretion of stomach acid temporarily. Antacids can be very effective in dealing with acid reflux symptoms.

2) PPIs or proton pump inhibitors: These are another type of medication one can used to get relief from acid reflux symptoms. These also work on stomach acid by reducing it’s secretion.

3) H2 receptor blockers: These are also effective form of medication which also work on reduction of stomach acids.

Proper consultation with an M.D. should be taken before taking medication to treat acid reflux.

Apart from the medication available through an M.D. and at pharmacies, there are also a couple of home remedies and natural foods/solutions to acid reflux which one can undertake to relieve the symptoms of acid reflux:

1) Bananas, watermelon and other fruits which are alkaline in nature and not acidic: Such fruits counteract the risks of high stomach acid secretion and flow by neutralising the acids with their high alkaline content.

2) Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, celery, kale and even broccoli are highly effective in relieving heartburn symptoms.

3) Ginger: When taken in limited quantity and raw, this is highly effective remedy for acid reflux. It can be taken in small amounts and chewed on with teeth. You can also drink it’s juice if you prefer that.

What are the different preventive measures one can take to avoid acid reflux?
Now everyone’s is aware of the fact that, prevention is always better than cure. So given below are the many preventive measures one can take to avoid suffering from acid reflux in the first place.

1) Avoid too much salty/spicy foods: These foods as mentioned above are known to cause disruption in secretion of stomach acids.

2) Avoid heavy drinks such as alcohol or any other liquids while eating.

3) Don’t lie down after consuming a heavy meal and always remember to eat at least 2-3 hours before your bedtime.

4) Don’t take milk with salty/spicy foods or even with any fruits, as it causes bad reactions, stomach acid disruption which then leads to acid reflux.

5) Quit smoking: Smoking, doesn’t have any long-term good effects on our body. Still people continue to smoke, as they become addicted to it. This unhealthy practice has many adverse effects of many of our body organs and also causes disruption of digestion. If you suffer from this addictive problem, there’s always option to get rid of addiction with nicotine gum. Chewing gum after eating also helps in digestion.

6) Avoid doing exercises after heavy meals: There should be a gap of at least 2 hours after consuming a heavy meal and your exercise routine, ignoring which can very likely cause digestion problems and even acid reflux.

7) Avoid wearing clothes that are too tight or tight belts

8) Eat salty/spicy foods in small amounts

9) Avoid carbonated beverages or soda while eating, as these drinks make your burp which can cause the esophagus valve to malfunction, causing acid reflux.

10) Avoid eating onions if your body is especially sensitive to them, as they have been linked to cause heartburn in many people.

Conclusion:
As the world has become modern and fast, we have developed and even adopted unhealthy eating habits which have come to cause many health problems. The most effective solution to these problems often comes by undoing the root cause of that specific problem.

When it comes to acid reflux, we should be really careful as to not only eat healthy but adopt healthy eating practices. We should avoid foods known to cause acid reflux in the first place. If not controlled and attended to acid reflux can cause GERD or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, which is the chronic problem of having heartburn symptoms over 2-3 weeks. So care should be taken to prevent and treat acid reflux in it’s infancy with healthy eating and lifestyle choices.