How to Manage Acid Reflux
If you’ve experienced acid reflux before, you may be wondering what kinds of lifestyle changes and techniques you can adapt to manage this condition.
Acid reflux can cause intense discomfort during times when you’re simply going about your day. This condition begins with feelings of burning pain in the chest area and affects an estimated 20 to 30% of the U.S. population, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease. Fortunately, there are several OTC and lifestyle changes you can make to minimize instances of acid reflux.
If you suffer from repeated acid reflux (more than twice a week) you may have what’s clinically known as Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. Here are the basics of acid reflux:
What is Acid Reflux?
Acid reflux occurs when acidic contents in the stomach go back up into the esophagus. The presence of the high acidic content creates a burning pain in the lower chest. Normally there is a ring of muscles known as the gastroesophageal sphincter, which acts as a valve to let food into the stomach but not back up into the esophagus. However, if this valve fails, stomach contents may become regurgitated into the esophagus.
Acid reflux is typically brought on by a combination of lifestyle and dietary causes. The primary symptom of acid reflux is the discomfort experienced within the breast, which tends to worsen when lying down. The most common symptoms are:
- Heartburn or Regurgitation
- Nausea or Vomiting
- Frequent Belching
- Stomach Pain
- Bad Breath
- Difficulty When Swallowing
- Dry cough, hoarseness, or chronic sore throat
How to Manage Acid Reflux
While a mild amount of acid reflux is expected for most individuals, repeated acid reflux could indicate an underlying issue such as GERD. Fortunately, there are ways to avoid this condition and minimize symptoms if they do occur. This includes:
Avoiding Certain Foods
Some food and dietary habits as well as lifestyle habits are linked to episodes of acid reflux. These include:
- Spicy foods
- Large fatty or greasy meals
- Caffeinated beverages: soda, coffee, energy drinks, tea
- Black pepper, spices, garlic, raw onions, vinegar or vinegar-based salad dressings.
- Tomatoes or tomato sauce
- Chocolate or peppermint
- Eating late night snacks
- Eating a heavy meal and lying on your back within 3 hours of eating
- Taking NSAID medications (Ibuprofen, Motrin, Naproxen, Aleve)
- Being overweight or obese
Over the Counter Medications
OTC treatments for acid reflux can help to reduce the acidity of the stomach. Typically, these remedies are offered as liquid and tablet formulations called antacids, providing immediate and short-term relief. Some of the most common include Alka-Seltzer, Maalox, Mylanta, Rolaids and Tums.
Smoking raises the risk for acid reflux and GERD by slowing muscle reflexes in the throat, triggering your stomach to make more acid and preventing the lower esophageal sphincter muscle from working well. Overall, it is recommended that individuals seeking to minimize acid reflux should refrain from smoking.
Clinical Treatment for GERD
If you’ve tried at-home remedies for acid reflux and still find yourself suffering from heartburn on a repeated basis, there are clinical treatment options available. This includes options such as H2 blockers and antacids which help decrease acid production. Surgery is also a possible treatment option if no other treatment courses are adequate.
Talk with physicians at your nearby Valleywise Community Health Center and learn more about treatment options for acid reflux. Visit the rest of the Valleywise Health blog to get more information about this condition and others.