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What Is Acid Reflux?

 

Acid reflux is a fairly common digestive problem. It occurs when stomach content moves back into the esophagus, leading to a burning sensation in the chest. This is why acid reflux is commonly called heartburn. Other names for acid reflux are : Acid regurgitation , Acid indigestion , Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD).

 

Most people experience acid reflux only occasionally. Studies in people with acid reflux symptoms and GERD have identified common markers in our DNA associated with acid reflux.See your doctor if you find yourself using an acid reflux OTC treatment more than twice a week. Your doctor might want to test you for GERD.It is estimated that more than 50% experience acid reflux once a month. However, some people have acid reflux more than twice a week. This chronic form of acid reflux is called Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). GERD is more serious and can lead to serious health problems if not treated. Symptoms of GERD occur more than twice a week and include:

 

  • A burning sensation in the chest
  • Regurgitation
  • Trouble swallowing
  • A feeling of excessive fullness

 

What Causes Acid Reflux?

 

Acid reflux occurs when the muscle at the end of the esophagus (the lower esophageal sphincter, or LES) doesn't close tightly enough. The LES is supposed to open for a very short period of time when you swallow. If it fails to close properly or relaxes too frequently, digestive juices and stomach content can move back up into the esophagus.

 

The exact cause of acid reflux isn't known, but the following can make acid reflux worse:

  • Eating a large meal
  • Stress
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Coffee
  • Alcohol
  • Certain foods, like:
    • Fried foods
    • High-fat foods
    • Spicy foods
  • Citrus
  • Obesity
  • Hiatal hernia (when part of the stomach bulges above the diaphragm into the chest)

 

Is Acid Reflux Genetic?

 

There is abundant evidence showing a link between our genes and acid reflux. Studies in people with acid reflux symptoms and GERD have identified common markers in our DNA associated with acid reflux.

 

Treatments for Acid Reflux

 

GERD is defined as when the symptoms of acid reflux happen more than twice a week. People with GERD will need continuous, long-term treatment. Without treatment, the risk of serious complications is much higher. Serious complications can occur if acid reflux isn't controlled by lifestyle changes or over-the-counter (OTC) drugs.

 

These complications can include:

  • Severe chest pain
  • Narrowing of the esophagus
  • Bleeding in the esophagus,
  • Columnar metaplasia called as Barrett's esophagus
  • Carcinoma esophagus

 

In most cases, lifestyle modifications can help you control occasional bouts of acid reflux. Several OTC medications are also available at your local drugstore to treat occasional symptoms. Lifestyle Changes Making important lifestyle changes can help prevent acid reflux. Suggested lifestyle changes include the following:

 

Avoid food and drinks that you have found make your heartburn worse. Common culprits are:

  • Coffee
  • Chocolate
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Avoid foods that could irritate the already damaged lining of your esophagus, such as:
  • Citrus
  • Tomato juice
  • Hot peppers
  • Lose weight if you are obese.
  • Stop smoking. Tobacco may stimulate the production of stomach acid, and may also relax the lower esophageal sphincter (LES).
  • Don't eat anything at least two hours before bed.
  • Raise the head of your bed or use a foam wedge to elevate your head about six to 10 inches while you sleep.
  • Avoid lying down for two hours after eating.
  • Don't wear tight clothing.
  • Avoid alcoholic beverages.
  • OTC Medications
  • There are many OTC options for minor heartburn. Examples include:
  • Acid Blockers (Antacids)
  • Antacids neutralize the stomach acid. They're usually available as chewable or dissolving tablets.

 

Common brands include the following:

  • H-2 Blockers
  • This class of drugs reduces acid production in the stomach. Examples include:
  • Cimetidine (Tagamet HB)
  • Ranitidine (Zantac)
  • OTC-Strength Proton-Pump Inhibitors (PPIs)
  • PPIs block acid production in the stomach and also heal the esophagus
  • See your doctor if you find yourself using an acid reflux OTC treatment more than twice a week. Your doctor might want to test you for GERD.

 

Can GERD Be Successfully Managed?

 

Most cases of GERD can be successfully managed with medication and lifestyle changes. In some cases, surgery is needed to help strengthen the LES.

 
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