What is Acid Reflux?
Also known as heartburn, acid reflux is a super common condition that most people in the world have dealt with a few times in their lives. The American College of Gastroenterology has stated that 60 million Americans experience heartburn at least once a month, and 15 million experience it daily.
Acid reflux is known for creating a burning pain in a person’s lower chest area, and it’s mostly seen after you eat. It can affect people no matter their age, gender, and race, and it’s the most common gut complaint seen by hospitals in the U.S., according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
What Causes Acid Reflux?
There are a few different answers to this question. Most commonly, acid reflux is caused when some of the acidic contents in the stomach go back up into the esophagus. A ring of muscle known as the gastroesophageal sphincter will normally act as the valve that allows food traveling through the esophagus into the stomach before it closes. However, sometimes this valve fails or doesn’t close fast enough, so the stomach contents are sent back into the esophagus, causing heartburn.
There are also a few other factors that can lead to heartburn that can be controlled and adjusted by the sufferer. Other factors like obesity, smoking, diet, pregnancy, low levels of physical activity, and some medications can lead to acid reflux.
How Can Acid Reflux be Treated?
The easiest way to treat acid reflux is with some simple over-the-counter treatments such as PPIs, H2 blockers, and antacids. Antacids are the most common and easiest to obtain, but if you think you need something stronger, then ask your doctor for advice on what medicine would be right for you.
PPIs and H2 blockers both decrease the production of acid, which can then reduce the potential damage and discomfort caused by acid reflux. However, both PPIs and H2 blockers are prescription drugs and not always appropriate for everyone. If you’re unsure which medication would be better for you, then just stick with antacids until you can see your doctor for some guidance.
What Are the Symptoms?
The most noticeable and common symptom of acid reflux is heartburn, that uncomfortable burning sensation that occurs in the esophagus. However, there are actually a lot of different symptoms aside from heartburn.
Other symptoms include: bloating, burping, dysphagia (the sensation of food being stuck in your throat), nausea, hiccups, and regurgitation (a sour or bitter-tasting acid that coats your throat and the back of your mouth). Of course, everyone’s symptoms are slightly different, and there’s no guarantee that you’ll experience these exact symptoms. Hence, it’s always good to check with a doctor if you’re not sure.
What is Chronic Acid Reflux?
Chronic acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (or GERD), is when acid-containing contents in your stomach persistently leak back up into your esophagus. GERD is essentially just like regular acid reflux, but it happens more often and usually more serious. Chronic acid reflux is usually characterized as having acid reflux/heartburn more than twice a week over a period of several weeks, even despite the use of medications and antacids.
Due to the constant battering of your esophagus with stomach acid, the tissue of your esophagus can begin to become damaged and worn down. While chronic acid reflux definitely isn’t life-threatening, the chronic inflammation of the esophagus could eventually become more serious. If you think you have GERD, it would be beneficial to talk with your doctor about possible medications or possible surgery to ease your symptoms.
What’s Different Between Chronic and Regular Acid Reflux?
Chronic acid reflux actually has a lot of the same causes, symptoms, and treatments as regular acid reflux. However, people who are over 40, pregnant, obese/overweight, smoke often or have asthma are more likely to experience chronic acid reflux.
The list of symptoms for GERD also grows just a bit to encompass vomiting, sore throat, and hoarseness in addition to all of the symptoms of regular acid reflux. GERD can lead to serious health problems such as esophagitis (which can cause ulcers in the esophagus) and even possible esophageal cancer. If you talk with your doctor and closely manage and maintain your symptoms of GERD, then you should be able to avoid the worst possible problems.
How Can a Healthy Lifestyle Help?
Living a healthy lifestyle can make all the difference in the world, not just for acid reflux but with other illnesses and ailments as well. Living a healthy and active lifestyle will definitely make your life easier in regards to acid reflux, and there are several ways options that should help you.
Improving your posture, losing weight, quitting smoking, and avoiding putting pressure on your abdomen can all do wonders for preventing acid reflux. In addition to that, you can adjust your diet to lessen caffeine and alcohol intake, lessen sodium intake, and eat more foods with high dietary fiber.