Have you ever experienced a burning sensation in your chest after a particularly large meal or after lying down? Chances are you may be experiencing acid reflux. This common disorder occurs when acid from the stomach makes its way up into the esophagus because of an issue with the closing of the esophageal sphincter or LES. Those who suffer regularly from acid reflux may be diagnosed with GERD, gastroesophageal reflux disease.

The great news is there are things you can do to combat occasional bouts of acid reflux. You don’t have to suffer in silence any longer. Innova Primary Care is committed to revolutionizing healthcare by providing our patients with information that allows them to take charge of their health. We want to see you well, mind, body, and soul. Read on for more information about acid reflux, its causes, and ways you can find some relief.

What is acid reflux?

Let’s talk digestion for a moment. When we eat or drink, the items we consume should make their way into the stomach to be broken down into smaller substances readily available for absorption into the body’s bloodstream. Gastric juice within the stomach aids in the process and is made up of hydrochloric acid, enzymes, and various elements that help in the breakdown and absorption process. This process should be kept contained within the stomach; however, sometimes, these substances flow backward and back into the esophagus, causing acid reflux.  

Generally speaking, acid reflux occurs because the esophageal sphincter, a muscle at the bottom of the esophagus that opens, allowing for food to enter into the stomach and then closes, does not close properly, allowing for the backflow of acid to occur. When this backflow happens, you are bound to notice. The flow of acid up into the esophagus can cause heartburn or burning pain in your stomach and, in most cases, is not cause for alarm. When acid reflux persists over time, it may become diagnosed as GERD.

Acid Reflux

What is GERD?

As previously mentioned, chronic acid reflux can lead to a diagnosis of GERD or gastrointestinal reflux disease. In essence, GERD is a more severe form of acid reflux, and symptoms for both can be similar.

Treatment options for both acid reflux and GERD are similar; however, those with severe cases of GERD may need to undergo surgery to fix the esophageal sphincter muscle.

What are the symptoms of acid reflux?

Acid reflux, sometimes called GER (Gastroesophageal reflux), has many symptoms, for example, heartburn due to the acidity in your esophagus. For those of you who have experienced heartburn, you don’t need any description here. But, for those of you who might be wondering if you have or have had heartburn, it feels like a burning sensation in your chest, which can occur after eating or even when lying down.

If you have acid reflux or GERD, you may notice a sour taste in your mouth or even experience regurgitation. There are also those who feel like something is stuck in their throat. Naseua, bloating, and burping are also symptoms of these disorders, as are a dry cough, sore throat, or hoarseness.

In some cases, GERD may cause asthma-like symptoms due to acid making its way into airways. Shortness of breath, coughing, and even wheezing might be a symptom of your GERD and not related to asthma.

What are some causes of acid reflux and GERD?

We know why reflux occurs; however, certain common conditions or behaviors can contribute to developing acid reflux. These include:

Hiatal Hernia: Hiatal hernia occurs when the stomach pushes up into the diaphragm. The stomach pushes up through the hiatus, the small opening within your diaphragm that allows for the esophagus to reach the stomach and can cause acid and food to move back up into the esophagus.

Pregnancy: The hormones associated with pregnancy can cause the esophageal sphincter to loosen, allowing acid and food to flow back into the esophagus. This, coupled with the volume in the abdomen creating pressure on the diaphragm, can lead to acid reflux.

Obesity: Because of the increased volume in the abdomen, the esophageal sphincter may weaken, allowing for backflow of acid and causing acid reflux.

Certain foods: Carbonated beverages, citrus fruits, chocolate, tomatoes, and tomato based products, peppermint, highly palatable fatty foods, and even spicy foods may exacerbate reflux.

Acid Reflux

Lifestyle treatment options for reflux

According to Johns Hopkins, the first line of defense against acid reflux is lifestyle measures. These are options that anyone can do to see if they help alleviate symptoms and prevent acid reflux in the first place.

  • Eat smaller, more frequent meals over time.
  • Avoid highly acidic foods and carbonated beverages.
  • Wait to lay down for at least 2 hours after meals.
  • Elevate your head when sleeping.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Lose weight if you are obese or overweight.

Medicinal treatment options for acid reflux

The great news is there are medications that can assist with reflux—drugs for acid reflux work in one of two ways. The first reduces acid in the stomach, while the other increases motility in the gastrointestinal tract.

Over-the-counter antacids do not address the underlying condition causing acid reflux, but they do help neutralize stomach acid, which can provide relief from some symptoms.

Prokinetic agents such as Reglan and Cisapride help increase motility and assist the esophageal sphincter muscle increase pressure, which helps keep acid in the stomach and prevent backflow.

Histamine blockers help with acid reflux by lowering acid secretion and can benefit acid reflux.

Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are another category of acid-reducing medications and are extremely helpful for most. These drugs include Nexium and Prilosec, to name just a few.

When to see a doctor for your acid reflux

Acid reflux is relatively common, with an estimated twenty percent of the population experiencing symptoms occasionally, according to the National Institutes of Health. However, if you have symptoms lasting for more than a couple of weeks or feel like acid reflux is interrupting your life, it is time to seek medical care. Here at Innova, we want to see you well. If you have persistent acid reflux, we want to get to the root of the issue and find relief for you. Contact our office today.