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Acid Reflux

Overview and Facts

Acid reflux is most often recognized in adults as frequent heartburn and a burning inside of the throat—it feels as if you cannot swallow your food or fluid. Stomach acid comes back up the esophagus and burns the esophagus and throat; it is extremely uncomfortable, as well as having other effects on the health of its sufferer. Acid reflux is also know as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, or GERD, and is more serious than one or two episodes of heartburn from eating something different. GERD symptoms are much like those of acid reflux, but they tend to happen chronically and more severely. If you have experienced heartburn more than a couple times a week, if it has woken you up, or if your heartburn pattern is changing significantly, you may be developing GERD. Children as young as a few months old can also develop GERD, which usually manifests as intense and chronic spitting up, and pain in the esophagus after eating.

Signs and Symptoms

In most adults, the both GERD and acid reflux manifest as regular indigestion and heartburn. There is pain in the chest, where the stomach acid has splashed back into the esophagus. Another common symptom, especially in those who are obese, pregnant, and younger is regurgitation. This feels like your stomach acid is backing up into your throat or mouth. It still burns, and it makes you feel as if you wanted to vomit. Other stomach discomfort symptoms could also be a sign of acid reflux. Heavy burping, nausea after eating, bloating, and stomach pain can all be signs of GERD. For those who don’t show these symptoms, GERD symptoms and acid reflux symptoms are harder to spot. They, and children like them, may instead have a dry cough, a hard time swallowing, and asthma-like symptoms.

Causes and Diagnosis

The causes of acid reflux in different people are unclear. No one knows why one person suffers from it and another doesn’t. But how it happens in the body is pretty well explained. Normally the esophagus and diaphragm all work together to keep the food, fluids, and digestive juices in the stomach and out of the chest and throat. But when the lower esophageal sphincter opens spontaneously, or if the upper part of the stomach moves above the diaphragm (as in a hiatal hernia), the juices are free to go where they please. That is when the acidic taste or burning can be felt.
Although there are no exact causes for acid reflux, acid reflux symptoms do appear stronger in people who are obese, pregnant, and smokers. They also are much more apparent for many after eating particular foods, including: chocolate, caffeine, alcohol, fried foods, garlic, onions, spicy foods, citrus, and more.

Tests and Treatments

It is hard to diagnose acid reflux or GERD, so the diagnosis usually is based on your eating and heartburn patterns, and your need for over-the-counter medications. If your doctor believes you may have GERD you will be referred to a gastroenterologist for acid reflux treatment. Your treatment may cover anything from lifestyle changes to medications or surgery.
Medications usually are prescribed in a trial-and-error sort of way, as every person’s acid reflux treatment plan is very different. You many even be prescribed several different medications to work together at the same time. Although it is tempting to simply choose your own medications, using a carefully prescribed medication regimen will help manage symptoms so you can enjoy your foods again.

Tips and Home Remedies

The best way to handle your acid reflux is simply to avoid the foods that typically provoke it. You can change your diet or just avoid what you have noticed sets off your personal acid reflux. There are other important lifestyle changes that can also make a huge difference in your comfort level in handling your acid reflux. Smoking can aggravate pain in the throat, so quitting can be a great way to help. If necessary, losing weight can also help limit the occurrence of acid reflux as well. Eating smaller meals more frequently may also be key to helping your food and fluids stay down better. Staying upright for some time after a meal or raising the head of your bed when you sleep means gravity is helping you treat your acid reflux. As with any medical issue, living healthy through exercise and proper diet will also help you treat your acid reflux.

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