Have you ever experienced a burning sensation in your chest or throat, usually after eating a meal? Do you constantly feel that sensation after most meals you eat? In this article, we’ll talk about what acid reflux is, how it’s caused and how to best treat it. We’ll also look at a common symptom, heartburn, and signs of a more serious problem, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
In simple terms, acid reflux is when acid leaves the stomach and enters the esophagus. When we eat, we chew, then swallow and food runs down the esophagus and stays in the stomach to be digested. Certain foods and situations can cause the acidic contents of your stomach to travel back up the esophagus. Now, this doesn’t happen every time. Our bodies are designed with a special muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). This muscle functions to control what enters and leaves your stomach. When you swallow, the muscle opens and closes after the food has passed through it. Sometimes the muscle can be weak or not close properly. When this happens, acid enters your lower esophagus and causes the burning sensation, better known as heartburn.
There are many foods and circumstances that cause acid reflux. Certain foods including garlic, tomato, chocolate, mint, onion, and citrus (oranges, lemons, limes) as well as fatty and spicy foods are known to cause acid reflux. If you are overweight, pregnant, or a smoker, you are more likely to experience acid reflux.
There are many different treatment options so it’s important to talk with your doctor to determine the right treatment option for you.
Prevention. Try these tips to prevent heartburn before it starts:
- Don’t overeat (and if you do, don’t lay down immediately after)
- Avoid eating foods that are acidic, fatty and spicy
- Don’t snack right before you go to bed
- Don’t drink carbonated drinks
Medication. The most popular medicine to treat heartburn is pepcid (famotidine). Taking pepcid, as advised by your doctor, you can help alleviate pain and symptoms that go with acid reflux.
All Natural. There are a few natural ways you can treat heartburn.
- Chew gum. By chewing gum, you are increasing the production of saliva in your mouth causing you to swallow more, thus helping to alleviate the acid in your stomach.
- Consume ginger. Ginger is a plant used in many traditional and alternative medicines as it is best known for treating digestive issues and upset stomachs.
- Elevate your upper body. Acid reflux is worse when you are lying down or upside down because in those positions, it becomes more difficult for your body to hold back the acid in your stomach. By sitting upright or standing up, you are helping your body keep the acid down.
Remember that burning sensation we were talking about earlier? That’s heartburn. Our stomach has a special lining designed to withstand high acid levels; however, our esophagus isn’t. When the acid comes up out of the stomach, the esophagus can’t handle it and in response, we feel a burning sensation in our chest.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
It’s very common for someone to experience acid reflux, especially when eating certain foods. However, if you find yourself suffering from heartburn multiple times throughout the week, you could have gastroesophageal reflux disease (which is frequent heartburn). Talk with your doctor if you experience abnormal heartburn or frequent acid reflux.