Acid Reflux: Symptoms, Risk Factors and Treatment
What is Acid Reflux?
Acid reflux is caused by the weakening of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). The LES is a muscular ring located at the entrance of the stomach that opens and closes as food passes to the stomach. When weakened or damaged, the LES will remain open, causing stomach acids and other contents from the stomach to move back up through the esophagus. This is generally accompanied by a burning sensation in the chest and throat, called heartburn.
Heartburn is the most common symptom of acid reflux, but other symptoms may include:
- Dry cough
- Sore throat
- Difficulty swallowing
- Tightness in the throat
- Bitter taste in the throat and mouth
Acid reflux is non-discriminatory in that it affects people of all ages, sometimes for unknown reasons. While there are several risk factors that can be linked to acid reflux, the most common factor is eating a large meal. A large meal causes increased pressure in the stomach, which overpowers and consequently weakens the LES to cause reflux.
Other factors that weaken the LES and cause reflux are:
Lifestyle: pregnancy, smoking (nicotine), being overweight or obese, certain prescription medicines
Eating Habits: snacking close to bedtime, lying down within 2 to 3 hours of eating, overeating
Diet: alcohol, caffeine, diet low in fiber, fried or fatty foods, citrus fruits and juices, spicy foods, chocolate
Treating Acid Reflux with Diet and Lifestyle Changes
Knowing what foods and beverages trigger your acid reflux and eliminating them from your diet are key for controlling the condition. The foods you eat affect the amount of acid the stomach produces. Foods that can help reduce acid reflux symptoms include:
- Green vegetables
- Lean meats and seafood
- Oatmeal (great source of fiber)
- Healthy fats: avocados, nuts, olive oil
- Ginger: anti-inflammatory properties help ease heartburn symptoms
You can also manage symptoms with lifestyle changes.
Try these tips:
- Eat smaller portions, more often.
- Eat slower, and stop before you get too full.
- Wait 2 to 3 hours after eating before lying down.
- Drop a few extra pounds to ease pressure on the stomach.
- Avoid tight clothing or belts that can add extra pressure around your stomach.
In most circumstances, a change in lifestyle and diet with the assistance of over-the-counter medications, such as antacids, are all you need to control the symptoms of acid reflux. Antacids provide short-term relief by neutralizing stomach acid.
Occasional acid reflux is no cause for alarm. If you are experiencing acid reflux symptoms occurring twice a week or more, this may be indicative of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and you should consult your physician for an evaluation. GERD can lead to serious complications in the long-term, including an increased risk of cancer.
To schedule an appointment with GastroIntestinal Specialists, A.M.C. or to learn more about Acid Reflux (GERD) or other GI conditions treated by GastroIntestinal Specialists, call (318) 631-9121 or click here.