Acid reflux is an incredibly common disorder that a lot of people deal with and suffer from every single day.
Because of that, there are a lot of people who actually have acid reflux and have absolutely no idea at all that they have it.
So, what are you supposed to do in that situation? What is acid reflux and how can it affect people?
We’re going to take a deeper look at this common issue so that you can have a better idea as to how to take care of the potential acid reflux problem that you’re dealing with in a healthy and safe manner.
What is Acid Reflux?
One of the most important things in your body that helps to prevent stomach acid from getting into your throat and mouth is called the sphincter (in this case, the LES – there is also a sphincter in your colon, that’s not the one we’re talking about it).
This opens when you swallow, and it closes when you’re done swallowing and your food is on the way to the stomach.
The issue is, sometimes, there’s a problem where the sphincter isn’t going to close properly. That’s when the acid from your stomach has the ability to go up through the esophagus and then you feel that “burning” pain in your chest known as heartburn.
Now, of course, if you experience this more than twice a week and you’re starting to see that it is changing the way you eat and live, you may actually have a disorder related to acid reflux.
Depending on who you’re asking, it is either just referred to as acid reflux disease, or it is called Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, usually just abbreviated as GERD. In either circumstance, what happens is incredibly uncomfortable and you want to make sure that you get it treated so it doesn’t get worse.
Why Does Acid Reflux Happen?
As you likely know, there are a lot of different reasons that acid reflux can happen to a person. Some of them are for the long term GERD; others are related to just occasional spurts of acid reflux. Either way, here are some of the main reasons that you may end up dealing with acid reflux at some point in your life.
Many people make the mistake of lying down as soon as they are done eating. This is a huge problem because what happens is that your body is flat, and so it’s relaxed.
The extra acid is in your stomach and trying to digest the food you’ve just eaten, but if your body is relaxed, it’s more likely that you’re going to get acid that comes up into your chest and throat, and that can really hurt. Eating too close to bed time can do the same thing.
If you eat something that is incredibly spicy or greasy, you could end up in a situation where you have additional stomach acid that is trying to deal with the perceived threat.
The acid from those foods plus your stomach acid could make it hard for your stomach to handle and it could be a lot easier for you to end up fighting off some painful heartburn as a result.
If you have chronic acid reflux, or GERD, then you may have a problem known as a hiatal hernia. What this means is that, usually your esophagus and your sphincter are below your diaphragm, but something has happened to your stomach and it is now abnormally shaped (thus, herniated).
What happens is that the esophagus and the sphincter end up right next to your diaphragm, in this empty hole in your chest known as the hiatus (hence the name hiatal hernia).
This usually causes the sphincter to add oddly and sometimes, it even makes it so that there is a tiny gap in there so acid can get into your throat all of the time.
This is what causes the chronic acid reflex, because it basically means that your sphincter is never closing all of the way, even though it should be. This can also happen with pregnancy, since all of your internal organs are moved around – but usually this goes away after you have the baby.
Certain beverages with a lot of acids, like tomato juice, alcohol, soda, tea, coffee, and even chocolate can make acid reflux happen. There is even research that suggests that smoking can have an effect on whether or not you end up having acid reflux and/or if you have other issues.
Certain medications, like aspirin, can actually make it so that you have acid reflux due to the amount of acid that they contain.
Being overweight or obese usually puts a bit of strain on your body and can make it so that more acid is being produced and ends up in the wrong areas, so you want to lose some weight if you’re struggling with the symptoms of acid reflux on a regular basis.
Diagnosing Acid Reflux
There are a number of ways that people will go ahead and diagnose your acid reflux or GERD. First off, let’s take a look at the symptoms that come along when you’re dealing with either one of these issues.
- Diarrhea or Constipation
- Constant burping
- Hiccupping that never goes away
- Chronic sore throat or coughing
- Weight loss that isn’t explained.
- Heartburn (of course), which is just that burning sensation located in your chest, abdomen, or even throat in the worst cases. Some GERD attacks have been known to go into your ears if it’s bad enough – ouch!
- Regurgitation of acid from your stomach.
So those are the symptoms but, as with any other type of disease, there are ones that are going to be able to overlap with other diseases’ symptoms. So what does that mean? There are a number of tests that can be done in order to make sure that you’re actually talking about the right disease.
One of the most common tests that gets done is the upper gastrointestinal test, also known as the “upper GI,” which is when the person has to go ahead and drink a barium mixture, which will glow when you are put under an MRI/ultrasound.
The barium will do all sorts of odd things in your stomach, but will also show the person looking at the results whether or not there seems to be extra acid flowing around and going to the areas that they shouldn’t go to. It will also make it obvious if you have a hiatal hernia and/or if you have another issue that could be causing this to become an even bigger problem.
That’s really the main way that things are done, but there are other tests to help with diagnosis as well. In some cases, your doctor will just recommend that you try a particular medication to see if it helps at all.
If it seems to be helping, and you see a difference, they may up it (if they feel that it will help more) and they will diagnose you as having GERD or acid reflux.
A biopsy or endoscopy can also be done to see if there are any odd things going on, and you may even have some pH monitoring in order to see whether or not there is something odd going on with your esophagus.
It takes a little time to diagnose GERD or acid reflux because of all of the overlapping diseases, but once they get it down to what it actually is, you’ll find that your doctor can put you on the path to feeling better and can make sure that you’re on the right medication that is going to help you feel a lot better in the long run as well. It just takes a little time for them to get the diagnosis down and correct for you.
How do You Treat Acid Reflux?
There are a lot of different ways that people will treat acid reflux. Here are some of the most common ones that people suggest that you check out and consider.
There are a lot of lifestyle changes that you can consider. Eating smaller meals can help you produce less acid, thus preventing acid reflux from happening. Also don’t eat 2-3 hours before you lie down or go to bed.
Raise the head of your bed a few inches (while keeping your feet at the same height) so that you don’t have to lay flat. Lying flat makes you a lot more likely to have acid reflux. Even just a little bit of tilt can help to prevent it from happening.
Don’t wear anything tight, it’s not very comfortable and it’s not good for your stomach. It can make acid reflux happen a lot more often as well.
If you have problems with your weight, then it may be time for you to go ahead and change your diet and exercise regimen.
Work with your doctor to put something together in order to make sure that you are doing a diet plan that is going to help you lose weight and that is going to prevent GERD/acid reflux problems from happening.
There are a wide variety of medications that you can try. Many people will start with over the counter ones like Maalox and Mylanta, but if your problem is frequent or severe, you may want to consider a proton pump inhibitor (prevacid, protonix, Priolsec, etc.) that can help to reduce how much acid your stomach is making in the first place.
H2 blocker scan do the same thing, as can Prokinetics. Your doctor can give you some recommendations and they may even be able to help you find combinations that work best for you (don’t use combinations unless suggested by your doctor).
There are not many surgical procedures that are done for GERD/acid reflux, and the two that are out there are only used very seldom.
For example, you could get a LINX device, which goes around your esophagus and makes it so that the stomach acid can’t ever get up into there.
It’s made from metal, though, and will take getting used to if you decide to get it.
Fundoplication is actually another type of surgery that is reconstructive in nature, and it causes the upper part of the stomach to get wrapped around your sphincter in order to make it stronger and to prevent acid problems from happening.
This is a lot more invasive, and surgeries are only done if medication is not working at all and you need to do something in order to prevent even more serious illnesses from happening to you as you grow older.
You will have to work a bit in order to make sure that your acid reflux is under control, but the relief that you feel will be worth the time and effort that you put into it.
How To Cope with Acid Reflux
There are so many people out there with acid reflux and GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) that it’s not hard to find the story of someone who has been trying to cope with it for a number of years.
Here’s a story about a young woman who has dealt with acid reflux and its effects since college.
When Sarah started college, she was in pretty good health, even though she was a large and stocky girl.
But, during her sophomore year of college, right after Thanksgiving break, she started to have issues hiccupping and belching all of the time.
She was really uncomfortable and felt ill to her stomach. All that being said, Sarah ended up in the emergency room because the campus doctors thought that she had a gall bladder attack.
After a number of tests and several hospital visits, they found out that she’d had a bad GERD attack and that she had a hiatal hernia, which we talked about above.
Now, it’s almost 10 years later, and Sarah lives a fairly normal life. She started off just trying to take Tums to deal with it, but that didn’t do the job at all.
She tried a number of different medications until she started taking Pantoprazole, which is the generic form of Protonix, which is a more recently used medication that does not only prevent issues related to acid reflux but, also, if there was any damage to the esophagus, it can help to reverse that damage so that it’s easier to speak and it can prevent issues like cancer from happening in the future.
Other than her medication, Sarah does a number of other things to make sure that her acid reflux is kept at bay. She avoids eating especially greasy foods, because they will make her acid reflux act up.
She’s been on a diet and is trying to lose weight, and she also has been exercising on a regular basis.
Even though the biggest issue she has to deal with related to her acid reflux is her hiatal hernia, she can still take care of it and make it so it’s not a problem.
Most of the time, Sarah reports that her acid reflux is barely noticeable. Sometimes she’ll have an attack here or there, but she’s gotten so used to the routine that she knows how to take care of it before it becomes an even bigger problem.
So, as you can see, living with acid reflux or GERD can be a bit of a pain, but as with any disease or issue, you will be able to find a way to add it into your routine.
Some people take a little longer than others to get used to it, but with the help of a doctor and the willingness to change your diet so that you don’t have flare-ups, you’re going to see that it’s a lot easier for you to achieve your health and wellness goals.
There are a lot of people who fight off acid reflux and, above all else, you have to make sure that you take care of it and get it under control.
There are so many different people out there who suffer from it and then don’t take care of it, and that can result in issues with your esophagus and, in the worst cases, you could even end up with cancer as a result.
If you, for any reason, think that you may have acid reflux and you want to make sure that you get the help that you need, make sure to contact a doctor as soon as possible to figure things out.
They can tell you about the courses of treatment that you can use and they can help you adjust your diet so that you can live a normal, everyday life as a result. Just find the help that you need first and then you’ll find it works much better.