Medically reviewed by Dr. Rabeya Afroz Shomi
What is Acid Reflux?
Acid reflux is a very common condition in which you feel a burning pain in your lower chest area, this is also known as heartburn. This happens when the stomach acid flows back up into the food pipe. There is a valve at the entrance of your stomach which a ring of muscles called the lower esophageal sphincter . when the LES doesn’t close all the way or opens too often after the food passes from the food pipe to the stomach, the stomach acid flows back up to the food pipe causing acid reflux.
The treatment for acid is mostly medications as it is not a very severe condition. Some of the most common drugs used in treating acid reflux are PPIs including Omeprazole, Rabeprazole and Ezomeprazole. H2 blockers are also used widely which includes Cimetidine, Ranitidine and Famotidine. Antacids and Alginate drugs such as Gaviscon are also used.
There are also other medication which are used in some very particular cases, some of them are Sucralfate acid suppressants, Potassium competitive acid blockers, GABA receptor agonist, transient lower esophageal sphincter relaxation reducers . In some very peculiar conditions, some other drugs used are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors , tricyclic antidepressant, prokinetic agents and pain modulators. In some very rare cases if the medication is not effective then acid reflux can also be treated by a surgery known as Fundoplication.
What are the Early Symptoms of Acid Reflux?
Heartburn is caused by acid reflux. Painful burning in the upper chest or abdomen Indigestion causing upset stomach.The pain is often worse after eating, in the evening, or when lying down or bending over. Some of the early symptoms of acid reflux include
- A person may have persistent, dry cough.
- A person may experience the condition of nausea.
- A person may have some episodes of vomiting.
- A person may experience pain or difficulty while swallowing the food.
- They may be dental erosion.
- A person may feel pain in the upper abdomen.
- Throat problems like hoarseness, laryngitis, and soreness may be experienced.
What Causes Acid Reflux?
Hiatal hernia is one of the most common causes of acid reflux in the majority of the people. The stomach has hydrochloric acid, which is a very strong acid whose role in the body is to breakdown the food. The acid also protects against the pathogens like bacteria. The stomach has a lining which protects against this powerful acid but the oesophagus does not have any such lining. Thus, when the acid flows back it leads to a burning sensation. The other factors which may cause acid reflux are
- Eating heavy meal and lying on the back
- Smoking can also lead to acid reflux.
- During pregnancy some of the women are diagnosed with the problem of acid reflux.
- Eating food products like chocolate, spicy food, fatty food, tomato, and citrus fruits can lead to acid reflux.
- Some drinks like alcohol, coffee, tea, and carbonated drinks can also be a cause of acid reflux.
- Being overweight and obese.
What are Standard Acid Reflux Precautions?
Wise people have said precaution is better than cure. For a person who is suffering from the persistent episodes of acid reflux implementing certain precautions in his/her life can bring about a positive change. The first precaution which must be taken by an individual is bring changes in his/her eating habits. Foods which trigger the condition of acid reflux must be completely avoided. The foods can drinks which can trigger acid reflux are:
- Mint and menthol
- Fried and fatty foods
- Citrus fruits
- Carbonated beverages
- Spicy food
Drinking 8 glasses of water every day also helps. Apart from the bringing the changes in the eating habits, a person also needs to bring some changes in his/her lifestyle. Some of these changes are given below
- Eating slowly
- Eating small meals
- Keep yourself upright for 60 minutes after eating
- Avoid clearing your throat
- Quit smoking.
How Does a Doctor Diagnose Acid Reflux?
Diagnosing the condition of acid reflux or heartburn can be relatively easy, but a doctor may get confused with some other complaints of the chest like pneumonia, heart attack, pulmonary embolus, and pain in the chest wall. To diagnose the condition of acid reflux the doctor may ask the patient to undergo following diagnostic tests
- pH monitoring: This test is done to check for the acidity in a person.
- Barium x-ray: In this test, the patient is required to swallow a chalky liquid and then imaging of the oesophagus, stomach and upper duodenum is done. The chalky liquid provides contrast on the images.
- Biopsy: In this test a sample of the tissue may be taken for analysis in the laboratory.
- Endoscopy: in this test an image of the gastrointestinal tract may be taken to confirm the diagnosis.
What is the Best Treatment for Acid Reflux?
The best treatment for acid reflux is inclusive of PPIs, H2 blockers, antacids, and alginate drugs. PPIs include medicines like omeprazole, esomeprazole, and rabeprazole. H2 blockers include medicines like famotidine, cimetidine, and ranitidine. People suffering from the problem of acid reflux can also purchase over the counter medicines like antacids. H2 blockers and PPIs work by reducing the production of acid production, thus, damage caused by acid reflux gets reduced to a large extent.
Antacids are available in the form of both tablets, and liquids. Antacids may provide only short-term relief. People can also opt for alginate drugs like Gaviscon. It is one of the best heartburn therapies. Its functioning is very different in comparison to the antacids. This medicine creates a mechanical barrier against the acid in the stomach.
Who is Eligible for Treatment of Acid Reflux?
Lifestyle is the biggest factor that causes acid reflux. Heavy meals or lying down after a meal are some reasons that cause acid reflux. If you are experiencing bitter taste in your mouth or heartburn on a regular basis then you should consult a doctor for medication.
Who is Not Eligible for Treatment of Acid Reflux?
Acid reflux is a very common condition that can happen to anybody. A simple lifestyle change can also trigger the condition that lasts for a day or less. In such cases, you don’t need to visit a doctor as the condition gets treated on its own or by taking an antacid.
How to Stop Acid Reflux Naturally?
- Organic Apple Cider Vinegar: it enhances the immune system, reduced the bad gut bacteria which are responsible for causing acid reflux. Apple Cider Vinegar is an alkalizing food thus; it balances the pH level of the body.
- Fennel seeds: these seeds are rich in vitamins and minerals. For centuries around the world, they have been used as a digestive aid as it contains ethanol which helps in relaxing the stomach.
- Aloe Vera: Ingesting Aloe Vera can provide relief to inflamed stomach lining and oesophagus.
What are the Best Things to Drink When You Have Acid Reflux?
For people suffering from acid reflux there are certain beverages which must be avoided like colas, acidic juices, and coffee. There are various other beverages which can be used for drinking and they also provide digestive relief. Some of beverages which can be taken are
- Herbal tea: It helps in improving the digestion along with calming the effects of acid in the stomach.
- Low-fat milk: Studies have revealed that consuming low-fat milk does not enhance the chance of acid reflux.
- Fruit Juices: The juice of Aloe Vera, carrot, cucumber, pear and cabbage can be taken.
- Coconut water: If someone is suffering from the condition of acid reflux then unsweetened coconut water can be a great option. The electrolytes in coconut water balance the pH level of the body.
Are There Any Side Effects?
There are no major side effects as such only if you don’t have an already existing condition such as heart condition or digestive problems. However, in some cases they can cause minor problem such as causing difficulty in absorbing nutrients causing malnutrition. Diarrhoea, stomach cramps and mild fever are also some other side effects of acid reflux medication in some very rare and extreme cases.
What are the Post Treatment Guidelines?
Since the condition is related to the food pipe and stomach, the most emphasized post treatment guideline is to maintain a healthy lifestyle that focuses strongly on a balanced and healthy diet. In some cases, some exercises such as walking after a meal is also prescribed. Heavy meals and sleeping after meals should also be avoided. As for surgery, the post treatment guideline remains the same.
How Long Does it Take to Recover?
Acid reflux is a very minor condition that gets taken of almost instantly. In case of persistent development of the condition, it can take a week or a couple of months to get treated. In case of surgery, you will be discharged from the hospital the very next day but the recovery can take up to 8 to 10 weeks.
Are the Results of the Treatment Permanent?
The treatment results are prompt and permanent in most cases. In some cases, there are chances that the condition doesn’t get treated completely. Acid reflux can be triggered by the slightest of lifestyle changes such as sleeping very late so the chance of the condition developing again is also high.
What are the Alternatives to the Treatment?
Since it is a very common and ancient condition, there are a lot of home remedies to cure acid reflux. Some of the most effective home remedies are Apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, and baking soda. Homeopathy is also another alternative for treating acid reflux.
Some of the most widely used medicines are Arsenic album, Carbo vegetables, nux vomica, and phosphorus. Ayurveda is also a very effective and safe treatment for acid reflux. Some of the most common Ayurvedic treatment includes Ashwagandha, coconut water, pomegranate, and baked fennel seeds.
Relative Risk: Medium
Side Effects: Medium
Time For Recovery: Low
Price Range: Tk. 1 to Tk. 200000.