Have you ever encountered a situation where you feel a burning sensation in your chest region? People commonly refer to that as heartburn. In fact, the medical term for this heartburning feeling is Acid Reflux. The condition initiating in the lower chest and is known to last for a considerable number of hours.
Your stomach surrounding is partially acidic and there is a reason for that. The acidic pH provides with an optimum environment for certain enzymes to activate. These enzymes break down food particles into smaller digestible substances which can be absorbed later by the gut. However, sometimes this acid flows back up to the oesophagus causing a condition known as acid reflux.
Around 60 million Americans at some point in their life will experience Acid Reflux. This makes up about a staggering 20% of the entire US population. If your acid reflux lasts for more than two weeks, then you might be suffering from Gastroesophageal reflux disease. A chronic form of GERD is associated with serious medical complications. In that case, it becomes pertinent to consult a professional on an urgent basis.
Acid Reflux, heartburn, acid indigestion, pyrosis are the names inter-changeably used though all refer to the same condition. Recent medical advancements have made it easier to control the condition through synthetic drug use or natural remedies. However, seeking advice from gastroenterologist should not be under-emphasized.
This article is your first-hand guide to understanding all the complications relating to the Acid Reflux condition.
What are the causes?
Throughout our discussion, we have referred acid reflux as heartburn. Interestingly, the condition has (fortunately) nothing to do with the heart or cardiovascular system for that matter. Only because the burning sensation occurs in the lower chest region is the reason for this certain name.
You will experience acid reflux when the hydrochloric acid moves up through the oesophagus from the stomach to the mouth. The acid is responsible for activating enzyme activity as well as destroying certain pathogens. Since it is mostly in diluted form, it is unlikely to contribute any serious damage. However, strong enough to cause the burning feeling.
The gastroesophageal sphincter is a valve that normally prevents the food from moving back to the oesophagus. Sometimes, this valve fails to perform this stopping function. As a result, the food contents are able to move up to the gullet. When these contents mixed with the acid are pushed upwards, this causes acid reflux. The consequence of which is the feeling of heartburn.
Who are at a risk?
Acid Reflux or the serious form of GERD can nearly affect anyone regardless of age and gender. It might occur unexpectedly or at times due to certain disruptions in one’s lifestyle. While on the other hand some contributors, unable to be controlled, lead to acid reflux. One such contributor is a condition known as a hernia which creates a considerable size hole in the diaphragm region.
There area certain group of people who are more vulnerable to acid reflux than others. They are more likely to suffer from the condition and the symptoms may be more expressive in them. Those include:
- People who are overweight/obese
- People who do not allocate time for physical exercise
- Psychiatric patients on antidepressants
- Pregnant women
Pregnancy and Acid Reflux
Pregnant women are more prone to the condition than normal women or any other group. The pressure on the internal organs lead to gastroesophageal sphincter unable to perform its function properly. Thereby allowing for the upward entry of the food cum acid content. Around 50% of the US pregnant women who had no past history of the condition suffered from heartburns. The sensation appearing twice or more in one single month.
The pregnant mothers as a result should aim for a healthy lifestyle during the 9-month cycle. It is recommended to avoid all the foods which will amplify the problem. In addition to eating less at night, as lying down immediately after eating tends to worsen the condition. Yet, consulting a gynecologist is still a must to be aware of any medical complication that might be developing.
What food items increase Acid Reflux?
Certain dietary changes can also be a major contributor towards acid reflux. Studies have found a relationship between an improper diet and the symptoms of the disease exacerbating. Thereby it is important to keep a good check on the diet we consume. The following is a comprehensive list of dietary elements which can lead to acid reflux
- Alcohol and soft drinks
- Drinking three or more cups of coffee every day
- Consuming a high amount of salt
- Low fiber meals
- Excessive consumption of fried foods
- Acidic juices
While the above food items can cause heartburn there are other factors to keep in mind. If you lie down immediately after having a hearty meal, then you automatically increase your chances of the condition. Moreover, nutritionists would advise against the consumption of dairy products particuarly yoghurt. Doing so will elevate the acidic content in the stomach.
What are the symptoms?
The obvious symptom of acid reflux is the heart burning sensation felt immediately after meal ingestion. The intensity of the sensation can vary from person to person. It can also depend upon the food items that were consumed.
Heartburning usually occurs in the lower chest behind the breastbone region. The pain will tend to increase if you lie down, thereby walking is recommended during the episode. One sensation will typically last for 2 to 3 hours though there have been reported cases of the duration lasting longer. The burning pain will fluctuate from the chest area to the mouth, at times pushing fluid along. This entire process makes the person feel uncomfortable and produces a bitter overall taste.
Other symptoms which will often tag along are mentioned as follows.
- Soreness of throat
- Triggering of asthma
- Dry coughs
- Bad breath
It is important as a precautionary step to be vigilant of all these symptoms.
For treating acid reflux, one can make use of a wide range of options. Synthetic medications are available which can lessen the burning sensation. On the other hand following a healthy routine can also help in curbing most of the associated complications.
Synthetic treatment option includes the use of antacids, PPIs and alginate drugs. All of these medications may ease out the problem in an effective manner. Yet, before self-diagnosing and consuming the drugs, it is always better to consult a medical professional.
On the flip side of the synthetic way of treatment, natural remedies offer a viable solution. While eating, an erect upright posture should be maintained. This allows for easier absorption of food by the gut and prevents the backward flowing. Physical exercise is must and smokers should quit smoking as soon as the time demands.