Acid reflux is a common gut complaint. It is often distinguished by bouts of heartburn; a burning sensation experienced in the centre of the chest. Heartburn is also accompanied by a sour taste in the mouth and bad breath which is caused by stomach acid.
Acid reflux is uncomfortable, and symptoms can be worse after eating or when laying down or bending over. The pain of heartburn can also be accompanied by bloating, nausea, a hoarse voice and a persistent cough or hiccups.
It should be remembered that heartburn and acid reflux are two different things, but heartburn can be a symptom of acid reflux.
Acid reflux occurs when stomach acid backs up into the oesophagus. The stomach acid then irritates the tissue of the oesophagus.
At the top of the stomach there is a muscle, known as a sphincter. When this is closed stomach acid cannot enter the oesophagus. However, some people have weaker or more relaxed stomach sphincters, meaning the stomach’s contents can flow up into the oesophagus.
Acid reflux can be caused by:
• Being overweight
• Being pregnant
• Stress and anxiety
• Anti-inflammatory painkillers
• A hiatus hernia
However, one of the most common causes of acid reflux is the intake of an irritating food or drink. These can include:
• Fatty foods
• Spicy foods
• Oily foods
• High Quantities of salt
• Milk and cheese
Immediate relief from acid reflux can be achieved through the use of medications. Antacid substances neutralise the acid in the stomach to relieve not only acid reflux but heartburn and indigestion too.
Doctor’s may prescribe one of the following if antacid isn’t helping:
• H2 blockers to decrease acid production
• Proton pump inhibitors to reduce the amount of acid produced by the stomach
• Foaming agents to coat the stomach and prevent reflux
• Prokinetics to help strengthen the stomach sphincter and reduce acid reflux
However, one of the best ways to relieve and eliminate acid reflux is via adopting some lifestyle changes. These can include:
• Eating smaller and more frequent meals
• Losing weight if you are overweight
• Sleeping slightly more upright than flat
• Enjoying the outdoors and relaxing
• Quitting smoking
• Enjoying alcohol in moderation
• Steering clear of triggering foods
• Do not eat within 4 hours of bedtime