Identifying And Treating Acid Reflux
If you suffer from acid reflux, the acids from your stomach typically recede backwards into your esophagus, resulting in pain and discomfort. Many wonder if it's the same as heartburn. The condition here is actually the action or traveling of acid from the stomach to the esophagus, while heartburn is what sufferers feel when that movement happens.
The condition is more widespread among individuals more than 40 years of age and those who are overweight. The function that prevents it generally wears off as we age, and carrying too much bodily weight adds excess pressure on the diaphragm and abdomen, forcing open the lower esophageal sphincter. The condition is also typical among females. Those who are pregnant may have a higher probability of developing this problem since there's the added pressure as well as release of the hormone progesterone (progesterone tends to relax the esophageal sphincter).
The major cause of the condition is when the lower esophageal sphincter, which is a barrier between the esophagus and the stomach, doesn't function properly. The lower esophageal sphincter is supposed to obstruct the entry of acid so that it doesn't enter the esophagus, but if you have acid reflux, it doesn't block the acid. Other possible triggers are stomach tumors and ulcers.
The most typical and evident sign is a burning sensation in the upper abdomen or lower chest. When it's not severe, people usually call it heartburn due to the burning feeling in the chest. Others might have an even less obvious indication when feeling gaseous or experiencing indigestion. A less common and often more severe sign is experiencing an unusual taste coming into the mouth, a sudden sore throat, or suddenly coughing.
If the symptoms happen following meals, particularly meals that comprise of “triggering foods,” it's even more probable that you have the condition. Symptoms may also be felt after lying down since this way it's easier for the acid to leak out into the esophagus. However, just remember that various conditions can lead to very similar symptoms, such as heart disease and gallbladder disease.
Only a proper diagnosis can determine acid reflux. Esophageal acid testing is typically done in this case. A tube with special sensors will be positioned in the patient's throat during testing. One edge of the tube will be down the throat and placed at the center of the esophagus while the other edge of the tube will go around beyond the ear to the waist where it is connected to a recorder. When the sensor detects acid it will be recorded for the time of acid reflux during a term that goes for 20 hours to 1 day in total.
Keep in mind, though, that testing is not 100 percent accurate, as some individuals may not have consistent or large quantities of acid existing in the esophagus majority of the time. Only a few might have big enough quantities to be considered severely affected. If you think your symptoms are enough to warrant a diagnosis, it's always better to find out early what condition you have.
Medications in this case are typically administered to minimize the secretion of excess acid. Antacids are usually recommended for those with a mild condition to lower the level of acidity. Antacids do this by raising the PH level. In moderate cases, alginic acid may be administered, as it produces a protective layer over the lower esophageal mucosal and stomach lining. On the other hand prokinetics may be used to improve the strength of the lower esophageal muscle and increase the rate of food traveling through the stomach.
Other drugs are meant to guard the fragile mucosal lining of the esophagus, allows for quicker repair of the affected esophageal lining and preserves the proper functions of the digestive muscles. Surgery is available to treat extremely serious cases, where the stomach is sealed around securely by the lower esophageal sphincter. This would assist in supporting the lower esophageal muscle to prevent contents from flowing back into the esophagus. Surgery, however, should only be a last resort.
It can be difficult to prevent acid reflux because the condition can go unnoticed. However, individuals who are already diagnosed with the disease can still take necessary steps to prevent it from worsening and to control symptoms. Lifestyle changes like switching to an acid reflux diet are often recommended. Foods and beverages that have alcohol, chocolate, caffeine, spearmint and peppermint can raise acid production and thus should be avoided. Also try to stay away from all carbonated drinks. While it's not yet confirmed if either a high-fat or low-fat diet has any effect, it's still advised to cut down on saturated fats and all fats if one has excess weight.
What you do want to include in your acid reflux diet is protein, as it may assist in supporting muscles in the muscle valve. You might also want to include more whole grain products as well as fruits and vegetables. Be wary, though, that some fruits and vegetables can be very acidic, like tomatoes, oranges and pineapple.
While diet may play a large role in treatment and prevention, improving your posture can also help. Gravity does have to do with keeping acid out of the esophagus. Thus, you can try to make sure your posture is upright especially while eating and afterward. Allow yourself a minimum of 2 to 3 hours in between meals and lying down.
Physical activity is another factor as the contraction of stomach muscles can pump its contents back up into the esophagus. Avoid exercising or exerting right after meals. Wait a minimum of 1 hour.
As mentioned earlier, your weight can add too much pressure and thus may worsen your condition. Exercise regularly at the right time while maintaining your acid reflux diet.
Finally, stress is known to contribute to the acid reflux due to tension that contracts the muscles in a similar way. Just be aware of what stresses you out and when, and how you react. Try to calm yourself in those situations or engage in some stress-relieving activities. While the occasional heartburn is nothing to be concerned about, if you're unsure why it happens and you experience it consistently, it's best to see your doctor about it.