Acid Reflux

Acid Reflux Disease Symptoms, Causes, Tests, and Treatments

Acid reflux- causes, symptoms and remedies: Every individual at some time will experience a fiery, aching sensation in the chest after feasting on a big fatty meal. This feeling is also referred to as acid reflux, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

What is Acid Reflux?

The stomach entrance contains a ring of muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), this muscle behaves like a valve-between the esophagus and the stomach. As soon as the food passes through the LES it is seen to shut off. Dysfunction of the LES can result in the up flow of stomach acids into the food pipe. This results in chest discomforts commonly termed as heartburn or acid reflux.

If acid reflux is seen to be experienced by an individual more than twice a week then the medical term for this acid reflux is GERD.

What are the Causes of GERD?

The causes of GERD are very complex and may involve multiple causes. The causes may vary from person to person or different causes can also be experienced by a single person at different time points.

The factors that are seen to enhance acid reflux disease include:

Stomach abnormalities

The most common stomach abnormality seen to cause a heartburn is a hiatal hernia, which is seen to affect people of all age groups.

A hiatal hernia is experienced when the upper part of the stomach and LES are seen to move above the diaphragm which the muscle that separates the stomach and chest. When the diaphragm functions correctly it prevents the rising of the acids in the food tube. But in cases of a hiatal hernia, the upward movement of acid is seen to occur.

Pregnancy

Many women are seen to experience heartburn during the conception period due to hormonal imbalances combined with the pressure induced by the growing fetus. The worst acid refluxes are seen to be caused during the third trimester. This heartburn subsides post-delivery.

Smoking

Smoking contributes to  acid reflux disease by one of the following routes:

  • Mucus membrane damage.
  • Throat muscle reflexes impairment.
  • Enhanced acid secretion.
  • Alleviated LES muscle function.
  • Drop in saliva production which plays a pivotal role in neutralizing the acid effects.

Smoking also has seen to increase the risk of esophageal cancer.

GERD  Foods

Eating large meals and lying down right after a meal can trigger a heartburn or other symptoms of acid reflux ailments such as trouble swallowing or a dry cough.

Some of the common GERD foods are

  • Alcohol
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Chocolate
  • Citrus fruits like oranges or lemons
  • Regular or decaffeinated coffee or tea
  • Fried or fatty foods
  • Tomato containing food like spaghetti sauce, salsa, or pizza
  • Mint, garlic, and onions
  • Spicy foods containing curry or chilies.

Increased consumption of alcohol is seen to elevate the risk of esophageal leukemia. Alcohol consumption in combination with smoking has detrimental effects on the food pipe than using tobacco or alcohol alone.

Other common causes of heartburn include

  • Being overweight.
  • Snacking close to bedtime.
  • Eating heavy meals.
  • Lying down immediately post a meal.
  • Taking aspirin, ibuprofen, blood pressure drugs, muscle relaxers, antidepressants, sedatives, calcium- channel blockers, and asthma medications.
  • Low levels of physical workouts

What Are The Symptoms of Acid Refluxes?

The common symptoms seen to be experienced during GERD include

Chest pain

Burning pain in the middle of the chest is called as heartburn or chest pain. Commonly seen to occur post a meal or when in lying position. Heartburn is a non-curable symptom seen to affect many individuals throughout their lifetime.

Regurgitation

The appearance of the refluxed liquid in the mouth is referred as regurgitation. Predominantly only small amount of reflexed food or liquid is seen to reach the upper esophagus but in some cases increased amounts of reflexed liquids or food causes an acid taste in the mouth. Prolonged regurgitation is seen to cause acid induced teeth erosions.

Nausea

One of the rare signs of GERD ailments is nausea. It may be frequently or less frequently experienced by GERD patients which can ultimately lead to vomiting.

Some other symptoms experienced are:

  • Bloating
  • Bloody or black stools
  • Bloody vomiting
  • Burping
  • A feeling of the food stuck in the esophagus due to narrowing of the tube- Dysphagia.
  • Uncontrollable hiccups
  • Unknown weight loss.
  • Wheezing
  • Dry cough
  • Chronic sore throat

The exact causes of GERD symptoms are still mysterious, future research may help in answering this.

How is acid reflux diagnosed and evaluated?

The common diagnosis of a GERD ailment include

Therapeutic trial

Physicians prescribe medications that will help to subside the common symptoms of acid refluxes like heartburn and nausea.

But this trial can also be misleading as patients with stomach ulcers also mimic GERD symptoms. If treated with these medications the exact cause of the acid reflux can be missed out.

Endoscopy

Upper gastrointestinal camera imaging is a common technique used to diagnose acid reflux. Most of the patient’s esophagus do not show deformations when suffering from an acid reflux hence this method will fail in such cases. GERD diagnosis can be confidently made in cases where ulcers, erosions or inflamed esophagus is noticed during the endoscopy.

Esophageal acid tests

This test is a golden standard to detect GERD ailments. Here time span of the acid present in the esophagus is monitored by a 24 hour esophageal pH test. This test is also not very effective as it sometimes fails to differentiate a normal patient from a GERD patient.

Esophageal motility testing

This test monitors the working of the esophageal muscles.  This motility test not only helps the physician to detect GERD diseases but also helps them to decide on the GERD surgery that best suits a case.

Gastric emptying studies

This study helps to determine the stomach’s ability to empty food. Predominantly slow emptying of the stomach is a major cause of acid reflux hence this study plays a pivotal role in diagnosing GERD disorders.

Acid perfusion test

Acid perfusion test determines if the chest pain is caused by acid reflux. This test is not a routine diagnosis and is performed mostly in patients with infrequent chest discomforts when esophageal pH test fails.

What are the conventional treatment options available for acid reflux?

The main therapy options include:

  1. Proton pump inhibitors, including omeprazole, rabeprazole, and esomeprazole.
  2. Histamine H2-receptor antagonists or blockers, including cimetidine, ranitidine, and famotidine.

The main therapy for GERD patients is proton pump inhibitors and H2- receptor blocker medications. These medications help by alleviating the acid production and reduce the potential damage caused by an acid reflux. These drugs are safe and effective but are seen to cause some minor side effects like nutrient absorption deficiency.  

  1. Over the counter antacids

Acid reflux caused due to food and beverage triggers can be easily treated with over the counter antacids which help to reduce the stomach acidity. These over the counter drugs can only be taken occasionally if a person is seen to take antacids more than twice a week it is always a wise decision to consult a doctor. Increased usage of antacids is seen to cause malnutrition as they are known to cause nutrient absorption deficiency.

  1. Alginate drugs, including Gaviscon

These are the best antacids available to treat heartburns.

The alginic acid present in the alginate drugs works by creating a foamy gel mechanical barrier against the acidity in the stomach. The side effects of the usage of this drug are minimal as the naturally available alginic acid doesn’t cause much damage to the stomach.

  1. Prokinetic agents

Reglan and urecholine are prokinetic agents that help to strengthen the LES, empty the stomach at a faster pace and reduce acid reflux.

Other therapy options are:

  • Potassium-competitive acid blockers
  • Tricyclic antidepressants
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • Theophylline, a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor
  • Sucralfate acid suppressants.

Can home remedies effectively cure acid refluxes?

Yes, heartburn and acid refluxes can be relieved with the aid of condiments easily available in the kitchen. Some of the effective home therapies to relieve acid reflux include:

Organic baking soda

Over the counter drugs for treating acid reflux mainly contains sodium bicarbonate. Baking soda also contains this active ingredient that helps to neutralize the gastric acidity.

How to use:

  • Mix 1-2.5 teaspoons of the soda in a cup of cold water.
  • Drink this mixture 1-3 hours after meals and just before going to bed.

Note: Adjust the dosage of the soda as per requirement but limit it to 5 teaspoons per day. Baking soda is seen to interact with other medications hence it always safe to double check with the healthcare provider before starting this remedy.

Aloe juice

One of the safest products proven to be used to treat GERD ailments. Just as Aloe Vera helps to soothe sunburn it also creates a soothing effect on the esophagus. Drink the 10ml of the pure aloe vera juice available at the local market or pharmacy on an empty stomach in the morning.

Note: Seen to cause a mild laxative effect.

Ginger root tea

Ginger root tea carries medicinal properties that help to alleviate acid reflux. A recent search has proved that ginger has a pivotal role in aiding the stomach to empty the food at a faster rate.

How to use:

  • Use the market available ginger root tea bag or freshly sliced ginger of half-inch size.
  • Place this in 150ml of boiling water for 2-3 minutes.
  • Strain and consume a cup of it before a meal twice or thrice a day.
  • Always bear in mind to not take more than 500mg per day.

Note: Consult a physician to check if this remedy use will interact with any of your medications.

Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is a beneficial product to maintain a healthy gut as it aids to neutralizes the acidity in the gut. Take two to three teaspoons of the market available apple cider vinegar thrice a day (Upon waking, prior to lunch, and at bedtime).

Note: Always ensure that the vinegar is diluted with water for consumption as if consumed without dilution it is seen to damage the tooth enamel and irritates the throat thereby enhancing heartburn symptoms.

Chamomile tea

Chamomile is widely used to treat a  variety of disorders. This herb is very effective to treat gastrointestinal diseases as they play a pivotal role in relaxing the muscles that aid in transporting food to the intestines. Pieces of evidence have been reported that chamomile tea consumption helps to alleviate acid refluxes as effectively as the antacids available over the counter. Brew a tea with 1-1.5 teaspoons of chamomile tea leaves or commercially available tea bags and consume 3-4 cups a day when acid reflux symptoms are experienced.

Note: Precautions need to be taken by patients allergic to other plant-based teas. Consult a doctor before the use of this remedy as it may interact with certain medications that are consumed by people for various ailments.

Chewing gum

Chewing gum is seen to effectively control heartburn as it helps to clear the esophagus of any excess stomach acid when an chewing gum is chewed for half an hour post a meal.

Note: Indulging in chewing excessive gums has a laxative effect.

Licorice root

Recent studies have proved that licorice helps to prevent acidity by forming a gastric mucus thereby protecting the esophagus and stomach from acid refluxes.  The commercially available gut guard a root extract of licorice root is seen to reduce indigestion problems in many patients. Licorice roots are available as lozenges, take two to four 380mg lozenges before meals for effective outcomes.

Note: This remedy is strictly not recommended for pregnant women.

Fennel

Fennel is a yesteryear herb used to treat acidity ailments. Research has proved that consuming fennel post a meal not only soothes the digestive tract and aids in a smooth movement of food from the stomach to the intestines but also the digestive canals from the gastric damage caused by highly acidic environments. Consume 2-5grams of freshly crushed fennel or fennel tea  2-4 times a day as needed for beneficial outcomes.

Precautions: Refrain consuming more than 7 grams of fennel for more than two weeks.Consult a doctor to check if the fennel consumption will interact with any drugs that are ingested by an individual. Highly not recommended to use in pregnant women.

Holy basil leaves

This herb is considered as the queen of herbs as it possesses immense medicinal properties that help in treating many ailments. This herb effectively alleviates the gastric acidity by improving the liver bile production which in turn will break down the acidity once the food enters the intestines.Consume two cups of freshly prepared holy basil tea twice a day for favorable benefits.

Note: This remedy is not recommended for breastfeeding mothers and pregnant women. Increased consumption of holy basil is seen to cause mild blood thinning hence it always a wise decision to take the general practitioners advise before using this remedy.

Cumin seeds

A common remedy predominantly prescribed by naturopaths to treat acid refluxes. This ancient herb has proved to provide beneficial effects in treating gastrointestinal problems. To a glass of warm water add 1/3 teaspoon of cumin with a pinch of rock salt and a pinch of asafoetida. Consume this infusion before every meal for effective outcomes.

Note: Diabetic patients are advised to use this remedy post consulting a doctor as proven research shows that cumin seeds are seen to interact with diabetic medications.

Peppermint oil

Peppermint oil is a very effective remedy to treat symptoms of dyspepsia which include heartburn. This oil is available in the form of a capsule in the market. Consume two capsules once in the morning and once before bedtime for effective outcomes. Peppermint oil in combination with caraway oil has improved effects on indigestion disorders.

Note: Overdosage is toxic to the body stick to the dosage of two capsules per day.

Pineapple juice

The enzyme bromelain present in pineapple juice is an effective digestive aid as it enhances the breakdown of proteins. Sip small quantities of pineapple juice with a meal for enhanced benefits.

Precautions: Not recommended to use in pregnant women as the bromelain enzyme is seen to stimulate uterine contractions. Initially, consume a small number of juices to check how the stomach responds to the remedy.

Vegetable juices

Consuming vegetable juices made from vegetables that aid in lowering the stomach acidity helps treat acid refluxes efficiently. Choose highly alkaline veggies like kale, celery, and cucumber for an effective outcome. Blend one peeled cucumber, two kale leaves, one celery stalk, a handful of parsley, one lemon, and one inch of ginger root to form a smooth mixture. Consume this juice in the morning for an effective relief from heartburn.  Do not drink more than 2-3 glasses of this juice per day as increased consumption is seen to increase the laxative effect.

Turmeric juice

The anti-inflammatory property present in the turmeric helps to soothe GERD ailments. Turmeric inclusion has also seen to improve the bile production in the liver which in turn helps in a faster breakdown of food. A study has proved this fact that turmeric when added to the diet helps the liver to break down food faster by 62%.

A great recipe from refluxMD has seen to work effectively to control heartburn which includes:

  • 2 cups chilled carrot juice
  • 1 medium ripe banana
  • 6 large frozen strawberries
  • 1 small yogurt (4 oz.)
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger

This fruit mixture needs to be blended smoothly and consumed once a day at breakfast for heartburn cure.

Note: Not recommended to use for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Consult the doctor if you are taking any other medication or blood thinning medication before starting to use this remedy.

Try acupuncture

A Chinese study has proved that both acupuncture and reflux medications show similar benefits in treating heartburn. But apart from that, there is no additional research supporting this evidence. Hence heartburns can be controlled with acupuncture if this treatment suits a person.

Snack on Almonds

Snack almonds post every meal or post every mini bite as this nut is seen to neutralize the stomach acid, relieving and preventing some heartburn or acid reflux types.

What are the pros and cons to effectively control heartburn or an acid reflux?

The following tips effectively help to control acid refluxes:

Don’t overeat: Avoid binging on large meals as these enhance the problems of heartburn.

Lose weight: Increased pressure in the abdomen is seen to elevate heartburn hence losing the abdomen fat will help control this ailment.

Follow a low carb- diet: Acid reflux can also be caused due to poor carbohydrate digestion and bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine. Hence following a low carb diet will effectively cure this condition.

Refrain or limit the alcohol intake:  Excessive consumption of alcohol aggravates heartburns hence refrain consuming alcohol when suffering from acid refluxes.

Limit the coffee intake per day: Pieces of evidence have proved that coffee can aggravate heartburn and acid refluxes. if u feel coffee drinking increases the symptoms then try limiting its intake.

Refrain eating raw onion: Eating a meal with onion id seen to increase acid refluxes hence limit the onion intake in the diet. Refrain indulging in raw onions as they elevate the esophagus irritation.

Limit the carbonated beverages consumption: Carbonated beverages are seen to weaken the esophageal sphincter when compared to drinking water and induce belching which will increases the amount of acid that escapes to the food pipe.

Don’t increase citrus juice intake: Citrus juice is seen to irritate the esophagus thereby aggravating heartburn symptoms, hence consume less citrus fruit juices during acid refluxes.

Consider eating less chocolate: Studies have shown that chocolate syrup consumption in excess weakens the lower esophageal sphincter and chocolate drinks elevate the acids in the esophagus which in turn may increase acid refluxes. But the fact is completely not proven. If u feel chocolates increase heartburn try avoiding it

Avoid mint if needed: Spearmint intake is seen to irritate the esophagus and is also seen to aggravate acid refluxes hence avoid consuming mints if u feel this worsens heartburns.

Elevate the head of your bed: Elevating the head of your bed is seen to help control acid reflux during bedtime.

Avoid sleeping on the right side: Laying on the right side worsens acid refluxes as the stomach acids are seen to cover the lower esophageal sphincter which increases the risk of acid leak through it causing reflux during the night time.

Always bear in mind that the remedies mentioned here need to be tried only for occasional heartburns or refluxes. If an individual suffers from acid refluxes more than twice a week consult a healthcare provider to check for any medical complications. Assess the triggers that may cause acid refluxes as these effectively help to control this condition. You owe yourself a life free of irritating heartburn.

Sources

  • http://everydayroots.com/heartburn-remedies
  • https://www.sepalika.com/gerd/home-remedies-heartburn/15/
  • https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/heartburn-acid-reflux-remedies#section16
  • https://www.medicinenet.com/gastroesophageal_reflux_disease_gerd/article.htm
  • https://www.webmd.com/heartburn-gerd/guide/what-is-acid-reflux-disease#1
  • https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/146619.php

 

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