Acid reflux affects up to 14% of the world’s population. There is a common misconception that acid reflux is caused solely by overconsumption of acidic foods and drinks, such as citrus fruits or coffee. The truth is there is more to what triggers acid reflux than meets the eye. While your diet can be highly impactful in preventing acid reflux, there are more factors to take into consideration - for example, what you do after you finish a meal, what are your sleeping habits, and more.
While there are over-the-counter medications you can take for acid reflux, there is a vast range of preventive methods you should include in your daily routine to alleviate persistent heartburn. In this article, you will find information about the causes of acid reflux, the lifestyle changes that help prevent it, as well as home remedies for persistent heartburn.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
Acid reflux occurs when acid in your stomach backflows up into the oesophagus. Symptoms of acid reflux (or gastroesophageal reflux disease – GERD) can include heartburn (burning/heat sensation in the mid chest), regurgitation of food or sour liquid towards the neck, bitter taste in the mouth, sore throat, voice hoarseness or chronic cough.
If you’re having these symptoms periodically, you shouldn’t be too alarmed! Mild cases of acid reflux happen to most adults, primarily when a balanced diet and exercise routine haven’t been maintained recently. Frequent or chronic heartburn may however cause inflammation, bleeding and narrowing of the esophagus, and increase the risk of esophageal cancer.
What causes acid reflux?
Acid reflux is actually caused by excessive relaxation or weakening of a muscle in the lower esophagus called the lower esophageal sphincter, which normally prevents backward flow of stomach contents in the esophagus.
Certain foods may relax the sphincter and predispose to acid reflux, such as spices, citrus and fatty foods, and carbonated, caffeinated, alcoholic beverages. Other conditions like being overweight or pregnancy increases risk of acid reflux because of the additional pressure on the abdomen.
What are remedies for Acid Reflux?
Lifestyle changes relating to the above factors can help acid reflux. Some people with mild heartburn may find these changes sufficient to eliminate their symptoms.
- Minimize potentially triggering foods: spices, citrus and fatty foods, as well as carbonated, caffeinated, alcoholic beverages
- Eat slowly
- Avoid lying flat within 3-4 hours after eating a meal
- Stop smoking
- Maintain a healthy body weight
When lifestyle changes are not enough to control acid reflux symptoms, over the counter products can be used for infrequent symptoms. For more frequent symptoms, prescription medications that reduce secretion of stomach acid are effective.
When to see a doctor
Symptoms of acid reflux can be well controlled. If your symptoms are affecting your quality of life, you should contact a doctor and discuss a treatment plan. Symptoms of complications from chronic heartburn include the following, and an upper endoscopy under sedation should be considered.
- Severe chest pain
- Vomiting of blood
- Difficulty with or pain on swallowing
- Unintentional weight loss
Help at OT&P
OT&P’s gastroenterology and hepatology specialists are experienced with a variety of gastrointestinal conditions including acid reflux. If you are experiencing bothersome heartburn, you can book an appointment with our specialists at our Central clinic to discuss your concerns, and to be evaluated.
Nirwan, J., Hasan, S., Babar, Z., Conway, B. and Ghori, M., 2020. Global Prevalence and Risk Factors of Gastro-oesophageal Reflux Disease (GORD): Systematic Review with Meta-analysis. Scientific Reports, 10(1).
Harvard Health Publishing. 2015. 9 Ways To Relieve Acid Reflux Without Medication. [online] Available at: <https://www.health.harvard.edu/digestive-health/9-ways-to-relieve-acid-reflux-without-medication> [Accessed 9 October 2020].