Acid reflux happens when the acid in your stomach moves back up the esophagus. The esophagus is the tube that runs from the throat to the stomach. When you are having an acid reflux, you might taste sour liquid or food that has been vomited at the back of your mouth. Alternatively, you might have heartburn, which is a burning feeling around your chest area.
According to the American College of Gastroenterology, more than 60 million people who live in the U.S get heartburn at least once a month. Out of this, at least 15 million people get symptoms of this condition on a daily basis.
Acid reflux is also known as gastroesophageal reflux. In some cases, the acid reflux turns into gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which is a more severe form of acid reflux. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), approximately 20 million people in the U.S. have GERD. People who have GERD have different symptoms. The most prevalent symptom of GERD is heartburn. Other symptoms include wheezing, difficulty in swallowing and chest pain. All these are more evident when you’re sleeping at night.
How Does Acid Reflux Happen?
When you eat, food moves from your mouth, into the esophagus and then the stomach. Then the ring of muscles creates a lower esophageal sphincter (LES) at the entrance of your stomach. Once food passes from the esophagus into the stomach, the LES closes. In case the LES does not close completely or in case it keeps opening up frequently, then this allows for the acid in your stomach to move up the esophagus. This results in heartburn as the acid burns the lining of your esophagus.
The term heartburn is in no way associated with the heart.
Hydrochloric acid is produced in the stomach; this acid protects you against pathogens like bacteria. In addition, it helps to break down the food that you have consumed.
Generally, your stomach acid is naturally protected against the acid. However, your esophagus is not protected in any way.
When the gastroesophageal sphincter does not work as expected, then the contents of the stomach are vomited into the esophagus. It is at this point that you experience the symptoms of acid reflux, such as heartburn.
GERD affects everyone across all age groups. It is mostly caused by lifestyle factors but in some other cases, it’s caused by unknown reasons.
For instance, a hiatal hernia is one of the causes of this disease. You cannot prevent a hernia. In such a case, there is an opening in the diaphragm which makes it possible for the upper part of the stomach to get into the chest cavity and this can lead to GERD.
Other high-risk factors that you can control include:
- Being overweight
- Being either a passive or active smoker
- Exercising that is not intense
- Drugs, such as those used for asthma, calcium-channel blockers, antihistamines, painkillers, sedatives, and antidepressants.
Since there is much more pressure applied to the internal organs of the body during pregnancy, this can lead to acid reflux.
Diagnosing Acid Reflux
In case you get acid reflux at least two times a week or you do not seem to be responding to the medication given, and then consult a doctor. The doctor will then diagnose you.
The doctor will carry out a number of tests. This includes:
- Barium Swallow to test for ulcers
- Esophageal manometry to assess how your LES is working
- They will observe your pH to see if there is acid in your esophagus
- Biopsy which will be done during an endoscopy. Samples are taken to be analyzed under a microscope
Treating Acid Reflux
Altering your lifestyle can lead to changes when it comes to acid reflux. Here is what you can do:
- If you are obese, lose weight
- Eat smaller portions of food and increase the frequency of meals
- Stay away from foods that trigger reflux. This includes fried and spicy foods, citrus, peppermint chocolate, chocolate, tomato, mint, garlic, and onions.
- Stay away from beverages like coffee, tea, alcohol, and carbonated drinks
- Do not take nicotine
- Avoid tight clothes and tight belts
- Raise the head of your bed by at least 4-6 inches. You can do this by putting blocks under the head of the bead.
- Use over the counter medications such as antacids like Tums, H-2-receptor blockers like Pepcid AC or Tagamet HB and proton pump inhibitors like Prilosec OTC.
OTC Remedies for Acid Reflux
You can use over the counter (OTC) to help reduce acid levels in your stomach. These drugs are best used by people who tend to have indigestion and heartburn as a result of food and drink triggers.
Use antacids. These are usually available in tablet or liquid form. They might work for some people but fail to work for other people. Before you start using antacids on a regular basis, be sure to talk to your doctor about it.
The antacids will give you fast but temporary relief, as they help to reduce the level of acid in the stomach.
The antacids have chemical compounds like calcium carbonate, aluminum, sodium bicarbonate and magnesium hydroxide. But the thing about these antacids is that they prevent your body from absorbing nutrients. This can lead to nutrient deficiency.
Alginate Drugs like Gaviscon
You can use Gaviscon to treat heartburn. However, it does not work the same way as antacids do since they don’t have similar compositions. However, they contain antacid.
Alginic acid works by creating a buffer against the stomach acid. It forms a foamy gel that is formed at the top of the gastric pool.
Therefore, anytime you get an acid reflux, it will not damage your esophagus lining since the contents will have alginic acid, which is not as harsh as hydrochloric acid. Align can also be used to treat other conditions, such as high blood pressure, it will lower cholesterol, as well as absorb heavy metals that might have found their way into the body, such as Manganese, tin, and strontium.
Alginate is derived from natural brown seaweeds that are used to make medicine. You can add algins to your foods, such as puddings, gelatins, candy, fish products, vegetables and dairy products.
30-50% of women experience heartburn when they are pregnant. This is even if they have never had a case of reflux before.
This will require that you make lifestyle changes. For instance, do not eat late at night. Also, eat only small portions of food at a time.
In case the reflux is so severe, it is advisable that you consult a doctor about this.
Foods That May Reduce Acid Reflux Symptoms
Include these foods in your diet to reduce cases of acid reflux.
- Vegetables. Vegetables don’t have lots of fat and sugar and they help minimize acid in the stomach. You can eat broccoli, green beans, cauliflower, potatoes, cucumbers and leafy greens.
- Ginger. This is a natural anti-inflammatory that is best used for gastrointestinal problems and heartburn. Add grated or sliced ginger to your tea or smoothies.
- Oatmeal. Oatmeal is quite good as a breakfast food. It has lots of fiber and is a whole grain. It will absorb the acid in the stomach; therefore minimize acid levels in the stomach. You can also go for whole grain bread and whole grain rice.
- Non-Citrus Fruits. Avoid acidic foods like citrus, as they can trigger acid reflux. Instead go for bananas, melons, pears, and apples.
- Lean Meats. Go for lean meat since it is low in fat. This includes fish, chicken, turkey, and seafood. Grill, bake, poach or boil them.
- Egg Whites. Since the yolks of eggs are high in fat, they can easily trigger reflux. Instead, go for the whites of the eggs.
- Healthy Fats. Eat healthy unsaturated fats and avoid saturated fats and Trans fats. You can find healthy fats in avocado, olive oil, sesame oil, flaxseed, sunflower oils, and walnut.
What You Should Not Drink
There are some foods that will trigger acid reflux. This usually happens soon after you have consumed the food or drink.
Here are some drinks that you should not drink since they trigger acid reflux.
- Alcohol. Alcohol relaxes the valve between the stomach and esophagus. It also triggers the stomach to produce more acid.
- Carbonated Drinks. The bubbles in this drink cause the stomach to expand. This pushes the stomach acid and stomach contents back up into the esophagus after forcing the sphincter to open.
- Beverages with Caffeine. Caffeine triggers acid reflux. Therefore, go for decaf drinks. Ask for decaffeinated versions of teas, sodas, and coffee.
- Chocolate. Avoid chocolate in any kind of form. This includes candy, hot cocoa, and chocolate milk.
- Citrus Juices. The juice of citrus fruits is high in acid. This includes orange juice and grapefruit juice. They can make acid reflux worse.
What to Drink
- Ginger Tea. It soothes the stomach and reduces the amount of acid that is produced in the stomach. Make caffeine free tea, and then add ginger and sweeten it with honey.
You can find different kinds of ginger tea on Amazon.
Avoid ginger ale since it is carbonated and has caffeine. In addition, they only have a small amount of ginger.
- Yogurt. Go for plain yogurt that has been sweetened with honey. It will relieve you from acid reflux symptoms.
- Milk. Go for low-fat milk or fat-free milk. High-fat content milk can make your symptoms worse. Almond milk is also handy since its alkaline nature can neutralize acidity.
The Proper Way to Drink
How you drink can also affect heartburn and make your symptoms worse or better.
To minimize symptoms here is what you should do:
- Don’t drink too much beverage in one go. Drink small amounts throughout the day.
- Don’t drink or snack late at night
- Try to stay upright after you drink something
You can buy a number of medicines over the counter to help relieve heartburn and other GERD symptoms.
- Antacids. such as Gaviscon or Tums. There are so many varieties to choose from on Amazon.
- H-2-receptor blockers. These minimize the amount of acid produced in the stomach for up to 12 hours. This includes drugs like ranitidine (Zantac).
- Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). They work by blocking acid from being produced in the stomach until the food pipe heals.
If over the counter medications do not work, your doctor will prescribe strength H-2 receptor blockers and PPIs. As much as they are effective, they have negative side effects. They make your bones more fragile, cause vitamin B-12 deficiency and can lead to infections like pneumonia and C. difficile.
When to See a Doctor
When you get acid reflux, it will make you uncomfortable. However, this disease is treatable. In most cases, home remedies will help you manage this condition. You can also go for OTC medication or get a prescription from your doctor. In rare cases; you might have to undergo an operation.
If you have severe or frequent reflux, consult a doctor, so that they can assess whether you have other medical conditions. The doctor will most likely want to check your esophagus to see if serious damage has been done to it.
In addition, see a doctor if you experience GERD symptoms and any other symptoms in addition. This includes chest pain, difficulty in breathing, pain in the jaw and the right arm. This could be a sign of a more severe illness like heart disease.
Acid Reflux and Coughing
If your cough lasts for eight weeks or more, then you have what is known as chronic coughing,
25% of chronic coughing is as a result of GERD. In addition, more research shows that in 40% of the cases of chronic coughing can be attributed to GERD.
Chronic coughing might not necessarily be linked to GERD. It might just be that you have chronic coughing and GERD at the same time.
How Reflux Causes Coughing
Coughing can take place as a reflux action when stomach acid gets into the food pipe.
The second case of chronic coughing can be attributed to droplets of stomach acid that move up the food pipe and find their way to the voice box or throat. This is referred to as laryngeal pharyngeal reflux (LPR). The coughing is the body’s way of protecting itself against LPR.
It is also referred to as silent reflux or atypical reflux. It is the same as GERD but it might have different symptoms.
When the stomach acid lands onto the voice box or throat, it might lead to inflammation, which will lead to:
- Clearing of throat
- The sensation that something is stuck in your throat
Just a small amount of stomach acid landing on the voice box can lead to issues. Only half of those who have been diagnosed with LPR get heartburn.
If you have GERD, making lifestyle changes or take medication or doing both can make a great difference in your life.
In some cases, it might be best that you undergo surgery. During surgery, the LES might be Reasons acid reflux might cause a sore throat tightened or a magnetic device inserted to help LES work properly.
Approximately 20%-60% of people might not experience heartburn, even though they might have neck and throat issues.
The most prevalent symptom is having a lump in your throat.
However, it can be challenging to diagnose head and neck symptoms. They can be mistakenly diagnosed as chronic or recurring tonsillitis.
When gastric acid touches the vocal cords, it can result in soreness. If this happens a lot, you will end up getting hoarse, feeling as if a lump is stuck in your throat, frequent throat clearing and coughing.
These symptoms at times are referred to as laryngeal pharyngeal reflux (LPR).
There’s a debate among scientists as to whether LPR is a symptom of acid reflux or whether it is a separate issue altogether.
LPR usually starts like an upper respiratory condition. Its symptoms might linger due to the damaged vocal cords getting irritated with small amounts of acid reflux.
If you use your vocal chords a lot every day, you might experience more severe signs of a sore throat as a result of acid reflux.
How to Treat a Sore Throat
Use OTC medications to reduce levels of acid in the stomach or neutralize it. This will greatly help to reduce the symptoms caused by acid reflux. This will relieve you from sore throat symptoms. These medications come in various types and forms. You can buy these medications online.
Other drugs work by making the muscles that separate the food pipe from the stomach stronger. Once these muscles have been strengthened, then chances of food going up the food pipe will be minimized.
There are certain small steps you can take to minimize cases of acid reflux happening:
- Avoid heavy meals. Instead, go for smaller and more frequent meals.
- Stay away from spicy, fatty and fried foods.
- Stay away from carbonated, caffeinated and alcoholic drinks
- Avoid citrus and tomato juice as they irritate the food pipe.
Acid Reflux Complications
If you suffer from acid reflux for a long time, it might lead to complications. For instance, the lower part of your food pipe will get scarred and this will narrow down the food pipe, making it hard for you to swallow. With time, this might lead to painful ulcers forming.
You can also get Barret’s esophagus, as a result of acid reflux. This can affect the tissues on the lower parts of the food pipe. This increases the risk of esophageal cancer.
If you have Barret’s esophagus, you need to undergo endoscopy on a regular basis to check if you have symptoms of cancer.
Acid Reflux in Children
Children who have acid reflux might not want to eat or drink anything. They might experience pain after eating and have challenges breathing. They will also fail to gain weight.
According to doctors, acid reflux in children might be caused by a short food pipe, the condition of the muscles on the lower part of the esophagus and pinching of the fibers in the diaphragm.
Since acid reflux in children might be caused by sensitivity to certain foods, your doctor might advise that you make certain lifestyle changes to keep this condition under control.
Some of the things you can do are to make them eat smaller portions of food, no eating two to three hours before bedtime or before playing. Also, avoid tight-fitting outfits. Bigger kids might be advised to use antacids, histamine-2 blockers like Pepcid or Zantac, or proton pump inhibitors like Nexium, Prilosec, and Prevacid.
Will Your Child Outgrow Reflux?
In most cases, the sphincter muscles at the end of the food pipe will strengthen as the child grows up. In most cases, kids will overcome GERD by the time they are one and a half years old.
2-7 percent of parents report that their kids (3-7 years old) experience heartburn, pain in the stomach and vomiting. These symptoms can also be found in 5-8 percent of teens.
GERD will decline up to 12 years of age but it peaks between 16-17 years of age. More teenage girls as compared to buys get this condition.
GER tends to happen in childhood, while GERD tends to occur among adults.
Home Remedies for Acid Reflux
Here are some home remedies that you can use to help minimize GERD symptoms, as they promote better digestion of food, reduce acid levels in the stomach and soothe the food pipe.
- Apple Cider Vinegar. Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is effective as it mimics stomach acid. You can drink ACV directly or you can mix it with other ingredients in a homemade drink.
- Ginger. Ginger helps in treating gastrointestinal issues, including acid reflux. Ginger is effective since it is anti-inflammatory. It minimizes inflammation on the GI tract caused by acid reflux.
- Aloe Vera. You can do more with Aloe Vera, apart from applying it to your skin after you have had a long day at the beach.
This green, bubbly goop can be used to soothe the skin if you have suffered from heartburn. This explains why this plant is great when it comes to dealing with internal inflammation.
Aloe Vera has a cool and soothing effect that counteracts the inflammation caused by acid reflux. You can take it as a drink or in gel form. You can also dilute it with water or blend it into your smoothie.
When buying aloe vera, try and find the one that is in the most natural condition. You can even opt to buy an aloe vera plant or leaf from an Asian shop or market. There are a couple of sports drinks that include aloe vera as part of their ingredients. However, these drinks also have about 30 g of sugar per serving, which can make your acid reflux symptoms worse.
- Fennel. Fennel has been used for hundreds of years as a way of speeding up digestion. It is commonly used when one is bloated or constipated. Since it promotes better digestion, it can be used to minimize the symptoms of acid reflux.
You can put fennel in your tea or blend it and add it to your smoothies.
- Mastic. Mastic is derived from the leaves or stems of the Mediterranean evergreen tea.
It is a natural antibiotic; therefore, it can kill harmful pathogens that cause acid reflux. This includes Pylori and Staphylococcus. This explains why this is the main ingredient that is recommended for people who suffer from acid reflux.
Since this substance is thick and chewy, you can chew it up like chewing gum.
- Digestive Enzymes. Digestive enzymes are another effective remedy against acid reflux.
For your body to produce adequate digestive enzymes, you must have enough stomach acid. If the acid levels are too low, then your body will not be prompted to produce enough digestive enzymes that will help to digest your food well.
In such cases, your acid reflux will get worse. In such a case, you can take a plant enzyme like bromelain or papain, before you eat, so as to minimize the symptoms experienced.
- Coconut Oil. Coconut oil has lauric acid. This is a fatty acid that has antibacterial properties.
That means that when you use coconut oil to cook food, tea and just consuming a tablespoon of this oil directly can minimize the symptoms experienced. This is because the antibacterial effect of the oil will kill harmful bacteria that cause acid reflux.
- Licorice Root. Licorice Root can also be referred to as deglycyrrhizinated licorice (or DGL). This root has been used for hundreds of years to prevent acid reflux symptoms.
In traditional Chinese medicine, this root is known as a ‘dampening’ food that minimizes inflammation caused by acid reflux.
DGL not only soothes, but it also releases spams in the digestive tract that are caused by the acid reflux.
DGL is available in the form of a chewable tablet. You can also take it as a capsule supplement or in herbal digestive teas.
- Slippery Elm. Slippery Elm is a tree. The substance that is used to calm down acid reflux symptoms is extracted from its inner bark. The substances are then dried and then ground up into powder form.
Research studies have been done on slippery elm. It not only soothes, but it also coats the mouth, throat, and stomach, making it a great remedy for dealing with acid reflux problems.
Slippery Elm is available in the form of capsules, lozenges and herbal tea.
Apart from using the 9 natural remedies that have been discussed above, you can do certain things, so as to improve your overall health. This can help you to completely recover from acid reflux and minimize the chances of you getting symptoms associated with reflux.
Lifestyle changes that you can make on a day to day basis include:
- Taking lots of water
- Include probiotics in your diet
- Keep your stress levels down
- Concentrate on your food when eating
- Chew food thoroughly
The steps above are great for your health. They will also help to greatly minimize your symptoms.
Chia Seeds and Acid Reflux
The kind of foods that you eat can make your acid reflux symptoms get worse or better. It is advisable that you do not consume too much fat, given the effect that fat can have on your stomach when your stomach is emptying. Chia seeds have a high-fat content, considering that it is 60% fat. This increases the chances of you getting acid reflux. In addition, the seeds have a fiber which turns into a gel when it comes into contact with water. This affects stomach emptying and increases chances of acid reflux.
Even though chia seeds are not that great when it comes to acid reflux, these seeds have lots of health benefits. They are a good source of omega 3 fatty acids. This helps to keep your heart in a healthy condition, to also help to reduce inflammation in the body.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, chia seeds can minimize blood pressure in people who have diabetes. It can also help to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. On the other hand, it promotes good cholesterol. The gelling nature of the seeds will help you to control your appetite.
So as to maximize the health benefits derived from chia seeds, consider using these seeds in small quantities only. For instance, add one tablespoon in your yogurt or hot cereal. You can also sprinkle just a bit in your salad. It will help to add texture and taste to your salad. You can also use these seeds when you are baking muffins and bread.
It’s best that you consult your doctor in case you are on blood thinners. This is to avoid possible interaction of the chia seeds with the medication that you are taking.