What Is Acid Reflux and How Can It Be Fixed?
Acid reflux is also known as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, and it is a common digestive disorder for which many people get medical care. It occurs when stomach acid is released, which then goes up into the esophagus and the muscular tube. This will usually cause discomfort and pain, known as heartburn. Unfortunately, Acid Reflux or Gastroesophageal Reflux affects over 60 million Americans at least once a month.
So what makes acid reflux so common and how can it be fixed?
What is Acid Reflux?
Acid Reflux occurs when acid content is flows back from the stomach into the esophagus or the muscular tube. This is connected to the stomach and is the part of the body which helps the food travel from the mouth to the stomach.
The entrance of the stomach is called the valve and the muscle that helps with the function of the valve is called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). The purpose of the valve is to open for the food to pass through but to close immediately to avoid strong acids to pass from the stomach.
The purpose of the stomach is to contain these strong acids is to help with the digestion of food and help protect the body from bacteria. However, sometimes the valve does not close fast enough which causes the acid to go through. This can cause undesirable symptoms that can be painful. Over time, the reoccurrence of acid reflux can cause scarring and damaging the esophagus.
What Causes Acid Reflux?
On a case by case basis, there are no obvious factors to the cause of acid reflux because there are so many possible causes. It is something that can affect anyone at any age. It may happen because the LES may be weak or just simply because of lifestyle choices and behavior that can be linked to acid reflux. At any rate, some of the causes may include:
- Certain foods and drinks
- Eating large meals
- Lying down or going to sleep after a meal
- High intake of salt
- Low or no physical activity
- Some medications
- Alcohol, tea, and coffee
*Note: A Hernia occurs when the LES moves above the diaphragm and is unable to prevent reflux causing Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease.
What are the Symptoms of Acid Reflux?
Similar to the causes of Acid Reflux, there is no one particular symptom. However, the most common symptoms people tend to recognize is heartburn.
This is an uncomfortable, burning pain that moves from the stomach to the chest area and sometimes the throat. The pain can be felt in the chest. If you experience heartburn two or more times a week, this may be a sign of gastroesophageal reflux disease.
Some other symptoms of acid reflux include:
- Weight loss for unknown reasons
- Dry throat
- Sore throat
- Dental erosion
- Bad breath
How is Acid Reflux Diagnosed?
Typically it is recommended to seek medical advice if you are experiencing symptoms of Acid Reflux two or more times a week and if over the counter medications are not working. Your doctor would go through a routine medical check and physical exam as the first two steps of diagnosing if you have acid reflux.
Some other tests that may be done would include:
Esophagram: A test that looks into the esophagus by having the patient swallow a solution so the image can show up on an x-ray.
pH Monitoring: A test for acid reflux which checks how acidic the acid is in the esophagus. A device is inserted into the esophagus for 1 to 2 days to determine and monitor the acidic levels.
Endoscopy: A procedure where a tube with a camera goes down the throat to check if there are any problems and/or concerns with the esophagus or stomach.
Biopsy: A test where a sample of tissue is taken which is then sent to the laboratory for analysis.
Treatments and Lifestyle Change Preventions
The first treatment and prevention method of acid reflux would be through lifestyle changes. Reduction of symptoms can be experienced in the simplest ways and some of them include:
- Eat smaller meals
- Do not eat before bed or lying down
- Weight loss
- Reduce sale in your diet
- Abstain from smoking
- Reduce alcohol, coffee, and tea intake
- Low-fat diet
Treatments and Medication Preventions
Sometimes lifestyle changes are not enough to help treat and prevent Acid Reflux; therefore, the use of medications is needed to help some people out. The main purpose of Acid Reflux medications is to reduce damage caused by acid reflux and also to use used to reduce the acidity. Anti-acid medications are available over the counter, but some need a prescription.
Aciphex: Used to treat symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and other conditions that are connected to stomach acid. It is also used for healing of erosive esophagitis. However, it is not intended for immediate relief of heartburn.
Dexilant: A medication that helps with the reduction of the amount of acid in your stomach. It is used to treat heartburn that is linked to acid reflux, to heal acid-related damage to the lining of the esophagus and to stop erosive esophagitis from returning.
Nexium: A medication to treat symptoms of acid reflux. It allows the esophagus to heal and prevents further damage to the esophagus. It is also used to treat other conditions of excessive stomach acid. In addition, it is used to prevent stomach ulcers.
Prevacid Lansoprazole: Used to decrease the amount of acid produced in the stomach and treat ulcers, acid reflux, injury of the food pipe and other conditions.
Prilosec: Prilosec is a proton pump inhibitor used to treat ulcers, heartburn, gastroesophageal reflux, or Zollinger-Ellison syndrome. It may also be used to treat other conditions as determined by your doctor.
Protonix: Used to treat certain conditions in which there is too much acid in the stomach. It is used to treat certain stomach and esophagus problems, such as acid reflux. It works by decreasing the amount of acid your stomach makes. Protonix relieves symptoms such as heartburn, difficulty swallowing, and persistent cough. It helps heal acid damage to the stomach and esophagus, helps prevent ulcers, and may help prevent cancer of the esophagus.
Treatment and Surgery Preventions
Surgery is sometimes used but is rare in treating acid reflux. This method of treatment is only used if the symptoms of acid reflux persist and seem to be getting worse. There are three kinds of surgeries for Acid Reflux:
Fundoplication: Reinforces the LES to recreate the barrier that stops reflux from occurring.
Endoscopic Procedure: Tightly binds the end of the esophagus to the top of the stomach and stitches are used to lower the esophagus to strengthen the area.
Radiofrequency Treatment: High-energy waves are directed into the wall of the lower esophagus reducing heartburn and other acid reflux symptoms.
Risk of Long-Term Effect of Acid Reflux
If Acid Reflux is ignored or left untreated it can result in long-term symptoms and damage. It can result in damage of the esophagus lining and can cause irritation, bleeding, ulceration and scarring. In addition, it can cause difficulty swallowing and prevents food from being able to travel down successfully to the stomach. Acid reflux is also linked to higher risk of developing cancer.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The above information is intended to increase awareness of health information and does not suggest treatment or diagnosis. This information is not a substitute for individual medical attention and should not be construed to indicate that use of the drug is safe, appropriate, or effective for you. See your health care professional for medical advice and treatment.