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Understanding What Is Acid Reflux And How To Manage It

May 7, 2008
Acid reflux, sometimes known as GERD (Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease), is an irritating and sometimes hurting condition that occurs when acid and other materials in the stomach back up into your esophagus, creating a excruciating, burning feeling and sometimes causing permanent damage to the lining of the esophagus (the muscular tube that leads from your throat to the stomach).

The majority of times during acid reflux, food from the stomach stay in the lower part of the esophagus, where they can cause heartburn and nausea. Seldom, the stomach materials will reflux all the way into your mouth. But when this happens, the acid will cause a burning feeling in your throat, and you might find small, undigested pieces of food in your mouth.

What Causes Acid Reflux?

A defective lower esophageal sphincter is usually held responsible for Acid reflux. The esophageal sphincter is a strong rim of muscle that surrounds the lower end of the esophagus. When food is eaten, the sphincter contracts powerfully to drive the food into the stomach.

When the sphincter is not tough enough to force the food into the stomach, or when the sphincter does not push and simply relaxes, Acid Reflux occurs.

Other culprits connected with acid reflux consist of a hiatal hernia and a "weak" or "slow" esophagus that doesn't contract strongly enough to move the food to the stomach in a timely manner.

What Are The Symptoms To Look For?

There are many possible symptoms that a doctor will test for, since it varies among individuals. The occurrence and intensity of symptoms can also vary from occasionally to daily, and mild to severe.

One of the major symptoms of acid reflux disease is a burning sensation in the chest that occurs after intake of food. This sensation may last a few hours and become worse if one lies down after eating. The burning can also travel up into the throat area, and there might be a sour taste in the mouth. Occasionally, an individual will develop a cough or become hoarse as a consequence of this burning in the throat and chest.

If no treatment is sought to the point of damage to the larynx, respiratory problems may develop, scar tissue might build up in the esophagus causing swallowing to be difficult and medical treatment will be essential to prevent more damage.

How Is Acid Reflux Treated?

Medications are available to help ease the discomfort of acid reflux disease. However, for greatest benefit, doctors also suggest lifestyle changes. They include:

Weight Loss

Although the reasons are not clearly understood, overweight group tend to be more at risk for acid reflux disease as compared to people with normal weight. Research shows that losing just 10% of your body weight can ease the symptoms of acid reflux.

Abstention From Smoking And Drinking

Nicotine is thought to weaken the esophageal sphincter, as with Alcohol. Production of excessive acid might also be caused by the two.

Staying Upright For At Least 45 Minutes After A Meal

Straight away after eating, acid fills your stomach as it works to digest the foods you have consumed. Lying down during this time is most likely to cause the acid to flow into your esophagus. Gravity will help keep the acid in the stomach if you sit or stand upright.

Eat Several Small Meals A Day Instead Of Three Big Ones

More acid is needed if more food is consumed to digest it. Having numerous small meals is much easier on your digestive system, thus reducing the chance of acid reflux disease occurring.

Avoid Clothing That Is Tight Around The Waist

Tight clothing will force food and acid up against the esophageal sphincter. A damaged sphincter will allow the contents to flow back into the esophagus with unlikable results.

Avoidance Of Fast Foods

Nearly all fast foods are high in fat. More acid is produced due to Fatty foods, which can result in increased symptoms of acid reflux disease.

In addition, over-the-counter medications are available to ease symptoms. Histamine Receptor Antagonists, like Pepcid and Zantac, work by decreasing the amount of acid in the stomach. Mylanta and Tagamet, on the other hand, work to neutralize acid.

Finally, if the symptoms persist, doctors may recommend proton pump inhibitors such as Nexium and Prevacid. They prevent the discharge of acid into the stomach and intestines. Lastly, Reglan, a promotility agent, may be used to force the esophagus to empty more quickly and to speed digestion.
About the Author
Cindy Heller is a professional writer. Visit acid reflux relief to learn more about acid reflux disease symptom and home remedy for acid reflux.
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