Acid reflux is a common condition in which a person feels burning a burning pain in the lower part of the chest. This burning sensation is also known as heartburn, pyrosis, and acid indigestion. It occurs due to the backward movement of stomach acid into the food pipe. So, despite the name, it has nothing to do with the heart. A person is diagnosed with acid reflux if it occurs more than twice a week. It often occurs after you eat.
How Acid reflux occurs?
There is a ring of muscles called the gastroesophageal sphincter in the throat. This ring acts as a valve that allows food to move from the esophagus (food pipe) into the stomach but not let food move back into the esophagus. When this valve does not work properly or when it fails, the undigested food from the stomach regurgitates into the food pipe, which causes acid reflux.
Common causes for acid reflux
- Smoking (active or passive)
- Lack of physical work or exercises
- Intake of some medicines like painkillers, sedatives and antidepressants, etc.
- Pregnancy (due to extra pressure on the internal organs)
Furthermore, the following food habits may also cause acid reflux:
- Consumption of alcohol
- A high intake of common salt
- Low dietary fiber in the diet
- Lying down within 2 hours after eating
- A high intake of chocolate, carbonated drinks, and acidic juices
OTC medicines for acid reflux
There are lots of OTC medicines to reduce acid reflux or acidity. These medicines are available in both liquid and tablet formulations and are generally called antacids. For regular use of antacids, you should consult your doctor first.
Lifestyle changes that help reduce acid reflux
- Improve body posture, e.g., sit straight
- Wear loose clothes
- Lose weight if overweight or obese
- Avoid pressure on the abdomen, for instance, while doing sit-ups and due to tight belts
- Stop smoking
Other Symptoms of acid reflux
Apart from heartburn, the following symptoms may be caused by acid reflux
- Dry and persistent cough
- Pain while swallowing food
- Upper abdominal pain
- Dental erosion
- Bad breath
Risks and complications
If not treated, acid reflux can lead to the following serious complications in the long run due to persistent exposure of the esophagus to stomach acid:
- Esophagitis: It refers to the inflammation of the lining of the esophagus, which may cause bleeding, irritation and ulceration in some cases.
- Strictures: The food may stuck in the food pipe while eating that may lead to difficulty swallowing.
- Barrett's esophagus: In this condition, the changes occur in the cells and tissues that line the esophagus and it may lead to the development of cancer cells.
Natural Ways to reduce acid reflux
- Chew gum: The production of saliva increases while chewing gum. The saliva helps clear the esophagus of acid.
- Sleep on your left side: According to some studies, the symptoms of reflux may worsen while sleeping on the right side and sleeping on the left side may reduce acid reflux by up to 70%.
- Raise the head of your bed: You can raise the head of your bed to change your sleep position. It could help reduce the chances of acid reflux.
- Eat dinner earlier: You should eat dinner at least 3 hours before you go to bed. Also, it should be eaten slowly and chewed thoroughly.
- Prefer cooked onions over raw: Raw onions may trigger acid reflux by irritating the lining of the esophagus. So, avoid raw onions and prefer cooked onions instead.
- Eat smaller meals: Mostly reflux symptoms are experienced after a meal. So, avoid eating one or two large meals in a day, and eat small meals frequently instead.
- Maintain ideal body weight: The excess body weight may also worsen the symptom of reflux. So, maintaining an ideal body weight can also help you reduce reflux.
- Eat a low carb diet: It is found in some studies that a low carb diet may alleviate chances of acid reflux. The undigested carbs tend to promote bacterial overgrowth and increase pressure inside the abdomen that may lead to acid reflux.
- Reduce alcohol consumption: A high intake of alcohol may worsen the symptoms of acid reflux. Alcohol increases stomach acid and affects the esophagus's ability to clear out acid.
- Avoid too much coffee: Coffee tends to relax the lower esophageal sphincter and thus increases the risk of acid reflux. So, if you find that coffee intake worsens acid reflux, you may avoid or limit your coffee intake.
- Don't drink too much carbonated beverage: Some studies have observed that too much consumption of carbonated drinks like soft drinks, soda water, etc., may increase the risk of reflux.
Reduce the intake of citrus juice
Citrus juices are highly acidic and contain ascorbic acid, which could cause indigestion when consumed in large amounts. Besides this, some compounds present in citrus fruits could irritate the esophagus lining.
Reduce high-fat foods
Fried foods and other foods rich in fat could trigger acid reflux. For example, fried rice, potato chips, pizza, bacon, sausage, etc.
- Avoid tight-fitting clothing: The tight clothes especially around your waist put pressure on your abdomen and lower esophageal sphincter and thus could lead to acid reflux.