Alarmed by that burning sensation in your chest? Chances are it’s heartburn, one of the most common symptoms of acid reflux, a condition that creates disturbances in the upper abdomen and is often called indigestion. It is reported that about 15 million Americans experience heartburn daily; 60 million experience it at least once a month.
What is acid reflux or heartburn?
Acid reflux, which results in a painful, burning feeling in your chest or throat, is a common occurrence. It happens when stomach acid backs up into your esophagus, the tube that carries food from your mouth to your stomach.
There is a circular muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter that lies between the esophagus and stomach. This muscle is responsible for closing the esophagus after food passes to the stomach. If this muscle is weak or does not close, then acid from the stomach can move backward into the esophagus. This whole process is called acid reflux.
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What are the symptoms of acid reflux?
Heartburn This is the most common symptom of acid reflux which causes a burning sensation starting from the stomach to the middle of the abdomen and chest. It does not harm the heart, but a burning sensation in the chest is often misinterpreted as a heart attack. Pressure or pain behind the breastbone, the feeling of food being stuck in the chest, burping and a sour taste at the back of the throat are signs of heartburn.
Regurgitation This is another symptom which creates a bitter taste in the mouth followed by vomiting.
Dyspepsia This is basically stomach discomfort. Signs of dyspepsia are burping, upper abdominal pain and nausea after eating.
Cause of acid reflux
Though acid reflux is rarely dangerous, keeping a check on one’s daily diet and lifestyle can prevent the discomfort caused by it.
Factors that can cause acid reflux symptoms are:
Stomach abnormalities Hiatal hernia is a stomach abnormality that can occur at any age and cause acid reflux. It occurs when part of your stomach pushes upward through the diaphragm. Your diaphragm normally has a small opening (hiatus) through which your food tube (esophagus) passes on its way to connect to your stomach. The stomach can push up through this opening and cause a hiatal hernia, which allows food and acid to back up into your esophagus, leading to heartburn.
Pregnancy Acid reflux is a common problem among pregnant women. It occurs due to increased hormone levels combined with the pressure of a growing fetus.
Smoking This alone can cause heartburn or acid reflux symptoms, but when combined with alcohol consumption, enhances risk of esophagus cancer too.
Diet Consuming large meals or lying down right after eating may instigate heartburn. Chocolate, garlic, onions, fried foods, mint and citrus fruits can cause heartburn or acid reflux.
How should you treat acid reflux symptoms?
Several people who suffer from heartburn or indigestion caused by food or drink can quickly reduce stomach acidity by taking over-the-counter medicines. A poor lifestyle can also lead to heartburn, so keeping a check on your diet and daily routine is a must.
Here are some of the things that you can do:
- – Lose weight and stop smoking
- – Eat small meals
- – Avoid putting increased pressure on the abdomen
- – Don’t lie down for two or three hours after eating
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These tips can prevent acid reflux. But if you are already experiencing heartburn or acid reflux symptoms, here’s what you should do:
Get comfortable When the burning sensation hits, try and relax. If you can, change out tightly-fitted clothes or at least loosen the belt you are wearing.
Change position After eating, stay upright for two to three hours to prevent acid reflux. Sit up straight or stand if you feel very uncomfortable.
Chew on gum When you feel the distinct sour and acidic taste of heartburn in your mouth, pop in a piece of gum.
Medication Take over-the-counter antacid for quick relief. These drugs come in chewable tablet or liquid form and neutralize stomach acids by coating the stomach with minerals like magnesium, calcium, hydroxide and aluminium. But make sure you visit your doctor before taking these medicines.
Relax Stress can heighten heartburn symptoms so relaxation is must. Listen to music, get a massage, exercise, practice aromatherapy, do anything that eases your mind.
Acid reflux or heartburn symptoms are a common experience, primarily a result of our hectic, and often unhealthy, lifestyles. But following a good diet, and regular exercise, can prevent indigestion or heartburn.