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Acid Reflux: Some Advice and Tips

Think you have an acid reflux issue? Acid reflux is when acid from your stomach travels up towards your throat, causing a burning sensation and an unpleasant taste in your mouth. It can be very uncomfortable and last for anything from a couple of hours or more.

Up to 25% of the adult population in the UK suffer from acid reflux and in serious cases it can lead to an inflammation of the oesophagus and if this is severe, ulcers can form.

If you have it, you'll probably be well aware - but if not, here are some signs to look out for.

What causes acid reflux?

Usually acid reflux happens as a result of eating fatty or spicy foods, but some people find chocolate, citrus fruit or coffee can also trigger it. Lying down or bending over after eating can also cause it. Acid reflux can present as a burning sensation in the throat, chest or back or as one or more of the following symptoms, usually at night-time:

  • Reoccurring cough or hiccups
  • Hoarse voice
  • Bad breath
  • Bloating and feeling sick.

Some people can suffer from acid reflux for no apparent lifestyle factor, but you are more susceptible if:

  • You’re a smoker
  • Drink alcohol excessively
  • You’re pregnant
  • You’re overweight.

How is acid reflux diagnosed?

Most people suffer from acid reflux as no more than a nuisance. However, in some cases, where symptoms last more than three weeks, it’s advisable to see your GP.

Your GP will assess your symptoms and review the need to prescribe acid-suppressant medication. If medication does not ease the condition, further tests maybe required, such as a gastroscopy or barium meal; both of which are designed to investigate whether there is any narrowing of the oesophagus, inflammation or signs of a hiatus-hernia.

Medication for Acid Reflux

Before taking any medication for acid reflux, it’s helpful to try and monitor your food intake, especially portion size and the times of your meals; it’s advisable to leave three hours in-between eating and going to bed. Raising your chest and waist so that they are above your hips whilst in bed can also ease symptoms.

The most common medications for acid reflux are what are known as antacids. Antacids can quickly relieve symptoms and well-known brands include Alka Seltzer and Gaviscon which are available in tablet, liquid and soluble tablet form.

Antacids will not treat any underlying symptoms so for persistent cases always seek the advice of your GP.

Longer term Problems of Acid Reflux

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, also known as GERD, is when someone suffers from persistent acid reflux, but not as a result of eating spicy food or oranges but because the lower oesophageal sphincter (LES) – which is the muscle valve where your oesophagus joins your stomach, either opens at the wrong time or doesn’t close properly. The malfunction of this valve means acid from the stomach moves back into the oesophagus, causing burning, and in long term cases resulting in severe pain.

It’s important that GERD be treated, as the acid passing back into the oesophagus will inflame the lining of the oesophagus. This can lead to ulcers, and if left untreated, could lead to cancer. Doctors will often prescribe antacids and medications to help strengthen the muscle valves and surgery will only be performed usually as a last resort.

Ultimately, a healthy diet that avoids foods that trigger the symptoms and a healthy lifestyle will keep things under control and prevent symptoms from getting worse.

Until next time...

Disclaimer: If you are allergic to any of the ingredients listed in the products mentioned, do not consume them. Always check with your doctor before trying a new medication or regime, and if irritation or allergy occurs stop using the product or medication immediately.

 

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