What Is Acid Reflux?
Acid reflux is a common but complex condition that is categorised as a combination of symptoms, the most notable of them being heartburn. Heartburn occurs when an amount of stomach acid (or acidic stomach contents) travels upwards (in the wrong direction) and into the oesophagus (throat) of the individual. This can cause a burning pain in the lower chest of the individual, and the severity of this sensation can range from feelings of minor discomfort to major discomfort when chronic and left untreated. The burning sensation itself is caused owing to the high concentration of hydrochloric acid in the stomach acid itself which our stomachs have evolved to be able to withstand, our oesophagus on the other hand is delicate and is susceptible to this acid, hence the burning sensation.
It is important to understand the distinction between acid reflux and heartburn. Acid reflux is the motion (the travelling upwards of the stomach acid) and therefore the classification of the medical condition i.e. it is called acid reflux. Heartburn is the feeling that is felt and the sensation that is caused by the action of acid reflux.
The other symptoms of acid reflux are as follows. Please bear in mind that acid reflux can often be a problem that you have completely free of pain, as a combination of the below symptoms or simply as just one symptom:
- Feeling as if you need to eructate
- A pressure or a weighted feeling behind your sternum
- Unpleasant smelling breath
- Bloated sensations
- A cough
- Issues in or around the throat, including hoarseness or soreness
- An unpleasant tasting substance located in or at the back of your throat that may also present challenges with swallowing
- Stomach cramps
If acid reflux is felt and/or occurs more than twice a week it is then classified and can be diagnosed as Gastroesophageal reflux disease, commonly referred to as GERD. Please make sure that, if you are experiencing the symptoms of acid reflux or heartburn twice a week (or more) then you should contact your doctor or your GP. If you would rather then you can start a consultation with our medical team immediately, learn more here.
What Causes Acid Reflux?
The causes of acid reflux are truly numerous and can be exacerbated by a wide range of different stimulus. Below we are going to breakdown for you all the known causes of acid reflux. But first, it is important to explain that the true root cause of acid reflux lays within the anatomy of the stomach itself. Without going into too much biological detail, the entry point to the stomach is controlled by a tight circle of muscle also known as a sphincter. When this circle of muscle, or “valve”, is fully functioning and operational, then it will open to facilitate the passage of food, closing tightly once all of this food has passed through. If the sphincter muscle that controls this passing of food into the stomach is not working properly, is weakened or open more frequently than it is supposed to, then stomach acid will be able to flow upwards through this passageway, into the oesophagus, ultimately causing heartburn as a result.
It is important to note that acid reflux is not caused solely by the weakening or the malfunctioning of the stomach’s sphincter muscle. It is also a response to a varied range of stimuli that we will breakdown for you below:
- Eating particular foods can cause acid reflux. Foods that have a high saturated fat content, are overly greasy or have been fried (and/or deep fried) in oil can cause acid reflux.
- Eating meats with a high fat content and/or eating/drinking certain dairy products can relax the sphincter muscle that controls the entry to the stomach itself.
- Black coffee, strong caffeinated beverages and energy drinks, liquids such as wine or beer (or anything with alcohol in it), drinks with an extremely high sugar content, and the eating of spicy foods can all cause our stomachs to overproduce stomach acid.
- The consumption of very large meals (eating so much that you feel excessively full), laying down on your back too soon after eating a large meal and consuming food before you sleep can all cause acid reflux in varying degrees.
The above are common causes of acid reflux. There are also a series of different risk factors that are associated with the causes of acid reflux:
- Being overweight/obesity
- Leading a sedentary lifestyle and having a poor diet consisting of fatty/salty/sugary foods
- Being a smoker
- The taking of certain medications, including but not limited to antidepressants, calcium-channel blockers, antihistamines, sedatives and painkillers, particularly ibuprofen.
Some people who suffer from acid reflux often find that their condition and its associated symptoms are worse when they are anxious, worried or stressed. This is relatively common and if it applies to you then it is important that you attempt to address the root cause i.e. the stress and the anxiety, as well as the other causes or risk factors of acid reflux.
How To Get Rid Of Acid Reflux
Thankfully, there are many things that you can do to ease the symptoms of acid reflux, or to eliminate it entirely. A caveat to this statement however is that with some individuals the symptoms of acid reflux or the condition itself are severe or chronic, and though reducing the causes of acid reflux and controlling the risk factors can minimise the effects, oftentimes medical treatment(s) is still required. To get rid of acid reflux you can do the following:
- Eat smaller, more frequent meals
- Avoid spicy and fatty foods
- Try to lose weight, pursue a healthier lifestyle
- If your symptoms are worse when you are anxious or stressed then try to find ways to slow down, calm down, and/or relax either through different life choices/prescribed medications
- Reduce your overall alcohol intake
- Stop smoking
- If possible, increase the height of your bed on the end where your head sits. If this is not possible then you can prop yourself up on pillows. The end goal is to ensure that your chest and your head are higher than your waist as this will stop some if not all of the stomach acid travelling upwards towards your oesophagus
- Avoid or eliminate entirely pressures on the stomach or the stomach area. This can be achieved by avoiding the wearing of tight clothing or tight belts, and by avoiding exercises such as sit ups or crunches
- Over the counter solutions, such as Rennie (antacid), which work directly on reversing the stomach’s acidity, or Gaviscon (alginate containing antacid) that actively prevents the reflux action, can provide temporary relief from the symptoms of acid reflux and from heartburn, but it won’t afford you with a permanent fix.
If you want a better solution to the causes and the symptoms of acid reflux then thankfully there are a wide range of different treatment options available to you.
How To Treat Acid Reflux
Here at PostMyMeds, we have compiled a collection of some of the best acid reflux treatments that you can find online today. To treat acid reflux, we would recommend one of the following medications:
Lansoprazole – this is a proton pump inhibitor, or PPI, and reduces acid production in the stomach.
Lansoprazole oro-dispersible – This is identical to the above medication except it is oro-dispersable which means it is placed upon the tongue and sucked rather than swallowed whole.
The other following medications are also proton pump inhibitors and are extremely effective at treating acid reflux:
If you have any questions or queries regarding the matter of acid reflux, or about another matter entirely please do not hesitate to contact us. You can call us directly on 020 8894 6080 or email us at email@example.com.You can also view commonly asked questions regarding our service on our FAQ page. If your matter is urgent, please contact your GP or urgent care services.