Acid Reflux

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What is acid reflux?

When we swallow food or liquids, they pass through our esophagus and into the stomach. In between the esophagus and stomach is a muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). This opens and closes, allowing food to pass through into the stomach.

Each of us has acid in our stomach to help break down the food we eat. Unfortunately, if the lower esophageal sphincter does not close all the way, it can allow some of that acid to move backward and up into the esophagus, sometimes causing damage and/or leading to long-term acid reflux. That is when we experience “heartburn” from acid reflux because that acid creates a burning sensation. At GI Alliance, our board-certified gastroenterologists routinely treat acid reflux and can help relieve heartburn and other symptoms.

What causes acid reflux or heartburn?

Although acid reflux is very common, there is not one specific cause of acid reflux. There are many components that could contribute to a weakening of the lower esophageal sphincter and allow stomach acid to flow back up the digestive tract. Acid reflux can be caused by some foods, medications, pre-existing conditions, or some activities after eating. Varying factors can affect an individual’s acid reflux in very different ways. Some common causes of acid reflux include:

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Smoking
  • Pregnancy
  • Hiatal hernia
  • Weak or compromised LES
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol (particularly red wine)
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Spicy or fatty foods
  • Low-fiber diet
  • Eating a heavy meal then lying down
  • Chocolate, citrus fruits, peppermint, tomatoes, black pepper, garlic, and raw onions
  • Certain medications (such as aspirin, ibuprofen, muscle relaxers, and those for blood pressure)

What are common acid reflux symptoms?

Oftentimes, acid reflux is referred to as heartburn. Other common acid reflux symptoms include:

  • Chest pain
  • Dysphagia
  • Bloating
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Lump-in-the-throat sensation
  • Regurgitation of food or sour liquids

If you are experiencing these symptoms persistently, then you might suffer from a condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). If that is the case, please contact your nearest GI Alliance gastroenterologist today.

How can I relieve acid reflux?

The best and most effective way to relieve acid reflux is to consult with a board-certified gastroenterologist at GI Alliance. However, there are some lifestyle changes that you can implement that can help lessen the severity and frequency of symptoms. These include but are not limited to:

  • Avoid "trigger" foods and beverages
  • Limit your caffeine intake
  • Eat slowly and in moderation
  • Stand or sit upright after eating
  • Do not eat for at least two hours before bedtime
  • Sleep at an incline with your head raised above your feet
  • Quit smoking
  • Lose weight (if overweight)
  • Tell your gastroenterologist about current medications you are taking
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What is the difference between acid reflux and GERD?

Most people have experienced the burning sensation of acid reflux at some point in their lives. However, GERD is the more serious and chronic form of acid reflux. GERD is typically diagnosed when you experience acid reflux more than two times a week and you have inflammation in your esophagus. If you are having the symptoms of acid reflux more than twice a week, schedule an appointment at your local GI Alliance office today.

Find treatment for acid reflux at GI Alliance.

If you experience frequent heartburn and the other troubling symptoms of acid reflux, then contact GI Alliance to partner with an expert gastroenterologist. Our physician-led network of GI doctors aims to educate and treat patients with gastrointestinal conditions, like acid reflux and GERD. If you or a loved one suspect GERD, contact GI Alliance to find a GI specialist near you.

When should I see a doctor for acid reflux?

It is important to visit a GI doctor if you endure symptoms of acid reflux two or more times weekly, as this could mean you are experiencing gastrointestinal reflux disease. GERD is a severe form of acid reflux that can damage the upper gastrointestinal tract if left untreated. The GI Alliance team can evaluate your symptoms and diagnose the condition. Our providers can also help you determine acid reflux triggers so that you may avoid those factors to minimize their effects.

How long might it take acid reflux to improve after beginning treatment?

Acid reflux treatment usually encompasses a combination of medication and dietary changes. After you discover a treatment that works, it may take up to three weeks before you begin to heal and notice an improvement in your symptoms.

What foods and beverages should I avoid when I have acid reflux?

Certain beverages and foods can trigger or heighten symptoms of acid reflux. Common items to avoid if you suffer from acid reflux include:

  • Spicy foods
  • Peppermint
  • Foods high in fat
  • Greasy foods
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Carbonated and caffeinated drinks (such as soda, seltzer, coffee, and tea)
Is it possible to relieve acid reflux without relying on medication?

Even though there are over-the-counter and prescription meds that could reduce your acid reflux, there are other options you might also try. These can include:

  • Avoid going to sleep right after eating. Our doctors suggest that you finish eating three hours prior to laying down for bed so the acid will remain inside the stomach instead of regurgitating.
  • Eat several small meals each day instead of three standard larger meals. This often helps keep you from getting too full, which may cause further reflux.
  • If you are a person who is overweight, consider starting a weight loss plan. A physician can help you determine an ideal diet and exercise regimen based on your needs and goals.
  • Stop smoking cigarettes or using other tobacco products.

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