Acid reflux is a symptom (chronic) of mucosal damage experienced when the acid in the stomach moves up from the stomach into the esophagus. ln this case, the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) does not close well or it opens too often.
What is the difference between GERD and Acid Reflux?
Acid reflux and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) are closely related, but they aren’t exactly the same.
As mentioned above acid reflux is the backward flow of stomach acid into the esophagus (the tube that connects the throat and stomach.) Acid reflux is more specifically known as gastroesophageal reflux. While experiencing acid reflux, you may taste regurgitated food or a sour liquid in your mouth or feel heartburn.
Acid reflux can progress to GERD. GERD stands for gastroesophageal reflux disease which is a more severe form of reflux. Heartburn is the most common symptom of GERD. Other symptoms include food regurgitation, difficulty swallowing, wheezing, coughing, and chest pain.
Causes of Acid Reflux
One of the common causes of acid reflux disease is an abnormality in the stomach known as a hiatal hernia. In this case, there is an alteration (temporary or permanent) of the barrier between the stomach and the esophagus whereby the upper part of the stomach and the lower esophageal sphincter move above the diaphragm. In a hiatal hernia, acid moves up into the esophagus causing the symptoms of acid reflux disease.
Other common risk factors of acid reflux disease are:
- Obesity or overweight;
- Eating large quantities of food or lying down immediately after a meal;
- Consuming certain class of foods like tomato, citrus, garlic, mint, chocolate, onion, spicy or fatty foods; Snacking very close to bedtime;
- Consumption of alcohol, carbonated drinks, coffee or tea;
- Drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen, some muscle relaxants and blood pressure medications.
Symptoms of Acid reflux Disease
- Heartburn: a burning pain that may radiate from the stomach to the abdomen or chest and sometimes to the throat .
- Regurgitation: a situation where a sour/bitter tasting acid backs up in one’s throat or mouth;
- Blood in the stool or bloody vomiting;
- Dysphagio: narrowing of the esophagus. This creates a sensation of food being stuck in the throat. Hiccups;
- Weight loss;
- Wheezing, dry cough, sore throat, and hoarseness.
Acid Reflux Home Remedy
- Acid reflux remedies can be pharmacological agents or natural agents. Natural remedies for acid reflux mostly involve lifestyle modifications, change in diets and habits.
- The following lifestyle changes and modifications can reduce reflux.
- Avoid eating within 3 hours of bedtime. This will help regulate (decrease) stomach acid production which therefore allows the stomach to empty easily;
- Avoid lying down, at any time of the day, immediately after eating;
- Allow the head side of your bed always elevated (gravity helps to prevent reflux);
- Don’t eat large quantities of food. This usually requires an increased amount of acid to digest. Smaller and more frequent meals are preferred;
- Avoid fatty foods, chocolate, caffeine, mint or mint-flavored foods, citrus and foods prepared with a lot of tomatoes. These foods decrease the efficiency of the lower esophageal sphincter;
- Quit smoking;
- Make proper use of potential natural acid reflux remedies like chamomile, licorice, marshmallow and slippery elm. These herbs are available in the form of supplements/tinctures and they are classified amongst the remedies for acid reflux;
- Avoid wearing tight clothes;
- Try some relaxation techniques. Yoga promotes the mind and body awareness. Also, quiet meditation and deep breathing for a few minutes can relieve one’s stress levels;
The lifestyle changes for acid reflux disease can be combined with over-the-counter medications for a greater therapeutic outcome.
Antacids such as Alka-Seltzer, Maalox, Mylanta, Rolaids or Riopan can be used to neutralize the stomach acid. These substances should not be misused as they may cause diarrhea and constipation. Antacids having a combination of magnesium hydroxide and aluminum hydroxide are best used for treating acid reflux disease.
Antacid brands containing these substances will counteract the gastrointestinal side effects. Apart from antacids, other medications that can be used are:
- Foaming agents (Gaviscon): This coats the stomach to prevent reflux.
- H2 receptor blockers (Tagamet, Zantac, Pepcid) can be used to decrease stomach acid secretion/ production.
- Proton pump inhibitors (Prevacid, Protonix, Aciphex, Prilosec, Nexium) are also used to regulate stomach acid production.
- Prokinetics (Reglan, Urecholine): These can trigger fast stomach emptying and stop acid reflux.
In rare cases where acid reflux disease cannot be treated with pharmacological or herbal agents, surgery can be recommended.
Fundoplication or LINX device, depending on the doctor’s decision, can be used.
Homeopathic remedies for acid reflux
Homeopathy works by giving a small dose of a remedy, whose characteristics are peculiar to the person in need of that remedy, to the person. Homeopathy relies not only on identifying the disease symptoms but also on a variety of personality traits (an individual’s mental state and other characteristic symptoms which conform to any particular remedy).
Homeopathic remedies for acid reflux and heartburn include:
- Nux vomica;
- Arsenicum album;
- Pulsatilla and
- Carbo vegetabilis.
Acid reflux disease may be confused with other diseases if not properly diagnosed. However, advice from a gastroenterologist is highly recommended. The natural acid reflux remedies complement the pharmacological treatment plan.
Similarly, subjects affected should not combine more than one type of antacids or other medications without the consent of a medical practitioner (doctor).
Acid Reflux in Babies
Acid reflux is also common among babies. Nonetheless. there are home remedies for acid reflux in babies such as elevating the baby while ingesting foods; holding the baby for 30 minutes after eating or feeding; and probiotics. During pregnancy, acid reflux may also occur. Some of the home remedies for acid reflux during pregnancy include decreasing your food portion sizes, avoiding lying down after eating, and elevating the head of the bed.
What Foods Should You Avoid If You Have Acid Reflux?
There are various factors that may contribute to acid reflux such as the body positioning after eating, the quantity of food consumed, and the kind of foods consumed. When you experience an acid reflux, avoid eating fried foods or foods that have large fat content. Spicy foods should also be avoided because they can trigger reflux symptoms.
What Drinks Should You Avoid If You Have Acid Reflux?
Beverages, such as carbonated drinks, coffee, tea, and citrus juices may escalate the GERD symptoms. Other drinks to avoid are milk, chocolate drinks, and alcohol. Ginger tea should also be avoided as it can trigger acid reflux.