Acid reflux (gastroesophageal reflux) is a burning sensation in the chest area. It occurs when stomach acid goes back to the esophagus or food pipe. When acid reflux occurs several times a week, doctors diagnose gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Acid reflux is the most common gut issue, and chronic heartburn can cause serious complications. Learn about acid reflux causes, diagnosis, and treatment options.
Causes of Acid Reflux
Acid reflux results when the acidic stomach contents flow back into one's esophagus. The stomach is protected from the strong hydrochloric acid by the stomach lining. The esophagus does not have the same protective lining, making it vulnerable to acid.
The gastroesophageal sphincter is a ring of muscle that acts as a regulator that allows food to get into one's stomach and not return to the esophagus. When the valve fails to function, the stomach contents can be regurgitated back, causing acid reflux. Your diet can increase your risk of getting acid reflux.
Risk Factors for Acid Reflux
Acid reflux can affect people of all ages; sometimes, the causes are unknown. In many cases, it can be due to lifestyle factors, but it can also be due to uncontrolled factors. These include:
Having a hiatal hernia or a hole in the diaphragm.
Lack of physical exercise.
Some medications such as asthma drugs, painkillers, and antihistamines.
Pregnant women have a high risk of having acid reflux due to increased pressure on internal organs.
Dietary Habits and Acid Reflux
Most people experience mild acid reflux from dietary habits or some foods. They include alcohol, caffeine, a low fiber diet, and a high intake of table salt.
Eating large meals and sleeping within two or three hours of eating can also cause acid reflux. High consumption of acidic fruit juices, carbonated drinks, and chocolate can cause acid reflux. Making better dietary choices can help treat acid reflux.
Diagnosing Acid Reflux
Acid reflux is a common problem, one that is easy to diagnose. However, the symptoms can be confused with chest issues such as pneumonia, heart attack, and pulmonary embolus.
Gastroenterologists can carry out several tests to diagnose the condition. The tests include a biopsy, endoscopy or camera imaging, barium X-ray, impedance monitoring, esophageal manometry, and acidity testing.
Treatment for Acid Reflux
Most people can experience relief from making lifestyle changes and taking OTC medications. For others, stronger prescription medication or even surgery may be necessary. Treatment options include:
H2 blockers such as cimetidine and famotidine.
Sucralfate acid suppressants.
Potassium-competitive acid blockers.
Transient lower esophageal sphincter relaxation (TLESR).
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
Severe acid reflux may require surgical intervention or fundoplication.
Lifestyle measures can help reduce acid reflux. They include losing weight, quitting smoking, improving sitting posture, wearing loose clothing, and avoiding pressure on the abdomen.
For more on acid reflux causes, diagnosis, and treatment options, visit the Laparoscopic Surgical Center of New York at our office in New York, New York. Call (212) 879-6677 today to schedule an appointment.