If you or someone you know has acid reflux, you know how difficult it can make life. Acid reflux is when stomach acid comes up into your food pipe, also known as your esophagus. Acid reflux is also commonly known as heartburn. There are many ways that you can get relief from this condition, including acid reflux medication.
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An Overview of Acid Reflux
Contrary to the name, heartburn has nothing to do with your heart and everything to do with your stomach and esophagus. Hydrochloric acid is a strong acid located in your stomach contents that help break down food and protect against bacteria. Your stomach has adapted to protect itself from the acid, but your esophagus has not.
Acid reflux is the most commonly complained gut issue at hospitals across the United States. It is also known as heartburn. According to The American College of Gastroenterology, there are over 60 million Americans that experience heartburn at least once a month. There are also at least 15 million that say they experience it daily. That is a staggering amount of people. If this occurs more than twice a week, it is diagnosed as Gastroesophageal Reflux disease (GERD). In Western countries, GERD affects up to 30% of the total population.
Often, after eating acid reflux will kick in and create a burning pain in the lower chest area. Obesity and smoking are major risk factors associated with acid reflux. You can get over the counter and prescribed acid reflux medication.
The gastroesophageal sphincter is a ring of muscle that usually acts as a valve to let food into the stomach and not let it go back up into the esophagus, but sometimes the valve fails. When it does, this is when the stomach contents are brought back up into the esophagus, and then symptoms are felt. Make sure not to consume a large meal then lay down right away as this can exacerbate acid reflux. It's also prevalent in pregnant women.
Extreme symptoms can include but are not limited to bloating, bloody vomiting, bloody or black stool, hiccups, burping, weight loss for no particular reason.
Acid Reflux Diagnosis
If you have acid reflux symptoms more than twice a week, you need to see your doctor. Heartburn symptoms are vital in getting diagnosed, especially if changing your lifestyle or antacids helps relieve symptoms.
When you go to the doctor, they may do the following tests to identify if you have acid reflux disease:
- Barium Swallow looks for ulcers or narrowing of the esophagus. To help structures show up better on an X-ray, you will have to swallow a solution.
- Esophageal manometry will look at the movement and function of both the esophagus and lower esophageal sphincter.
- Doctors can insert a device into your esophagus for pH monitoring. The device will be left in place for one to two days to measure the amount of acid in your esophagus.
- Doctors can perform an endoscopy that checks for problems within your stomach and esophagus. They will insert a lighted tube with a camera down your throat. You will always have anesthetic sprayed at the back of your throat and give you a sedative for your peace of mind.
- They can test samples of tissue for infection or abnormalities by taking a biopsy.
Acid Reflux Treatment And Pain Management
The easiest and most effective way to treat acid reflux is to avoid foods and beverages that trigger your symptoms. Other ways you can take action are:
- Quit smoking
- Raise the head of your bed four to six inches by placing blocks under the head of your bed.
- Don't eat at least two to three hours before laying down.
- During daytime naps sleep upright in a chair
- Don't wear restricting clothes or belts
- Lose weight
- Consult your doctor to see if your medications could be a factor and triggering your symptoms
Acid Reflux Pain Management
If heartburn or indigestion is a common problem for you possibly associated with food and drink choices, over the counter options are available for you. They will help with quick relief.
There are liquid, tablet, and chewable formulations called antacids. There is a wide range of brands available with very similar effectiveness. These are not for everyone seeing as they may not work for all levels of acid reflux. If there is a need for these regularly, you should see a doctor. After using these after a while, your body may get used to them and cause them not to work as well.
Acid reflux medications such as Gaviscon are also a great option. The alginic acid in Gaviscon and many other acid reflux relief medications work by making a barrier against stomach acid.
The barrier is formed by making a foam-like substance that sits at the very top of your gastric pool. After creating the barrier, any reflux you may produce is harmless because it now consists of alginic acid. Alginate can naturally be found within brown algae.
Other possible options are:
- H2 blockers such as Pepcid or Zantac. Drugs like these decrease the amount of acid you produce.
- Proton pump inhibitors, such as Prilosec and Prevacid. Drugs like these also decrease how much acid you produce.
- Prokinetics such as Reglan and Urecholine. Drugs like these help empty the contents of your stomach faster and ultimately reduce acid reflux.
Too many people suffer from acid reflux. There is a simple way to treat it most likely. Change your lifestyle. Simply avoid the foods and beverages you know trigger your symptoms. You can also quit smoking if you smoke. If it's still a problem, see your doctor.