Acid reflux is a common problem that knows no limits of age, gender, or other demographics. Unlike general 'heartburn', acid reflux symptoms are not just caused by something you eat.
Acid Reflux Symptoms
In order to determine if you should be tested for the possibility of having acid reflux, consider the following potential symptoms:
• Frequent heartburn - burning in the abdomen, chest, or throat
• Bitter or sour acid taste backing up into your mouth, especially after eating
• Hiccups that last more than a few minutes and occur frequently
• Narrowing of your esophagus that feels like food stuck in your throat (called dysphagia)
• Chronic, dry cough and sore throat or hoarseness
There are other symptoms, as well, but these are the most common and should lead you to pursue diagnosis from a medical professional.
How Are Acid Reflux Symptoms Diagnosed?
Doctors can use several methods to determine if you do, in fact, suffer from acid reflux disease. In many cases, simply monitoring the pH level in your esophagus will tell your doctor if your symptoms are related to acid reflux. You may also be asked to have an esophagram (in which you swallow barium as a contrast for x-ray purposes) or, in some severe cases, have an endoscopy, in which a camera is inserted into your upper digestive tract to search for a problem. During this procedure, the medical professional may also choose to take a biopsy of the tissue.
What Causes Acid Reflux Symptoms?
The technical term for the most common cause of acid reflux is 'hiatal hernia'. Within your esophagus resides a ring of muscle (or valve) know as the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). Typically, once food passes beyond this point, the LES closes so that acid cannot move up from your stomach into your esophagus. However, when this isn't the case, you get 'heartburn'. A hiatal hernia is when the LES and the upper part of your stomach move out of place, above your diaphragm, causing heartburn in frequency, which is then diagnosed as acid reflux disease.
Other common causes include:
• Lying down too soon after eating
• Eating large amounts of citrus, mint, garlicky, or spicy foods
• Taking certain types of medication (which increase acid production in the stomach)
• Drinking alcohol, soda, tea, or coffee in large quantities
Avoiding & Treating Acid Reflux Symptoms
The first thing to do to avoid and reduce the occurrence of acid reflux, which can cause long-term issues like ulcers and even esophageal cancer, is to change your lifestyle. Some ways to help dispel the possibilities include:
• Quitting smoking
• Allowing at least 2-3 hours after eating before going to bed
• Limiting spicy and acidic foods within your diet
• Eating smaller, more frequent meals
• Losing weight
Of course, it's also important to see your doctor about potential treatments. In severe cases, surgery may become an option, especially to repair a hiatal hernia that is a constant source of acid reflux symptoms and other pain. However, more commonly, antacids (such as Tums) purchased over the counter can combat infrequent symptoms in small quantities. You may also choose to use H2 blockers (such as Pepcid and Zantac) which decrease the production of acid.
If these aren't working, you should definitely consult with your doctor regarding prescription medications, such as Reglan, which can help to strengthen your LES, as well as cause your stomach to empty faster and therefore decrease the likelihood of acid backing up from your stomach into your esophagus.
The team of doctors at Gastroenterology Associates is extremely capable at detecting and diagnosing Acid Reflux Disease. If you feel that you have symptoms of Acid Reflux, you should not ignore them and take action to reduce the impacts of the disease on your life and health. Please contact our staff for an appointment today in our online appointment request.