What Causes Acid Reflux and How to get Rid of Heartburn

Acid reflux is a medical condition in which “acid backs up from the stomach into the oesophagus and even up to the throat, irritating the tissue.” Acid reflux can be triggered due to different reasons including unfavourable lifestyle, improper diet, certain medication, obesity, pregnancy and certain medical conditions. Acid reflux causes heartburn, regurgitation of bitter acid into the throat, hoarseness, dry cough, feeling of tightness in the throat and wheezing. Acid reflux can be diagnosed by upper GI series test, an upper GI endoscopy, oesophageal manometry, or a 24-hour pH probe study. Acid reflux can be treated with over-the-counter (OTC) medications including antacids and H2-blockers, or medications that include coating agents, proton pump inhibitors and promotility agents. In severe cases, surgery is the only way to cure acid reflux disease. The prognosis for acid reflux is effective in minor to moderate cases. Chronic cases of acid reflux disease need medication, and in severe conditions surgery is required to avoid serious complications.

Acid reflux symptoms

Causes Acid Reflux

Symptoms of acid reflux are:

  • Regurgitation: a sour or bitter-tasting acid backing up into your throat or mouth.
  • Heartburn: a burning pain or discomfort that may move from your stomach to your abdomen or chest, or even up into your throat
  • Bloating
  • Burping
  • Bloody or black stools or bloody vomiting
  • Hiccups that don’t let up
  • Dysphagia — a narrowing of your oesophagus, which creates the sensation of food being stuck in your throat
  • Weight loss for no known reason
  • Nausea
  • Wheezing, dry cough, hoarseness, or a chronic sore throat

What causes acid reflux?

Hiatal hernia is one of the most common acid reflux causes. It is a stomach abnormality in which the upper part of the stomach moves above the diaphragm that restricts the acid in our stomach. In case of a hiatal hernia, acid can enter into your oesophagus and cause acid reflux disease.

Here is an answer to what causes acid reflux disease:

  • Eating large meals or lying down right after a meal
  • Eating a heavy meal and lying on your back or bending over at the waist
  • Eating certain foods, such as citrus, tomato, chocolate, mint, garlic, onions, or spicy or fatty foods
  • Drinking certain beverages, such as alcohol, carbonated drinks, coffee, or tea
  • Taking certain muscle relaxers like ibuprofen, aspirin or blood pressure medications
  • Being obese
  • Snacking close to bedtime
  • Smoking
  • Pregnancy

Foods that cause acid reflux

People with gastroesophageal reflux and heartburn should avoid the foods that promote this condition. Certain foods may accelerate the production of stomach acids, and these acids can inflame the oesophagus. Foods that cause acid reflux are:

  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Spicy foods
  • Fatty or greasy foods
  • Chocolate
  • Mints or mint-flavoured foods
  • Citrus, and tomato-based foods
  • Onions and garlic

People with gastroesophageal reflux and heartburn should avoid food items that cause acid reflux. Being overweight can also aggravate symptoms of acid reflux.

Different people have different triggers. One should see a doctor who can identify the causes that aggravate your acid reflux symptoms.

How to get rid of heartburn naturally?

Below are some tips on how to get rid of heartburn naturally:

  • Baking soda: Since it is a base substance, a spoonful of sodium bicarbonate can put an end to the burning sensation of heartburn caused by acid reflux.
  • Aloe juice: Aloe is a plant that is used to soothe burns. It reduces inflammation and thus, soothes heart burns.
  • Chew gum: Chewing gum stimulates the salivary glands, increases the flow of saliva, and dilutes and washes away the gut more quickly. The clearance of acid gives us relief from heartburns.
  • Sleep with chin up: Heartburn tends to get worse at night when you are lying down directly after having dinner. Thus, avoid lying down within 3-4 hours after eating.
  • More acid: Ingest more acid during heartburn. In many cases, acid reflux is caused because of not having enough acid in your stomach.
  • Eat bananas or apples: Bananas contain natural antacids that act as a shield against acid reflux. An apple a day before bedtime can also provide relief against heartburn.
  • Ginger root tea: Ginger root tea can help ease up acid reflux. A cup of fresh tea half an hour before a meal can calm your tummy and function as an acid buffer.
  • Avoid tight-fitting clothes: Tight fitting clothes especially around your waist or stomach that tend to sink into your abdomen region can worsen heartburn.
  • Stop smoking and consuming alcohol: Smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol can weaken your LES, making the contents of stomach and acids to wade up into your oesophagus.
  • Healthy weight: Being overweight increases your risk of GERD. Heart burn and acid reflux are two of the most common symptoms of this disease. This happens because unnecessarily added pounds puts pressure on your lower oesophageal sphincter causing it to loosen and weaken over time.
  • Mustard: Mustard contains weak acid in the form of vinegar. Because of its alkaline properties, consuming mustard will help neutralize the acid and, therefore, neutralize the pain of acid reflux.
  • Almonds: Almonds counterbalances the juices in your stomach and gives relief from heartburn.
  • Chamomile: Having a cup of chamomile tea before going to bed can reduce inflammation in your stomach.

How to get rid of heartburn?

Heartburn treatment begins with over-the-counter medications to control acid. If there is no relief within a few weeks, your doctor may recommend you to take medications or undergo surgery.

Initial heartburn treatments

acid reflux causes

Over-the-counter treatments that may control heartburn are:

  • Antacids that neutralize stomach acid
  • Medications to reduce acid production
  • Medications that block acid production and heal the oesophagus

Prescription-strength medications

If heartburn refuses to dwindle despite over-the-counter medications, doctor may recommend medications, such as:

  • Prescription-strength H-2-receptor blockers that include prescription-strength famotidine (Pepcid), cimetidine (Tagamet), ranitidine (Zantac) and nizatidine (Axid).
  • Prescription-strength proton pump inhibitors that include dexlansoprazole (Dexilant), omeprazole (Prilosec, Zegerid), esomeprazole (Nexium), lansoprazole (Prevacid), rabeprazole (Aciphex) and pantoprazole (Protonix).
  • Medications to strengthen the lower oesophageal sphincter.

Surgery for heartburn treatment

In rare situations where medications fail to control heartburn, your doctor may recommend “more-invasive procedures” like surgery to strengthen the lower oesophageal sphincter.

Heartburn is something that most adults will experience during their lifetime. Over-the-counter and prescription medications are available to quell the discomfort of acid reflux, but they may have long-term side effects.  If you suffer from occasional acid reflux then lifestyle changes and natural remedies may be the route you would want to adopt. Though natural remedies take time to show results but it’s worth the wait. If you suffer from chronic heart burn and acid reflux then get in touch with a doctor without any delay to obtain the right treatment.

All the treatments – medicines, injections and vaccines are for general information of the reader. Please consult a doctor and get a formal prescription before taking any medicines, supplements and injections.

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