Acid reflux happens when stomach acid comes out of the stomach and travels up the oesophagus towards the throat. This results in a burning feeling in the chest, known as heartburn, and sometimes a sour taste in the mouth.
Acid reflux is a common problem which can be triggered by:
In most cases, acid reflux is mild and does not require treatment. It is possible to prevent acid reflux by making a few lifestyle changes. These include eating smaller portions of food throughout the day to avoid overeating, and avoiding foods which are spicy or high in fat, citrus fruits, alcohol and fizzy drinks. Avoid lying down or sleeping for at least 2 hours after eating. If you are overweight, losing weight healthily and safely can help reduce your acid reflux. You should also try to quit smoking to help prevent acid reflux.
Alongside lifestyle changes, treatments for acid reflux are available. Ranitidine (Zantac) is a H2 receptor agonist which works by blocking the role of histamine in stomach acid production, helping to prevent stomach acid from entering the oesophagus. Omeprazole (Losec), esomeprazole (Nexium) and lansoprazole prevent the production of stomach acid by inhibiting the proton pump in the stomach. These are available online from Dr Felix.
There are also over the counter counter treatments such as Gaviscon or Rennies to help neutralise stomach acid.
For mild cases of acid reflux, over the counter treatments like Gaviscon or Rennies are often enough, but should not be taken for longer than 2 weeks without speaking to a doctor. Treatment with ranitidine (Zantac), esomeprazole (Nexium), lansoprazole or omeprazole (Losec) may be required for more persistent cases of acid reflux. You can order these online from Dr Felix.
Certain foods are known to be common triggers of acid reflux. These include citrus fruits, tomatoes, mint, garlic, onions, spicy foods, oily or fatty foods, coffee, alcohol and fizzy drinks. You might want to try keeping a food diary and speaking with a doctor to work out which food might be a trigger for you. It can also help to eat smaller portion sizes more regularly.
You can prevent acid reflux by making a few simple lifestyle changes. If you get heartburn regularly, try eating smaller meals more frequently throughout the day. Keeping a food diary can help you work out which foods trigger your acid reflux. Avoid lying down or sleeping immediately after eating a meal, and wait at least 2 hours after your evening meal before going to bed. If you are overweight, losing weight healthily and safely can prevent acid reflux. Smoking also causes heartburn, so you may want to consider quitting.
Acid reflux can be temporary and go away on its own. The best way to prevent acid reflux and heartburn, or to stop it from recurring, is to make changes to your lifestyle. A doctor may also prescribe omeprazole (Losec), esomeprazole (Nexium), lansoprazole or ranitidine for a month or two until your symptoms ease, but this is only likely to have long-lasting effects if you make permanent, effective lifestyle changes.
In rare cases where medicinal treatment has been unsuccessful, surgery can be used to treat severe acid reflux that has progressed to Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GORD). Laparoscopic anti-reflux surgery is a procedure that strengthens the valve-like mechanism at the bottom of the oesophagus.
Long-term acid reflux and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GORD) can have serious health complications if left untreated, including oesophageal ulcers, Barrett’s oesophagus, oesophageal scarring, or oesophageal cancer.
Severe acid reflux or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GORD) can result in oesophageal ulcers. The frequent movement of stomach acid into the oesophagus can lead to damage that results in an ulcer.
There is not enough evidence to confirm that long term use of proton-pump inhibitors such as omeprazole (Losec), lansoprazole and esomeprazole (Nexium) cause dementia when used in elderly patients. Speak to your doctor for more information if you are concerned.
GORD stands for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease and is the name given to recurrent acid reflux. This is when stomach acid travels out of the stomach and up into oesophagus due to the weakening of the ring of muscle at the base of the oesophagus.
Most cases of acid reflux are mild and can be treated easily. However, if left untreated, recurrent acid reflux can lead to Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GORD). Severe cases of GORD can have symptoms such as vomiting, bleeding and difficulty swallowing. It is therefore best to speak to a doctor as soon as possible if you are experiencing acid reflux on a regular basis.
Anti-inflammatory painkillers, such as aspirin and ibuprofen, can cause acid reflux if taken on an empty stomach. Some antibiotics can also cause acid reflux. Check with your doctor or pharmacist if you think the medicine you are taking is causing acid reflux.
Alcohol is a known cause of acid reflux. To reduce the occurrence and severity of acid reflux, it is recommended that you limit your alcohol intake. Try to avoid fizzy or carbonated alcoholic drinks where possible. Avoid drinking alcohol in the 2 to 3 hours before going to sleep at night.
Increasing your intake of some foods in your diet can help reduce the occurrence of acid reflux. For example:
While stress is thought to make acid reflux worse in people who have Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GORD), it is unlikely to be the only cause. If you feel that stress is causing your acid reflux, speak to your doctor or pharmacist for advice.
Acid reflux is a known side effect of bulimia. Frequent vomiting weakens the muscles of the lower oesophageal sphincter (LOS), the ring of muscles responsible for keeping stomach acid from travelling up into the oesophagus.
It is common for people who have asthma to experience acid reflux, although the exact reason why the two are linked is unknown. It is also thought that Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GORD) can worsen asthma due to its potential to cause damage to the oesophagus and airways.
Severe acid reflux and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GORD) can be accompanied by Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Both are functional disorders whose causes are often difficult to identify, and both can be made worse by stress. Research suggests there may be a link between the problems with muscle function in the oesophagus, stomach and intestines, which contribute to both IBS and acid reflux.
Acid reflux is recognisable from its symptoms such as a burning sensation in the chest area after eating and a sour taste in your mouth. Your doctor will recommend a treatment based on your description of these symptoms.
For severe cases of acid reflux, your doctor may suggest an upper endoscopy, whereby a thin tube with a light and camera is inserted down the throat to examine the inside of the oesophagus and stomach.
The symptoms of acid reflux may be worse at certain times of day based on your eating habits or whether you are taking any medicines. For example, if you normally eat your main meal in the evening, symptoms may be worse at bedtime, especially if you lie down immediately after eating. Symptoms such as throat irritation often feel worse in the early morning after a long period of lying down during your sleep. If you experience heartburn after taking anti-inflammatory painkillers, such as ibuprofen or aspirin, you should try taking them with food.
If your acid reflux is persistent, it can lead to a stomach ulcer. Stomach ulcers can cause pain after eating and need to be diagnosed by a doctor. The symptoms of a stomach ulcer are similar to those of severe acid reflux or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GORD). This is why it is important to speak to a doctor if you experience acid reflux often, as they may recommend checking for a stomach ulcer with an endoscopy.