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Acid reflux/indigestion or heartburn are terms used interchangeably to describe the burning pain caused by stomach acid. Buy acid reflux treatment online from Dr Felix to get your heartburn under control. Dr Felix offers a range of presc

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What is acid reflux?

Acid reflux describes the movement of stomach acid up into 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.

What causes acid reflux?

Acid reflux is a common problem which can be triggered by a number of things. Certain foods or drinks - such as coffee, alcohol, and fatty or spicy foods - sometimes act as a trigger - as does smoking, stress and anxiety, and certain medicines such as anti-inflammatory painkillers like Ibuprofen. Heartburn is experienced often during pregnancy, and being overweight is considered a leading cause of frequent acid reflux.

Symptoms

How is acid reflux diagnosed?

Acid reflux is recognisable from its symptoms, namely a burning sensation in the chest after eating and a sour taste in the mouth. Your doctor will be able to recommend treatment base on your description of these symptoms. For severe cases of acid reflux or GORD, your doctor may chose to confirm diagnosis and check for complications via an upper endoscopy, where by a thin tube with a light and camera is inserted down the throat to examine the inside of the oesophagus and stomach.  

Why is acid reflux worse at some times of day?

The symptoms of acid reflux are often more or less apparent at different times of day. If you are accustomed to eating you main meal in the evening, symptoms may be worse at bedtime, particularly 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. If you experience heartburn when taking anti-inflammatory painkillers, such as ibuprofen, you should try taking them with food, as they can irritate an empty stomach. 

How can you tell if acid reflux has caused an ulcer?

If your acid reflux persistently reoccurs, it can lead to a stomach ulcer. Stomach ulcers are hard to identify through a description of symptoms alone, as symptoms are similar to those of severe acid reflux or GORD. This is why it is important to consult a doctor if you experience acid reflux often, as they may wish to check for a stomach ulcer via an x-ray or endoscopy. 

Treatment

How to prevent acid reflux

In most cases, Acid reflux is mild and does not require treatment. Instead, it is possible to prevent acid reflux by making a few lifestyle changes. These include eating smaller portions more frequently throughout the day to avoid overeating, and avoiding foods known to be a trigger. Food such as citrus fruits, tomato, mint, garlic, onions, spicy food, alcohol and fizzy drinks are the most common causes of acid reflux. Avoid lying down or sleeping for at least 2 hours after eating and try sleeping in a chair for daytime naps. If you are overweight, this is most likely the cause of your acid reflux. Losing weight healthily and safely can greatly reduce the problem, as can quitting smoking if you haven’t already done so.

How to treat acid reflux

Alongside lifestyle changes, treatments for acid reflux are available. Ranitidine (Zantac) is an H2 receptor agonist which works by blocking the role of histamine in stomach acid production, helping to prevent stomach acid from entering the oesophagus. Similarly, Omeprazole (Losec) prevents the production of stomach acid by  inhibiting the proton pump. Both are available on prescription and as an over-the-counter counter version, alongside Gaviscon, a foaming agent which works by coating your stomach to prevent reflux. 

Prescription vs over the counter acid reflux treatments

Both Ranitidine (Zantac) and Omeprazole (Losec) are available on prescription, and as an over-the-counter variant. For mild cases of acid reflux, over-the-counter treatments are often sufficient, but should not be taken for longer than 2 weeks without consultation with a doctor. Treatment at a higher dose or for a longer period of time may be required for more persistent cases of acid reflux, requiring consultation with a doctor and a prescription. 

Dietary changes to avoid acid reflux

Certain foods are known to be common triggers of acid reflux. These include citrus fruits, tomato, mint, garlic, onions, spicy foods, alcohol and fizzy drinks. You might want to try keeping a food diary and speaking with a doctor work out which food might be a trigger for you. It can also help to eat smaller portions sizes more regularly, to relieve pressure on the lower oesophageal sphincter (LOS).

Lifestyle changes to help acid reflux

The occurrence of acid reflux can be greatly reduced by making a few simple lifestyle changes. If you suffer from 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 and avoid them. Smoking also causes heartburn, so quit if you have not already done so. Avoid lying down or sleeping immediately after eating a meal, waiting at least 2 hours after your evening meal before going to bed. Being overweight is a significant cause of frequent acid reflux, and losing weight healthily and safely can be hugely beneficial. 

Can acid reflux be cured?

Most people experience acid reflux from time to time, but when it occurs regularly it an be a real disruption to day to day life. The best way to prevent heartburn, or to stop it from recurring, it to make changes to your lifestyle. A doctor may also prescribe omeprazole or ranitidine for a month or two until your symptoms ease., but this is only likely to have long-lasting effects if accompanied by the appropriate lifestyle changes.

Can you get surgery for acid reflux?

In rare cases where medicinal treatment has been unsuccessful, surgery can be used to treat severe acid reflux that has progressed to GORD. Laparoscopic antireflux surgery is a procedure that strengthens the valve-like mechanism at the bottom of the oesophagus. 

Side Effects

What are the complications of long-term acid reflux?

Long-term acid reflux and GORD can have serious health complications if left untreated, including esophageal ulcers, Barrett’s oesophagus, oesophageal scarring, or oesophageal cancer.

Can acid reflux cause ulcers?

Severe acid reflux or GORD can result in esophageal ulcers. The frequent movement of stomach acid into the oesophagus can lead to damage which, if it becomes infected, can in turn lead to an ulcer.

Can acid reflux treatment cause dementia?

Recent research has proposed that there is a link between proton-pump inhibitors such as Omeprazole (Losec) and dementia when used in elderly patients. The possible link remains unproven and under further investigation. Speak to your doctor for more information if you are concerned. 

Q&A

What is GORD?

GORD stands for gastroesophageal reflux disease, and is the name given to recurrent acid reflux. Stomach acid travels up into the oesophagus due the weakening of the ring of muscle at the base of the oesophagus. 

Is acid reflux dangerous?

Most cases of acid reflux are mild and can be treated easily. However, if left untreated, recurrent acid reflux can lead to 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 acid reflux is affecting you on a regular basis.

Which medications cause acid reflux?

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, and are best taken on a full stomach.

Does alcohol cause 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, and avoid carbonated alcoholic beverages where possible. Avoid drinking alcohol in the 2 - 3 hours before lying down to sleep at night.

Do certain foods help with acid reflux?

Increasing the frequency of some foods in your diet can help reduce the occurrence of acid reflux. Vegetables like leafy greens, broccoli and cauliflower are naturally low in sugar and fat and can help to reduce stomach acid, as can lean meats and seafood. Egg whites are also beneficial, but the yolks are high in fat and may trigger reflux symptoms. Oats and other whole grains are a good source of fibre and are thought to absorb stomach acid. When eating fats, try to make sure they are healthy fats found in avocados, walnuts, flax seeds, sesame oil and sunflower oil.

Does stress cause acid reflux?

While stress is thought to exacerbate acid reflux in sufferers of GORD, it is unlikely to be the underlying cause. 

Is there a connection between acid reflux and bulimia?

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. 

Are acid reflux and asthma related?

It is common for asthma sufferers to experience acid reflux, although the exact reason why the two are linked is unknown. It is also thought that GORD can worsen asthma due to its potential to cause damage to the oesophagus and airways. 

Are acid reflux and IBS related?

Severe acid reflux and GORD can be accompanied by IBS. Both are functional disorders whose causes are often difficult to identify, and both can be exacerbated by stress. Research has speculated about the link between the problems with muscle function in the oesophagus, stomach and intestines which contribute to both IBS and acid reflux.

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