What is Acid Reflux?
Acid reflux is a medical condition wherein acid from the stomach flows back all the way into the esophagus as the muscular valve at the entrance of the stomach (esophageal sphincter) fails to close once the food passes through it. This can cause burning chest pain also known as heartburn.Acid reflux is a common problem which we face quite often. In a majority of the cases, acid reflux is harmless.
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Common symptoms of acidity include sore throat, chest pain, heartburn, and dental erosion. Some patients also experience dysphagia which is a medical condition characterized by difficulty in swallowing.
Common Risk Factors for Acid Reflux
Read More: Acid Reflux and Heartburn: How to treat it?
Other risk factors for acidity are listed below:
- Hiatal hernia: The upper part of the stomach and the lower esophageal sphincter move above the diaphragm when you suffer from hiatal hernia. This results in acid moving up the esophagus and is accompanied by heartburn.
- Being obese and overweight can also cause acidity.
- Indulging in snacks while going to bed can cause acid reflux.
- Eating more than your normal diet and lying down immediately after having your meals can also cause acid reflux.
- Consuming specific foods such as tomatoes, chocolates, citrus fruits, mint, onions, garlic, and spicy foods often causes acid reflux.
- Certain medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, blood pressure medication, and muscle relaxers can cause acid reflux.
- Pregnancy: The third trimester of pregnancy is often characterized by acid reflux. As the baby grows up, it presses the stomach and this can cause the acid in the stomach to move back into the esophagus. Antacids are often not able to relieve acid reflux caused by pregnancy.
- Peptic ulcers: Peptic ulcers, characterized by a deficiency in digestive enzymes in the stomach, tend to slow the entire digestive process. This results in a buildup of gastric acids in the stomach which may eventually flow back into the esophagus.
- Smoking and consuming alcohol: The saliva of smokers contains lower levels of bicarbonates which tend to neutralize acids. Smoking can trigger the production of gastric acids and is also known to weaken the esophageal sphincter. All these factors can lead to acid reflux. Cutting down on alcohol consumption can alleviate the symptoms of acid reflux.
Home Remedies for Acid Reflux
Some lifestyle changes and home remedies can come in handy if you are experiencing chronic acid reflux and associated symptoms. If you experience acid reflux frequently, you can opt for the following lifestyle changes:
- Maintain a healthy body weight: Being overweight puts unnecessary pressure on your abdomen and pushes up your stomach. This can cause gastric acids to flow back into the esophagus. If your weight is healthy, you must work to maintain it. However, if you are obese, try to lower your weight slowly and gradually.
- Wear comfortable, loose clothes: If you are experiencing acid reflux, you must try to wear loose fitting clothes which do not put any pressure on your abdomen.
- Avoid foods that can trigger heartburn: Common foods that can trigger heartburn include fried foods, chocolate, garlic, onion, tomato sauce, and caffeine. You must try to avoid these foods if you have an acid reflux.
- Do not lie down immediately after a meal: Ideally, you must always wait for three hours after a meal before going to bed or lying down.
- Try elevating the head of your bed: If you experience acid reflux while lying down, you must try to elevate your head while sleeping. To do so, you can keep cement or wood blocks under the head-side of your bed so that your head is elevated by six to nine inches. You can also insert wedges between your mattresses to elevate your body from waist up.
Various home remedies than can come in handy while dealing with severe acid reflux are listed below:
- Drinking lots of water: Water can not only dilute the gastric acids but can also help in washing away any buildup of acid in the esophageal lining. Therefore, make it a point to drink at least two glasses of water after each meal. You must also try to drink loads of water in between meals.
- Chewing gum: Chewing a sugar-free gum for thirty minutes after a meal can help in alleviating symptoms of acid reflux. Chewing gum not only eliminates garlic breath, but also helps in the production of saliva. Saliva helps in washing away any acid that might have accumulated in the gut.
- Baking soda: If you have severe heartburn, you can try mixing half teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of water. Baking soda is basic in nature and can neutralize the gastric acid accumulation in your gut. However, the intake of baking soda should be limited as it is high in salt content and can cause side effects such as nausea and swelling.
- Drinking cold milk: Drinking a glass of cold milk can also help in soothing the effects of acid reflux.
- Fennel seeds: Chewing about half a teaspoon of fennel seeds after a meal can help in reducing acid reflux symptoms. This is primarily due to the fact that fennel seeds have a constituent known as Anethole which can suppress stomach spasms and is therefore helpful as a remedy for acid reflux.
- Licorice: Chewing DGL licorice tablets before meals can help in keeping acid reflux at bay. Licorice is known to have stomach healing properties and is quite helpful in healing acid reflux symptoms.
- Aloe: Aloe, a plant that helps in soothing burns is also found to be effective in curing acid reflux. Aloe vera juice is known for its anti-inflammatory properties and it helps in reducing any inflammation in the gut, thereby easing the symptoms of acid reflux. You can try drinking half a cup of aloe vera juice before meals.