How Can I Relieve Acid Reflux?

Did you know that heartburn has nothing to do with your heart? The medical term for heartburn is gastroesophageal reflux (GER) or acid reflux, and it’s an incredibly common condition. If not treated, GER can become chronic, turning into GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease.

David E. Scott, PA-C, board-certified physician assistant at Gastroenterology Associates of Southwest Florida, P.A., shares that relief of occasional acid reflux is as simple as changing what you eat. He says, “Diet is one of the most important factors when it comes to acid reflux.”

If you suffer from the burning pain of an acid reflux attack you may wonder if the condition is worth going to your doctor. Are there home remedies that can help alleviate acid reflux? At what point should you start to worry that the condition may become serious?

What Is Acid Reflux?

Acid reflux, also known as heartburn, is most often associated with a burning chest and throat caused by stomach acid backing up into your esophagus. Why would this happen? As food travels down your esophagus to your stomach, there is a tiny valve that acts as a door. This small ring of muscle is called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). Normally, the food or beverage goes down the chute, through the door, and it closes. This keeps the food and the powerful acids in your stomach right where they belong. 

If the LES doesn’t work properly and close completely, that stomach acid, along with partially digested food, can work its way back up your esophagus. This causes all kinds of uncomfortable symptoms such as burning in your chest and throat. If acid reflux becomes chronic, you may also experience:

  • A bitter, sour taste in your mouth
  • Black or bloody stools
  • Bloating 
  • Burping and gas
  • Chronically sore throat
  • Dysphagia, which is the sensation of food stuck in your throat
  • Nausea or even bloody vomit
  • Regurgitation into your throat or mouth
  • Unexplainable weight loss
  • Wheezing and coughing

How is this illness treated? Can you get by with just a home remedy to feel better fast?

Patient needs to relieve acid reflux

Are There Home Remedies That Can Help My Acid Reflux?

There are some things you can do at home to alleviate or prevent acid reflux. For example:

  • Avoid foods that seem to trigger your acid reflux
  • Chew sugar free gum to increase saliva and promote swallowing to dampen the acid
  • Do not snack before bedtime 
  • Eat a very ripe banana for potassium to counteract stomach acid
  • Lose weight
  • Reduce stress
  • Sleep with your head and chest elevated
  • Slow down your eating habits and make your portions smaller
  • Stop smoking
  • Wear loose clothing to avoid constricting your abdomen

David says, “Really the five culprits of acid reflux are: Tobacco, alcohol, chocolate, caffeine, and peppermint.” He continues, “Greasy foods, fried foods, spicy foods, onions and garlic tend to be some of the most common triggers as well. Avoiding these substances entirely may help you alleviate heartburn.

A supplement of ginger may even help or a little baking soda in water has been known to reduce the stomach’s acidity and seems to help sometimes. Some people swear by drinking a bubbly carbonated beverage, while others say it’s a bad idea. Every person is different, so you’ll have to experiment with what works best for you.

Lifestyle changes can be effective in preventing heartburn. For example, try tracking the foods that seem to trigger your heartburn, and then avoid them. Lying down after a big meal is tempting fate for heartburn sufferers. Generally, it’s a bad idea. You can also practice waiting for an hour after you eat before exercising. Avoiding alcohol may help you avoid a painful bout of heartburn. 

In addition to these at-home solutions, what about running to the pharmacy for an over-the-counter medication? What works to curtail acid reflux?

Patient tries home remedy to relieve acid reflux

What Over-the-Counter-Medications Can Help My Acid Reflux?

There are also several over-the-counter remedies that can help with acid reflux. For example, there are antacids that neutralize the acid in your stomach and calm things down. This could include:

  • Alka-Seltzer
  • Gaviscon
  • Gelusil
  • Maalox
  • Milk of Magnesia
  • Mylanta
  • Pepto-Bismol
  • Rolaids

You can also choose acid reducers that work on slowing the production of this chemical at the source. This includes:

  • Nexium
  • Nizatidine
  • Pepcid AC
  • Prevacid
  • Prilosec
  • Tagamet HB

These medications are best if you experience consistent heartburn. For example, Nexium, Prevacid, and Prilosec are often recommended by doctors when you are experiencing frequent acid reflux. These medications can come in higher strengths and work most effectively taken regularly over the course of two weeks. 

If you’re considering regularly taking these medications, it’s a good idea to consult with your doctor. This is particularly true if you are being treated for other illnesses that require medications. Some of the over-the-counter acid reflux medications can react to certain other prescriptions, so always ask your doctor or the pharmacist about the drugs you are currently taking. 

In many cases, lifestyle changes along with over-the-counter remedies can lessen your incidents of battling acid reflux. At what point should you consider seeing your doctor about your heartburn? What can you expect from this visit?

Doctor discusses ways to relieve acid reflux with patient

When Should I See My Doctor About Acid Reflux?

So many Americans have occasional heartburn that it’s practically normal to experience the condition periodically. However, if you are experiencing heartburn more than twice a week for several weeks in a row, see your doctor. 

If your acid reflux is turning into GERD, it can cause serious complications that affect your health, such as:

  • Chronic cough or asthma
  • Esophageal adenocarcinoma, a type of cancer
  • Esophageal stricture, where the esophagus narrows an makes it hard to swallow
  • Esophagitis, which is inflammation, ulcers, and bleeding in the esophagus
  • Wearing away of tooth enamel

Your doctor has many treatments available to manage GERD. However, if you have an onset of acid reflux accompanied by these symptoms, see your doctor:

  • Bloody vomit
  • Changes in stool color
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Severe chest pain
  • Unexplainable weight loss

Never hesitate to go to the ER if you feel the situation is urgent. 

A visit to Gastroenterology Associates of Southwest Florida, P.A. will include an assessment of your symptoms and a treatment plan to treat your acid reflux. David says, “We want to focus on diet and also lifestyle modifications; at the same time we use medications to help control the symptoms.” 

Don’t suffer alone with this uncomfortable illness. Call on us today to get the help you need.

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