How do you stop your reflux?
You just finished dinner and are relaxing in your favorite chair when you start to have a burning sensation in your chest and all of sudden you have a sour taste in your mouth. You’ve noticed this has been happening after you eat, especially if you go to bed soon after eating. What is causing this to happen?
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is when your stomach acid and/or stomach contents flow back into your esophagus (the tube that runs from your mouth to stomach). The acid that is designed to help your stomach in the digestion of the food you eat and is not supposed to come into contact with the sensitive lining of your esophagus. There is a small sphincter (circular band of muscles) at the bottom of your esophagus that when it is relaxed allows food and liquid to pass into the stomach and then closes to prevent the reflux of stomach acid and food. If the sphincter doesn’t function properly or is weakened, it allows the back flow to occur. This can cause irritation to the esophageal lining. If it continues for extended periods of time, the lining can actually be worn away, which causes numerous complications (bleeding, narrowing of the esophagus, cancer). The most common symptoms include a burning sensation in your chest (heartburn), sour taste in your mouth, chest pain, difficulty swallowing, dry cough, hoarseness or sore throat, regurgitation of food or acid from your stomach and/or sensation of a lump in your throat. Occasionally, we all experience heartburn and acid reflux. You should be concerned and get treatment, if you have them twice a week or more or they are interfering with your daily life.
The good news is that there are a variety of over-the-counter medications that help to treat GERD. The first group are antacids and help to neutralize stomach acids. Some of these are Maalox, Mylanta, Tums, Rolaids, Gelusil or Gaviscon. The second group is called H2 (histamine) blockers and reduce acid production. Tagamet HB, Pepcid AC, Axid XR and Zantac are examples of H2 blockers. The third over-the-counter group of medicine are PPIs (Proton Pump Inhibitors) and block acid production and help the esophagus heal. Prevacid 24hr, Prilosec or Zegerid OTC fall into this category. (Note: If you are having to take over-the-counter heartburn medicines more than twice a week, you should see your doctor.) Both H2 blockers and PPIs also come in prescription strength. In either case, they are view as maintenance medications and take longer to start working than antacids. Typically, the prescription strength doses are taken on a daily basis initially to help allow the esophagus time to heal. Sometimes, your doctor will prescribe a medication that helps to strengthen the lower esophageal sphincter, called Baclofen. In severe cases, your doctor may recommend surgery to reduce the amount of reflux.
In order to prevent GERD from occurring, maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking and avoiding tight fitting clothing are beneficial. Also, avoiding foods and drinks that can trigger heartburn, such as fatty/fried foods, tomato sauce, alcohol, chocolate, mint, garlic, onion and caffeine, can help to prevent it. If you eat smaller meals, it will help to decrease the possibility of reflux. Do not to lie down after a meal for at least three hours and elevating the head of your bed at least six to nine inches can help.
GERD is not only an unpleasant experience, it can put you at risk for more serious complications. Typically, with only a minor shift in dietary habits, the benefits are significant. If you have any questions about GERD, please speak to your doctor. If you would further information, please visit the American Gastrological Association’s page for GERD at https://www.gastro.org/practice-guidance/gi-patient-center/topic/gastroesophageal-reflux-disease-gerd