Heartburn or acid reflux is perhaps one of the most common conditions in the world. It occurs when the contents of the stomach flow upwards and into the throat and mouth. When acid reflux occurs over twice in the same week, then the patient is said to have a condition known as gastrointestinal reflux disorder (GERD). Though this is a very common condition, few people seek treatment for the same, thinking that acid reflux is a part of life, especially after a spicy meal. However, this is not true. Gastrointestinal reflux disease treatment can prevent serious health complications. Even using a heartburn home remedy regularly can help with the same.
What Happens During GERD?
When you experience acid reflux, the most common sensation is a burning one in the chest that may radiate towards the neck. This feeling is called heartburn and it can range from being mild and annoying to severe and extremely painful. Often, people mistake its pain for a heart attack.
Apart from the burning, you may also experience a bitter or sour taste lingering at the back of your mouth. You may also regurgitate liquid (which is your stomach bile) from time to time.
What Causes Acid Reflux?
The oesophagus or the food pipe is what connects your mouth to your stomach. Food travels down to the stomach through a muscular motion known as peristalsis, and is then digested. At the end of the oesophagus, there is a circular ring of muscle known as LES. This muscle relaxes and opens up when you swallow something, and then tightens and closes again once the food passes through. Acid reflux occurs when this muscle does not close, leading to the food and stomach bile travelling backwards.
Sometimes, other gastrointestinal reflux disease causes like tight clothing compressing the stomach muscles, smoking cigarettes and bad posture can also be at play when you experience heartburn.
How is GERD Diagnosed?
Acid reflux is usually self-diagnosable, but GERD is not. If you experience acid reflux more than twice a week, you should visit your doctor so that he/she can run a few diagnostic tests to determine whether you have GERD. Some of these tests include the following:
- Barium test: patients must drink a barium mixture which will help doctors examine the food pipe with the help of an X Ray
- Upper endoscopy: a tube with a camera is inserted into the mouth and down the throat and oesophagus. The camera allows the doctor to see what the problem is.
- Oesophagus manometry: a flexible tube is inserted down the throat to check how strong the oesophageal muscles are.
- Oesophagus PH monitoring: this test checks when the stomach acid enters the food pipe.
What are the Common Gastrointestinal Reflux Disease Treatment Options?
One of the biggest changes that you must make in order to have a successful gastrointestinal reflux disease treatment is to change your diet. You may have to avoid the following types of foods, depending on which ones trigger you the most:
- High fat foods: such as avocados, cheese, and even nuts
- Citrus juices: such as those of oranges and lemons. Foods with high acidic content are bound to cause some acidity and acid reflux.
- Chocolate: this is because it can relax the LES muscles and lead to acid reflux.
- Spicy food: this is because spicy foods contain capsaicin, which essentially slows down the digestive process and makes the food sit in the stomach for a longer time. This is one of the most common heartburn causes.
- Certain Beverages: Coffee, sodas, and milk are a few beverages that are also considered common heartburn causes.
You may also have to take heartburn medication such as antacids, proton pump inhibitors, and H2 receptor blockers.
In rare cases, doctors may also recommend surgery if any other treatment plans do not work.
What Happens if You Do Not Treat GERD?
Untreated GERD can lead to a host of complications like:
- Oesophageal cancer
- Narrowing of the food pipe
- Inflammation in the oesophagus
- Barrett’s oesophagus – in which permanent changes occur in the lining on the oesophagus
- Erosion of the tooth enamel and gum disease
Should You Rely on a Heartburn Home Remedy?
If you suffer from acid reflux or want to prevent the same, try a heartburn home remedy! Any of the following ones can help you:
- Make certain lifestyle changes like quitting smoking and lowering your alcohol intake. Both, alcohol and smoking cause heartburn.
- Mix water and baking soda and drink a glassful. This is a great remedy for heartburn as it neutralizes the acids present in your stomach.
- Add ginger to your food or drink ginger tea to alleviate the gastrointestinal reflux disease symptoms.
- Chew gum after a meal. This is because it stimulates the production of saliva which can help remove acid from the lining of the food pipe.
- Eat at least three hours before your bedtime.
- When you feel heartburn occurring, try to elevate your body to a sitting position as lying down can often make it worse.
- Drink diluted apple cider vinegar as it can help neutralize the acids in the stomach.
- You can also consume certain herbs like chamomile, liquorice root, slippery elm, and marshmallow root to combat acid reflux. You can simmer them in tea to consume them.
Can Anxiety Make Acid Reflux Worse?
There have been a few studies that suggest that anxiety can worsen the symptoms of heartburn in some people. If this is the case with you, then you must limit your exposure to the things or people that cause anxiety in your mind. You should also learn a few relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and yoga to help combat the effects of stress. Make sure that you sleep well and regularly exercise to ensure that you always stay in the best of health.
Whether you want to try a heartburn home remedy or meet a doctor for a prescription for heartburn medication, you must do so quickly before your body starts facing any of the complications of GERD. Do not ignore acid reflux or dismiss it as a common response to your diet. Get it checked even if you don’t think that you have GERD!