It is natural to get heartburn occasionally. It can be somehow unpleasant, but usually it's nothing to worry about. However, if you get it regularly, it might be caused by acid reflux disease.
Acid reflux is known as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, or GERD. It is a state of chronic abnormal reflux of stomach acid into the esophagus. It is caused by the dysfunction of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). This sphincter is located at the opening of the stomach and it is a small ring of muscle. When it is not closed as tight as it should be, acid from the stomach will leak into the esophagus, causing this burning sensation. With time, it can corrode the lining of the esophagus causing ulcer and increasing the likelihood of esophageal cancer.
Watch out for the following symptoms because it means that you might have GERD:
-Persistent and frequent heartburn - This is the most obvious symptom, as well as the most common. Usually acid reflux sufferers experience heartburn several times a month. Oddly enough, some do not have heartburn at all.
-Acid Regurgitation - It is often reported that there is regurgitation of acid into the back of the throat, and sometimes all the way into the mouth for people with GERD. It might be accompanied by food from the stomach but not all the time.
-Persistent cough - Some sufferers develop a dry cough. When certain nerves in the lower esophagus are stimulated by the stomach acid it usually causes dry cough. But it can also be caused by acid irritating the throat.
-Choking sensation - It feels like a piece of food is stuck in the throat while in fact there is none.
-Croakiness or wheezing - When damage is done to the throat or esophagus, it will cause this sensation. It occurs usually in the morning. Besides, GERD can aggravate existing asthma.
Acid Reflux Treatment
You should definitely talk to your doctor if you have some of the symptoms above. If you are diagnosed with GERD, your doctor can prescribe some medications known as proton inhibitors. You can also try herbal remedies that can help in many cases. Surely enough, some lifestyle changes can provide relief without resorting to any medication. These include:
-Stop alcohol and tobacco consumption - They can make the symptoms of acid reflux worse. More acid is actually produced by the stomach when alcohol is consumed and the LES gets relaxed so more acid leaks. Smoking has the same effects; in addition, it causes saliva reduction, which provides a natural defense against refluxed acid.
-Weight loss is a must - Excess weight can make GERD worse because it increases pressure on the abdomen.
-Know what food to avoid - Stay away from fried and fatty foods, citrus fruits, tomatoes, chocolate, and spicy foods. Get into the habit of eating smaller meals to reduce abdominal pressure.
-Raise the head of your bed - When you're laying flat, acid escapes the stomach. That's why you might feel heartburn at night more than any other time. Sleeping slightly inclined can help. Also don't eat and sleep immediately.
It can be painful to have acid reflux but it can be cured with minor lifestyle changes and some medications.