Acid reflux is a common condition that occurs when the acid in your stomach flows back into your esophagus, which connects your mouth to your stomach. As a result, you may feel a burning sensation in your chest or throat. Other symptoms include a sour taste in your mouth, nausea, difficulty swallowing, coughing, wheezing, or hoarseness.
There are a variety of causes of acid reflux, depending on the underlying cause and your lifestyle factors. Some of the most common causes of acid reflux include:
Eating too much or too fast
Eating spicy, fatty, or acidic foods
Drinking alcohol, coffee, or carbonated beverages
Being overweight or obese
Taking certain medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or antibiotics
Having a hiatal hernia, which is when the upper part of your stomach bulges through an opening in your diaphragm
To diagnose acid reflux, your doctor may ask you about your symptoms and medical history. They may also perform some tests such as:
Endoscopy, which is when a thin tube with a camera is inserted into your esophagus to look for inflammation or damage
pH monitoring, which is when a device is attached to your esophagus to measure the acidity level
Esophageal manometry, which is when a device is inserted into your esophagus to measure the pressure and movement of your muscles
Barium swallow, which is when you drink a liquid that coats your esophagus and shows up on an X-ray
The treatment of acid reflux depends on the severity and frequency of your symptoms. Some of the common treatments are:
Make lifestyle changes such as avoiding trigger foods and drinks, eating smaller and more frequent meals, losing weight if necessary, quitting smoking if applicable, raising your bed head by 6 inches or more, and not lying down within 3 hours of eating.
Medications that neutralize, reduce, or block stomach acid production, such as antacids, H2 blockers, and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs)
The use of prescription medications, such as stronger doses of H2 blockers or PPIs, or prokinetics can speed up the emptying of your stomach
Surgical procedures such as fundoplication, in which the upper part of your stomach is wrapped around the lower part of your esophagus to prevent acid reflux
You should follow the lifestyle changes mentioned above to prevent acid reflux from occurring or worsening. You should also consult your doctor if you have frequent or severe symptoms that interfere with your daily activities or quality of life. Esophagitis (inflammation of the esophagus), esophageal ulcers (sores in the lining of the esophagus), esophageal strictures (narrowing of the esophagus), Barrett's esophagus (abnormal changes in the cells of the esophagus), and esophageal cancer are some of the complications of acid reflux.
By understanding the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of acid reflux, you can manage it and improve your health.