The Causes and Symptoms of Acid Reflux
Anyone of any age can suffer from acid reflux, from older people to infants. Sometimes the symptoms of acid reflux can be so mild that you may not realise that you have a problem with it. Although acid reflux is usually mild in most people, if it is not treated, it can lead to more severe medical issues. There are several types of acid reflux tablets available over the counter, which aim to combat and reduce symptoms.
What Is Acid Reflux?
Acid reflux is a condition in which stomach acids splash up into the oesophagus. Since heartburn is also caused by stomach acids splashing out of the stomach, many people use heartburn and acid reflux interchangeably for the same condition, but they are different in that heartburn does not involve the oesophagus.
What Causes Acid Reflux?
Usually, acid reflux is triggered by the foods or drinks you consume, but it can also be caused by stomach abnormalities. Also, many pregnant women experience acid reflux and smoking can also contribute to it. Some of the foods and drinks that are known to trigger acid reflux include:
- Alcoholic beverages;
- Spicy foods, especially those containing pungent spices or chilli;
- Tea and coffee;
- Garlic and onions;
- Foods with tomatoes in them;
- Citrus fruits;
- Carbonated beverages;
- Chocolate; and
- Fatty or fried foods.
Pregnant women experience acid reflux due to the extra hormones in their system and the pressure of the foetus on the stomach. Their symptoms are usually worse during the third trimester, but once they’ve given birth, any symptoms they’ve had usually go away.
A stomach abnormality called a hiatus hernia can lead to acid reflux symptoms. This condition occurs when the upper part of the stomach and the lower oesophageal sphincter move above the diaphragm. The diaphragm usually acts to stop stomach acids from entering the oesophagus, but if there is a hiatus hernia, then the acids can move into the oesophagus.
Smoking contributes to acid reflux because it can reduce the functioning of the lower oesophageal sphincter, increase acid secretions, damage the throat muscle reflexes and damage mucus membranes. In addition, smoking and drinking alcoholic beverages increases the risk of oesophageal cancer.
Acid Reflux Symptoms
There are both common and surprising symptoms that usually indicate that you have acid reflux. Some of the more common symptoms include:
- Mild to moderate pain under right breast, which can worsen when resting (1);
- Sour taste in the throat;
- Trouble Swallowing; and
- Pain after eating (2).
Some of the symptoms and signs may surprise most people and are often mistaken for something else. These symptoms and signs include:
- Sore throat;
- Hoarseness; and
- Excess saliva.
Treating Acid Reflux
It is important to treat even mild cases of acid reflux because if left untreated, it can lead to complications, including oesophageal cancer. Most mild forms of acid reflux can be treated with over-the-counter medication, such as acid reflux tablets. Restricting foods that trigger it, losing weight and stopping smoking are also effective in helping treat this problem.
If you suspect you have acid reflux, you should watch what you eat and make note of what causes your symptoms. If it worsens, see your doctor to stop it from leading to more serious medical conditions.