Have you ever had the feeling of a burning sensation in your chest? You may think something is wrong with your heart, but it might just be acid reflux.
As was said in the previous posts, the holidays are here. That means drinks, food, more drinks, and of course, more food. More often than not, we tend to overindulge during meals and parties resulting in feeling bloated, constipation, indigestion, and sometimes, acid reflux.
However, acid reflux isn’t just something specific that happens during the holidays. It may happen more often, but it affects the day-to-day activity and quality of life of millions around the world.
Which is which?
Due to the similarities and relationship between acid reflux, heartburn, and GERD, they are often used interchangeably. However, they are actually three different things:
Acid reflux (AR) is the backflow of stomach acid going up the esophagus. Frequent incidents of this are called gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD).
Heartburn is a symptom, the feeling you get when experiencing AR.
GERD is a severe form of AR. In GERD, the backflow of stomach acid is persistent, thus causing damage to the esophagus, and in turn, the body. This damage can lead to severe complications. Ongoing injury and inflammation can make the esophagus narrow, inducing difficulty in swallowing, while also potentially causing pain and ulcers.
What are the risk factors concerning acid reflux?
Smoking weakens the esophageal sphincter, a muscular valve that protects the esophagus from acidic juices. Additionally, smoking allows stomach acid to flow backward into the esophagus.
Apart from natural causes, certain foods can trigger heartburn such as:
- Spicy food
- Acidic food, such as those with citrus or tomatoes
- Caffeinated beverages such as coffee and tea
Extra fat around the belly squeezes your stomach, meaning more fluid travels upward into the esophagus making it more likely to experience acid leakage.
Stress and Anxiety
During emotional stress, the body responds by releasing the stress hormone, cortisol. This hormone interferes with proper digestion and weakens your immune system, making you prone to GERD.
Acid reflux is also thought to be linked to hormonal imbalances. An example of this is in individuals low on thyroid, the lack of thyroid hormones causes the lower esophageal sphincter valve to malfunction, allowing contents of the stomach to enter the esophagus. In cases of high estrogen level individuals, the high levels of estrogen may relax the lower esophageal sphincter and irritate the stomach, particularly during pregnancy.
How do you prevent acid reflux?
While there are prescribed medicines designed to combat AR, simple lifestyle changes can help prevent or reduce its effect:
- Eating smaller-portioned meals more frequently will help distribute the necessity to produce high levels of stomach acid.
- Raise the head end of your bed by 10 to 20cm, making your head and chest higher than the level of your waist. This can stop stomach acid from traveling up the throat.
- If you are overweight, try to lose a few pounds so there is less pressure on your stomach.
- Find an outlet where you can release stress.
If these tips do not help in your general condition, consult your doctor.
Speak to your pharmacist for advice if you are curious about how to treat heartburn. Medication such as antacids or alginates may depend on and may vary based on your situation, so a prescription from a professional is necessary not to make it worse.
It always pays to be informed.
If you want to learn more about acid reflux, heartburn, or GERD, Medgate’s team of medical experts is only a ring away.
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Available 24/7 and on holiday, ready to give the gift that comforts.