Acid reflux is also known as heartburn, and it is a condition that nearly everyone suffers from at one time or another. The process of heartburn is an easy one to understand, and usually easy to treat as well. At the base of the esophagus, there is a muscular ring that is called the lower esophageal sphincter, or LES. This muscle, with a bit of help from gravity, closes off the opening between the esophagus and the stomach. Once food enters the stomach cavity, it will remain there, along with the digestive acids that are responsible for breaking the food down into particles that the body can then use and eliminate. If this muscle does not work properly for one reason or another, the food and acids can back up into the esophagus. The result is a painful burning sensation in the chest and throat, and sometimes a sour taste in the mouth. This is the process known as acid reflux.
Causes of Acid Reflux
There are many factors that can affect the proper functioning of the LES. One of the primary factors can be your choice of diet. Some foods like tomatoes, citrus fruits, onions and garlic, chocolate and alcoholic beverages are known culprits of acid reflux. There may be other foods that are unique to your condition. Often, simply avoiding the foods the give you trouble is enough to keep your acid reflux at bay. Pressure on the LES can stem from being overweight, eating a particularly large meal or wearing your belts too tight. Again, avoiding these issues can help you to avoid acid reflux as well. Since gravity plays a part in keeping those foods and acids in the stomach where they belong, don’t lie down shortly after eating, and avoid meals within two to three hours of bedtime. All of these causes of acid reflux stem from behaviors that you can control to avoid the painful symptoms.
Treatment of Acid Reflux
If you are already experiencing the painful burning sensation of acid reflux, there are treatment options available. Over the counter antacids like Rolaids will neutralize the stomach acids and eliminate the burning. These medications generally act quickly and effectively on occasional heartburn. Another option is an H-2-receptor blocker, which is known by commercial names like Tagamet or Pepcid. These medications work to reduce the amount of acid that the stomach produces. They are highly effective at treating acid reflux, but they don’t work as quickly as antacids and they are best taken about 30 minutes prior to eating a meal.
If you suffer from frequent acid reflux symptoms, or if the over the counter remedies don’t work for you, talk to your doctor about additional causes and treatment options for your frequent acid reflux. Relief is just a phone call away.