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Feel the Burn? Your Esophagus May be on the Fritz

Written by Courteney

Posted on February 24, 2016 at 6:14 pm

Heartburn - Diagnosis on the Display of Medical Tablet and a Black Stethoscope on White Background.

What is Acid Reflux?

Acid Reflux or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) both refer to chronic heartburn, affecting over 20% of the American populous. As opposed to the occasional bout of heartburn that nearly everyone will experience at some point which is usually caused by ingesting a particularly spicy food, GERD is caused by a weakened esophageal sphincter which allows bilious juices to splash back up from your lower intestinal tract into your esophagus (where they certainly shouldn’t be venturing).

Symptoms

This flow reversal of harsh digestive fluids can cause symptoms ranging from unpleasant to painful. Some such symptoms include burning and irritation traveling from stomach to chest (especially after eating), nausea or regurgitation from acid moving into your mouth. According to Health Magazine, studies have illustrated a possible comorbidity between GERD and asthma, with the coughing, wheezing and chronic hoarseness caused by GERD often bringing on asthma attacks in those afflicted by both conditions. Long term effects of GERD include tooth enamel erosion, narrowing of the esophagus or bloody or black stools.

Run the ‘Biggies’ by a Professional

If you are experiencing some of the more serious symptoms such as chest pain or changes in the appearance of your bowel movements, you should consult a doctor right away as both of these can be signs of more serious conditions such as heart problems or bowel cancer.

Alternative Treatment Options

Luckily, there are some unconventional home remedies you can try before running to the pharmacy:

  • Add more alkaline-rich almonds to your diet to help balance your pH level
  • Drink a cup of water with 1 tablespoon of baking soda mixed in – for some yucky tasting relief
  • Chamomile, mint or fenugreek tea may help ease the tummy thanks to their anti-inflammatory properties
  • The supplement Slippery Elm Bark helps ease irritation in digestive tissues
  • Chew gum can help stimulate saliva production which can help neutralize acidity, so get to chomping!

Doctor Recommended Lifestyle Tips

There are many things you can do before trying medications, or to supplement them. Some of the doctor-recommended lifestyle changes suggested by Healthline are:

  • Elevate your bed at least 4-6 inches so fluids will have a tougher time traveling in reverse as you try to catch zzz’s, and nap in a chair if sleepy during the day
  • Quit smoking
  • Eat smaller meals (packed with high-fibre fruits and veggies), and stop eating hours before bedtime
  • Know and avoid your triggers – every sufferer is different, but some foods have been proven to aggravate GERD including: high fat foods, tomatoes and citrus, certain alcoholic beverages, onions and spicy foods, and chocolate
  • Lose extra weight – doctors suggest that losing 10% of your body weight should help ease symptoms if you are overweight

Medical Treatment Options


Some GERD sufferers have success with over-the-counter antacids or anti-foaming agents, but others require stronger medications to keep their symptoms under control. According to WebMD, types of medications that have proven successful for GERD include magnesium or aluminum hydroxide based antacids (they cause less stomach upset with long term use than other antacids), H2 blockers such as ranitidine, and prokinetics which can help evacuate your stomach quicker, minimizing reflux. Another type of medication is proton pump inhibitors, which help minimize the amount of acid produced by your stomach. For very severe cases which don’t respond well to medications, there are surgical options such as the surgical insertion of a ‘LYNK’ ring around the esophagus to prevent acid backup.

Talk to Your Doctor (or One of Ours!)

If you are experiencing many of these symptoms and suspect you may have undiagnosed acid reflux, you should consult your doctor or one of our highly qualified DocChat physicians soon to see if your troubles are related to chronic heartburn, as unchecked GERD can lead to such serious complications as esophageal cancer or erosion of the digestive tract requiring surgery.

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