This condition is characterized by the release of digestive acid back into the esophagus. This is the most common precursor to what is known in the medical community as gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD). The main cause of this condition is a faulty valve that normally remains closed and prevents stomach acid from escaping into various areas of the upper digestive tract. Although the mechanics of this disease are understood, the causes are less clear. However, some of the major contributing factors can include poor eating habits, pregnancy, hiatal hernia, stress, smoking and stomach ulcers. If left untreated, the upper digestive tract can become irritated and even ulcerated. Frequent coughs, post-nasal drip and in extreme cases, the erosion of tooth enamel can occur.
So, some of the most common causes for GERD include:
- Poor eating habits.
- Intake of spicy foods
- Underlying digestive issues such as a stomach ulcer.
Acid Reflux Treatment Options
As this disease has become so prevalent in modern times, there are a number of remedies that patients can undertake to help lessen these painful and potentially serious side effects.
The large portion of those who suffer from heartburn need to modify their diets to prevent the intake of certain irritating foods. Substances that contain high amounts of acids and spices should be avoided. These can include orange juice, fizzy drinks, vinegar, coffee, and pepper. Additionally, meals that are high in fats such as processed and fast foods should be curtailed. These are difficult for the stomach to digest and as a result, a large amount of acid will be produced.
Another key mitigating factor is to stop the consumption of alcohol and cigarettes. Beer, liquor and smoke irritate the lining of the digestive tract and the stomach. Thus, they tend to exacerbate this condition and will lead to further discomfort.
Additionally, there are a number of over-the-counter and prescription medications currently available. Acid suppressants will block the excess production of stomach juices, therefore helping to reduce the chances of any escaping into the upper digestive tract. A type of drug called a prokinetic agent will help the stomach empty its contents more quickly. Finally, many commonly used antacids will neutralize the levels of acids in the stomach, but most doctors will advise against their use in cases where the heart burn is frequent and severe.
Finally, heightened levels of stress are associated with an overproduction of stomach acid. Thus, reducing psychological anxiety and developing coping mechanisms will help alleviate the symptoms of acid reflux in many instances.
So, some of the most common treatment options are:
- Modifying one's diet to avoid certain irritating foods.
- Curtailing the consumption of alcohol and cigarettes.
- Over-the-counter and prescription medications.
- Reducing the amount of perceived stress.