What Is Acid Reflux?
Acid reflux is the backward flow of stomach acid into the esophagus — the tube that connects the throat and stomach. Acid reflux is more specifically known as gastroesophageal reflux. During an episode of acid reflux, you may taste regurgitated food or sour liquid at the back of your mouth or feel a burning sensation in your chest (heartburn).
Sometimes acid reflux progresses to GERD, a more severe form of reflux.
What Is Acid Reflux? The Symptoms
Acid reflux is such a popular issue you’d think it would be simple to notice and treat. But, oftentimes, acid reflux symptoms are less than evident or simple to mistake for something else.
Here are some symptoms that mean you could be experiencing acid reflux:
Chest pain, occurring from stomach acid traveling into the esophagus, is a classic acid reflux symptom. But the pain can extend and be more powerful than anticipated. So painful that many people mistake heartburn for a heart attack. There have been times that people mistake a heart attack for acid reflex. First things first, if you’re having chest pain, check with your doctor to make sure you’re not having a heart attack.
If you experience pain when lying down this is the acid that is supposed to stay in your stomach escaping into your esophagus, causing heartburn. That’s why people with chronic heartburn raise the head of their bed, and why they shouldn’t eat big meals right before bedtime.
Pain that happens right after a meal often means the stomach is overloaded and its contents have nowhere to go but up. It’s important to eat healthily and avoid big, fatty meals that can encourage acid reflux and heartburn.
If you recline after eating, acid escaping from your stomach can find its way into the back of your throat, leaving a nasty, unpleasant taste in your mouth.
It’s easy to confuse the beginnings of a cold when your voice starts cracking, but hoarseness can be another heartburn symptom. If stomach acid is leaking into your esophagus it can agitate your vocal cords. Recognize when your voice sounds more husky than usual and, if it’s after you’ve eaten, you may be experiencing acid reflux.
A sore throat is yet another common cold or flu symptom that might actually be triggered by digestive problems. If your throat tends to hurt only after meals, you may have acid reflux. Unlike with a cold or the flu, however, this type of sore throat can also be continuing. If you don’t develop other symptoms, such as sniffling or sneezing, consider acid reflux the culprit.
Many respiratory symptoms, such as a chronic cough and wheezing, can also be due to heartburn, likely because stomach acid is getting into your lungs. The coughing and wheezing from heartburn can get so bad they could become triggers for asthma.
And if nausea tends to develop right after meals, that is a strong indication for acid reflux.
The production of extra saliva could be your body’s way of signaling acid reflux as it is trying to wash out an irritant in your esophagus.
Over time, the continuous cycle of damage and healing after acid reflux causes scarring and swelling in the lower-esophagus tissue, resulting in a tightening of the esophagus and difficulty swallowing.
Everyone has experienced these symptoms from time to time, even those of us not suffering from acid reflux. So, don’t sound the alarms just yet. But should you find yourself experiencing these symptoms in combination with one another and your lifestyle habits might leave you inclined to suffer from acid reflux, it’s time to take a close look and find out.
Causes Of Acid Reflux
Certain foods and drinks can cause acid reflux. Common culprits include items high in fat, chocolate, spicy foods, citrusy or acidic foods like oranges and tomatoes, mint, garlic, and onions, as well as carbonated drinks.
These foods may be more difficult to digest, producing extra stomach acid that can end up in the esophagus. Fatty foods may also relax the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which usually acts as a “lid” on the stomach.
Obesity is one of the main factors behind acid reflux. It may also increase the risk of GERD complications like Barrett’s esophagus, a condition involving precancerous changes in the cells in the esophagus. Research has shown that extra abdominal fat adds pressure to the stomach, forcing acid up into the esophagus. Research has also shown that losing weight either through diet and exercise or even bariatric surgery can ease symptoms of reflux.
A hiatal hernia is when the top part of your stomach bulges up into your chest cavity, preventing the lower esophageal sphincter from closing properly. Many people with hiatal hernias have no symptoms at all but, in some cases, the hernia can be caused by acid reflux, and even in others, acid reflux is an indication of a hernia.
Eating a large meal at any time can cause acid reflux, but it’s particularly bothersome if you eat it right before you go to bed or decide to relax on the sofa. Large meals also may overcome the esophageal barrier and lead to increased acid exposure. Eating several small meals staggered throughout the day instead of fewer large meals have been shown to be helpful in reducing episodes related to acid reflux. Many suffers can find some relief from sleeping on an incline or with a wedge under their body.
Smoking can harm your digestive system just as it harms so many other parts of your body. Even secondhand smoke and chewing tobacco can advance acid reflux by relaxing the lower esophageal sphincter. Research has shown that quitting smoking can improve symptoms related to acid reflux.
You’re more likely to have acid reflux when you’re pregnant if you’ve had it before or if you’ve been pregnant before. In fact, as many as half of all pregnant women experience acid reflux. It can start at any point when you’re expecting, but it’s more common after 3 months. Paying close attention to your diet and removing certain foods are your best chance for reducing acid reflux symptoms when you’re pregnant. Talk to your doctor before trying any over-the-counter medications, as not all are safe to take during pregnancy. The reflux should subside after your baby is born.
Even though medications can alleviate much of what afflicts us, they all have side effects, with some being worse than others. Often, those side effects appear in the form of acid reflux. Medications that can exacerbate reflux include pain relievers such as ibuprofen and aspirin, calcium blocking blood pressure drugs, antihistamines, sedatives, certain antidepressants, particular antibiotics, an osteoporosis medication, anticholinergic drugs, and opioids.
Stress – can worsen symptoms related to acid reflux. Research has shown that anxious stomachs may produce more stomach acid, and some studies indicate that, during times of stress, your perception of the discomfort of reflux is heightened. Stress can also encourage other behaviors that can activate acid reflux, like smoking, drinking alcohol, skipping the gym, and stress eating. Chronic acid reflux itself may also aggravate stress.
Risks Of Not Treating Acid Reflux
When stomach acids recurrently back up into the esophagus, they can harm its delicate lining. That injury can lead to painful irritation called esophagitis. Eventually, the acid wears away at the esophagus, resulting in bleeding. If the bleeding is heavy enough, blood can pass into the digestive tract and show up as dark, tarry stools. Esophagitis can also cause ulcers — painful, open sores on the lining of the esophagus.
In a small percentage of people, long-term acid exposure from acid reflux can cause a condition known as Barrett’s esophagus (BE). In BE, abnormal cells form and take the place of the cells damaged by acid reflux with the potential to turn cancerous. If you are experiencing severe, long-term acid reflux, call your doctor.
Periodic damage to the esophagus can produce scarring, tears, and structures that narrow the opening of the esophagus. These narrowed passages can make swallowing problematic and restrict with food and liquids entering the stomach. It can also lead to esophageal spasms, aching chest pains that can imitate a heart attack.
Asthma and acid reflux often go together. Research has found that a small to a large percentage of asthma sufferers also have symptoms of acid reflux. Whether asthma leads to acid reflux or the other way around is still up for debate. However, the connection cannot be ignored. One likely reason of the link between acid reflux and asthma is that acid that backs up from the stomach and enters the airways.
Acid reflux has also been linked to numerous other respiratory conditions, including chronic bronchitis, chronic cough, chronic sinusitis, emphysema, lung scarring, recurrent pneumonia, and voice and throat issues.
Acid reflux has the potential to affect the throat, leading to hoarseness and laryngitis. Some individuals, particularly those suffering from very severe acid reflux, have reported voice changes.
Lastly, when harsh acids make their way into the mouth, they can severely damage tooth enamel. A number of studies have shown that people suffering from acid reflux have more dental erosion than normal. The condition can also lead to bad breath and an increase in saliva production.
Side-Effects of Conventional Medicine
Because of all this uneasiness, distress, and risk, drug companies, physicians, and patients have enthusiastically wanted a method to reduce the symptoms and cancer threats of acid reflux. One way of combatting acid reflux is to reduce stomach acid production. Several medications have been designed to do just that, with the proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) leading the charge.
Consuming PPI drugs reduces the amount of acid that goes into the stomach, which in turn reduces the amount of acid that can reflux, or wash back, into the esophagus to produce heartburn or acid reflux.
Initially meant as prescription drugs for intermittent consumption, these medications have been accessible over the counter for more than a decade, and, though still evidently labeled for limited duration use, many patients with moderate to severe acid reflux consume them as long-term maintenance drugs.
Because PPI drugs are so effective at relieving symptoms, and because they are so commonly used for such prolonged periods, some research is showing new information that was not evident when these drugs first hit the market.
It is important to acknowledge that none of the PPI side effects pose immediate, urgent health concerns, so it is crucial that each patient checks with his or her healthcare professional about the steadiness of risks versus benefits. However, many of the effects of PPIs can, over the long term, raise the risk for significant diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, infections, and others.
In addition to the above, PPIs inhibit vitamin and mineral absorption, increase the risk of bone fractures, as well as emerging as a huge risk for cardiovascular difficulties.
While proton-pump inhibiting drugs can offer much-needed relief from the symptoms attributed to acid reflux, prolonged use of these drugs can lead to nutritional deficiencies, bone fractures, and heart disease.
Essential Oils Are A Great Remedy For Acid Reflux
Essential oils are generally gentle, safe, and cause little to no side effects if taken as directed. They are also quite effective against several ailments, including acid reflux.
Essential oils are oils are derived from plants or trees. These oils are natural and offer many benefits for those who use them, one of them being acid reflux relief. The way these oils help really depends on the type of oil being used. Generally speaking, many essential oils contain powerful natural properties that are beneficial to the body.
As for how long it takes to feel relief from acid reflux, depends on the oil you choose to use and how you choose to administer it. Some oils may cause symptoms to subside quickly, while others may take a bit longer to work.
However, you can rest assured that you will not have to add to your suffering by experiencing the significant side effects that have been shown to be attributed to traditional over the counter and prescription medications meant to treat acid reflux.
Acid reflux is a common gastrointestinal disorder that is often reasonably minor, but it can cause significant problems if left untreated. Fortunately, with appropriate lifestyle modifications and the proper use of medications – especially natural remedies such as essential oils, most people with acid reflux can be successfully healed before a bothersome problem becomes a serious one.