Many of us are familiar with that uncomfortable, acidic sensation that seems to gnaw away in our guts. Unknowingly, you may even refer to acid reflux as heartburn, mainly due to the scorching feeling that it can cause.
For those who want to know more about acid reflux, there are enlightening facts and misconceptions about this disorder that will help clarify this digestive condition.
The Difference between Acid Reflux and Heartburn
First, it’s important to clarify the difference between acid reflux and heartburn. Acid reflux is a condition whereby stomach acid (used to break down food) travels back up into your esophagus. Heartburn happens in your digestive system due to acid burning the lining of your esophagus. In short, heartburn is the symptom of acid reflux, not the condition itself.
What is GERD?
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a chronic form of acid reflux, ranging in severity. The symptoms are very similar to acid reflux, but people who suffer from GERD experience acid reflux at least a few times a week.
Unlike occasional acid reflux and heartburn, GERD can result from other health concerns such as obesity, alcohol abuse, or taking medications that can weaken the lower esophageal sphincter.
If not treated, GERD can become quite serious, even leading to cancer of the esophagus. Depending on the stage of the condition, GERD can be remedied in a variety of ways. However, if GERD is not addressed, it can result in bleeding, scarring, and ulcers within the esophagus.
Because GERD is a chronic condition, it cannot go away on its own; once you have it, it will be a lifelong issue that requires medical treatment. If you are consistently experiencing the symptoms of acid reflux, you may need to see a physician.
How to Avoid Acid Reflux
You can make changes to your routine and diet that can help prevent occasional acid reflux before it becomes more severe. Suggestions include:
Limiting alcoholic beverages and coffee
Avoiding spicy or acidic foods
Don’t lie down after eating
Avoid taking antihistamines or ibuprofen
Managing your weight
Treatments of Acid Reflux and GERD
Luckily, there is a combination of home remedies and medications available to help treat acid reflux and GERD.
For occasional digestive issues, most antacids should be able to ease your symptoms. You can also go the more natural route by consuming concoctions made with herbs such as chamomile and licorice root.
However, for GERD, you may be prescribed medications such as H2 receptor blockers, proton pump inhibitors, which essentially lessen or block stomach acids. If your symptoms do not improve, you may require surgery. If necessary, there are procedures available that help restores the quality of the esophageal sphincter.
Don’t assume that your acid reflux is just a harmless result of your spicy Mexican dinner. Be aware of your symptoms and how long they last so that you can seek the proper treatment if needed.