Even somebody who has never heard of acid reflux is almost sure to recognize it from a description of the symptoms. They might even be familiar with it under an alternative name – GERD: Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. These medical terms describe a severe type of heartburn that occurs when stomach acids pass into the esophageal. Usually, muscles at the bottom of the throat prevent these acids from escaping, but if the muscles become weakened for some reason they no longer perform this task efficiently. It is often difficult to discover why certain individuals suffer from this problem more than others, but a good range of effective treatments for acid reflux are available.
Change Eating and Drinking Habits
The first step in tackling acid reflux must involve changes to eating and drinking habits. Take more time over meals and make sure not to bite off more than you can chew. Also, try to reduce the amount of food you eat at any one sitting. Also, it is recommended to avoid eating the major meal of the day in the evening. Other dietary changes that usually help reduce acid reflux symptoms include abstaining from alcoholic drinks within four hours of bedtime and staying away from foods that tend to trigger the complaint. Some of the foods most likely to cause problems include chocolate, coffee and all kinds of spicy dishes.
Change Sleeping and Dressing Habits
Researchers have found that a change in sleeping angle and position helps reduce the likelihood and severity of acid reflux during the night. Placing the bed on a slant is one of the steps they suggest as helpful. Raising the bed can be done easily with some solid blocks of wood positioned under the supports at the head of the bed. Ideally, try to increase the head of the bed by about eight inches. When you get up in the morning after what is hopefully going to be a much better night’s sleep, do not sit down to a meal wearing very tight clothing.
Watch Weight and Cut out Smoking
People who are overweight or smoke frequently have many additional health issues, and acid reflux is another of the areas where their condition or addiction has a negative impact. Whoever succeeds in significantly reducing weight usually notices a reduction in symptoms. The same applies to those who give up smoking. At one time many believed smoking aided digestion, but today we know that it disturbs the digestive system as part of a lengthy list of health risks.
Two Popular Medications
There is no doubt that the best approach to deal with this health issue focuses on recommended lifestyle changes, but there is also a role for medicines. Pharmacies sell many kinds of tablets over the counter without the need to bring a doctor’s prescription. Although all of these medicines are designed to reduce acid symptoms, they work in different ways. The type of drug known as antacids offset the adverse effects of escaping stomach acids while alginates create a coating to protect the gullet against the stomach acids. These medicines may not be appropriate for everyone so carefully read the leaflet and consult with the pharmacist before deciding which one to take.
Watch Medications With Side Effects
Medicines may help reduce symptoms, but they can also contribute to bringing them on. Some acid reflux sufferers discover that symptoms are aggravated after they take medications prescribed for them to treat another health issue. Even in this situation, nobody should stop taking a prescribed course of medicine without consulting with their doctor. Often the doctor can recommend an alternative medicine that just as effectively treats the complaint without undesirable side effects.
More Powerful Medications
If lifestyle changes and standard medications fail to provide the desired relief the doctor might prescribe a course of proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs). This medicine reduces the amount of acid the stomach produces. Normally a patient might have to take them for a month or so, but in more severe cases they need to continue with the medications much longer. Sometimes patients experience headaches or diarrhea, and the doctor needs to adjust the amounts of PPIs prescribed accordingly. Another medicine called H2RA works in a similar way and might be given as an alternative.
Treatments for Acid Reflux: The Surgeon’s Scalpel
In the most extreme cases, the doctor might recommend a surgical treatment for acid reflux. For example, if none of the conventional treatments help, or the patient cannot tolerate the side effects. The most modern surgery uses a technique called laparoscopic Nissen fundoplication (LNF). The surgeon makes a small hole in the skin and utilizes a unique instrument to tighten the muscle and reduce acid leakage from the stomach. The patient needs a general anesthetic and has to spend a few days in the hospital. Afterward, they need to take at least a month off work to recuperate.
Newer Surgical Techniques
While LNF remains a firm favorite, some new surgical techniques are now available. It seems they involve no additional risk, but these methods have not been around long enough to access their long-term impact. One of these new surgical approaches attracting interest is called magnetic bead band (LINX). The surgeon implants magnetic beads to strengthen the muscles and keep these shut while the patient is not swallowing.
At one time conventional medical doctors tended to dismiss the benefits of traditional Chinese medicines. Today they are more likely to recognize their potential benefits. Acupuncture is the best known of all of these techniques. Some recent studies show that it does help reduces problems caused by leaking stomach acids. Although usually the acupuncturist only uses needles, in more recent years they have begun to use electric currents with encouraging results.
Concerns over side effects of conventional medicines help explain why herbal remedies have become so sought after. Ginger root and marshmallow root are some of these herbs that are supposed to relieve acid reflux problems. The use of baking soda as an antacid is also a popular alternative treatment approach. Herbal treatments can also have unwanted side effects. It is a good idea to consult with a doctor before starting to take any of these substances.