Have you ever seen those heartburn commercials by Larry the cable guy promoting Prilosec OTC which helps treat heartburn? The commercial pushes a pill so you can eat whatever you want and feel great. However, that treatment is only temporary since there is a worse condition brewing underneath in your stomach called acid reflux (#acidreflux). There are a huge number of products on the market for treating the symptoms of acid reflux specifically heartburn. All those family barbecues, tail gating events, spicy and greasy foods take a toll on your stomach and not to mention your digestive system. Products like Tums only relieve the pain short-term and it always comes back. I know, a diet change would kill your monday night pool game where you have those amazing $0.50 spicy wings or that barbecue double cheeseburger with thick smoked bacon. Trust me, I know, but lets look at how you can have the best of both worlds.
What Is Acid Reflux?
Whenever you eat food, it travels through your mouth, down your throat (esophagus) and into your stomach. Your stomach has two valves at either end for food to travel. It has the lower esophageal sphincter which located right above the stomach that makes sure that food only goes into the stomach and not back up into your mouth. The stomach also has the pyloric sphincter which allows food to travel to the small intestine to be removed from your body. To help with the digestion of food, you body produces acid which is also called bile and enzymes to help break down the food.
Moderation is always a good middle point to achieve. If your body produces too much acid, the extra acid goes through the esophageal valve and into your throat. At this point, the acid starts to burn the lining of your throat which sets up burning sensation either in your chest or your throat. And it hurts to the point that some people may think that they are having a heart attack from the pain of heartburn (#heartburn). The other thing that can happen in addition to heartburn is you begin to regurgitate your food. You know that feeling when you burp or hiccup and you get that taste of dinner back in your mouth or even worse, you get a little throw up in your mouth and forced to swallow it back down.
There are some acid reflux symptoms to keep in mind when experiencing not only heartburn. You can experience bloating or water retention, bloody stools which are a warning that you stomach has a problem, hiccups, dysphagia which is the narrowing of your esophagus which creates the feeling of food being stuck in your throat, nausea, wheezing, dry cough and a chronic sore throat. Not to mention that I ate too much feeling. The worst symptom is the development of ulcers in your stomach due to too much acid. Ulcers are holes in your stomach lining that cause internal bleeding and yes the blood enters your stomach into your intestines. If left untreated, you can actually die for internal bleeding.
These symptoms listed above usually don’t happen frequently (once a week) but if they do then you need to see a doctor. If you get frequent symptoms like heartburn or nausea then you might have GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) which is a severe case of acid reflux. At this point, there is a possibility of doing a lot of damage to both your stomach and your esophagus.
So some might be wondering what causes acid reflux. The causes can vary but the most common culprit includes eating large meals, going to the couch and laying down after eating. Your stomach is designed to work in an upright position but when you lay down, a lot of stress is placed on the esophageal valve and acid makes it into your throat. Other causes include being overweight, snacking close to bedtime and smoking. One also has to be careful about the types of food and drinks consumed such as citrus (oranges, grapefruit), tomato, chocolate (all types), mint, garlic, onions, spicy or fatty foods, alcohol, carbonated drinks (pepsi, coca cola), coffee and even tea. For women, being pregnant can also bring on a case of acid reflux.
How To Get Rid Of Acid Reflux
All hope is not lost and you can still eat what you like but as in every case with moderation. Once the doctor has established that you have acid reflux, one needs to go on the acid reflux diet to make the symptoms go away if you don’t want prescription medications. Before you begin an acid reflux diet, the very first step is to not overeat by reducing your meal size regardless of what it is. Don’t reduce the meals to the point where you starve yourself, just eat smaller meals more frequently. The next step is to focus on the actual diet of low-fat and high protein foods such as eggs, chicken breast, almonds, greek yogurt, green vegetables, fish and beans. Spices should be avoid but i think someone can tolerate salt and pepper for taste but back off the habanero sauce. Avoid the foods that trigger acid reflux that were listed above.
Then there are some physical things you can do to help with the treatment such as sleeping in a chair after eating instead of laying down. Loosen those belts after a meal since they can pressure your stomach. Set up blocks at the feet of your headboard when you go to sleep to elevate your upper body at least 4 inches so that stomach acid doesn’t flow into your throat and lastly eat your last meal about 3 hours before going to sleep. If these lifestyle changes are not your cup of tea then you can go the medication route.
There are three main types of acid reflux remedies: you have antacids, H2 receptor blockers and proton pump inhibitors. The first group is antacids which are salts that dissolve in your stomach and the main purpose is to neutralize stomach acidity which causes heartburn. You neutralize the acid by making it chemically neutral. Some of the more popular antacid medications include Alka-seltzer, Maalox, Tums, Pepto bismol, Milk of Magnesia, Rolaids and Mylanta just to name a few. Some of these products have magnesia as an ingredient which is known to cause diarhea while others have calcium or aluminum which causes constipation. If you use antacids long enough you will develop kidney stones which are very painful..
H2 receptor blockers are medications that work by blocking the histamine action in the receptors of the stomach. If you have ever had an allergy, you probably have taken an antihistamine to help treat the allergy. Histamine in your body has multiple functions including creating an allergic response but in your stomach, it is a trigger or neurotransmitter to create acid for digestion. The H2 receptor blockers prevent this trigger from reacting so no more acid is created. These medications had an advantage since they last longer than antacids. Some common medications include Tagamet, Zantac, Pepcid and Tazac. There are side effects when using these drugs including headaches, low blood pressure, tiredness, dizziness, confusion, diarrhea, constipation, and rashes.
The final medication group are called proton pump inhibitors or PPIs. The proton pump inhibitors work by permanently blocking the gastric proton pump of the stomach cells which is an important step in the creation of stomach acid. Although it is permanent, it is not permanent forever. Our stomach cells are constantly dividing and being replaced with new cells. Each new cell has an active gastric proton pump even if it was copied from one which had its pump shut off. These medications have shown to be long-lasting and effective against acid reflux. Even the World Health Organization has classified them as an essential drug. Some of the common drugs include Prilosec, Prevacid, Nexium, Protonix and Zeregid to name a few.
Some of the common side effects for proton pump inhibitors include headaches, nausea, diarrhea, fatigue, abdominal pain, dizziness, rashes, flatulence (gas), constipation , anxiety and in some cases depression. There have been cases of bone fractures, bacterial infections and heart problems from treating acid reflux with these medications and the FDA has issued warnings on their use. Recently, new studies have shown that there appears to be a higher risk of developing chronic kidney disease with constant use. More research is being done to properly understand how it is affecting your kidneys. It is enough to second guess the use of medications to treat heartburn.
What have you done to treat heartburn from acid reflux?