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How to stop acid reflux

How to stop acid reflux

Navin Khosla NowPatientGreen tick
Created on 3 Jul 2024
Updated on 16 Jul 2024

Acid reflux is a common and uncomfortable digestive condition affecting many individuals. Whether it’s the burning sensation in the chest, the sour taste in the mouth, or the persistent cough, the effects of acid reflux can seriously impact one’s quality of life.

However, with the right knowledge, you can effectively manage and even eliminate this issue. In this guide, we’ll explore the causes, symptoms, and strategies to stop acid reflux, helping you to regain control of your digestive health.

Understanding acid reflux

Acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), occurs when stomach acid flows back into the esophagus, the tube that connects the stomach to the throat. This backflow of acid can irritate the lining of the esophagus, leading to a range of symptoms.

What is acid reflux?

Acid reflux is a condition where the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), a muscle that normally keeps stomach acid in the stomach, becomes weakened or relaxed, allowing acid to flow back up into the esophagus. This can happen due to factors, such as a hiatal hernia, pregnancy, obesity, or certain medications.

Symptoms of acid reflux

The most common symptoms of acid reflux include:

  • Heartburn: A burning sensation in the chest, often felt behind the breastbone
  • Regurgitation: The backflow of stomach contents into the mouth or throat
  • Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
  • Burping
  • Chronic cough, hoarseness, or sore throat
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Feeling of a lump in the throat

Causes of acid reflux

Several risk factors can increase the risk of developing acid reflux, including:

  • Hiatal hernia: Where a portion of the stomach pushes through the diaphragm, weakening the LES
  • Obesity: Excess weight can put pressure on the abdomen, pushing the stomach contents back up into the esophagus
  • Pregnancy: The growing fetus can put pressure on the stomach, leading to reflux
  • Certain foods and beverages: Spicy, fried or fatty foods, caffeine, alcohol, and chocolate, can relax the LES and trigger reflux. Also eating large meals can be a trigger
  • Medications: Antidepressants, antihistamines, and blood pressure drugs, can weaken the LES

Lifestyle changes to manage acid reflux

Adjusting your daily habits and routines can be an effective way to alleviate acid reflux symptoms. The following lifestyle changes can often give relief without the need for medication.

Dietary modifications

  • Eating smaller, more frequent meals, rather than large heavy ones
  • Avoid spicy, fried, or fatty foods, citrus fruits, tomatoes, coffee, and alcohol
  • Limit your consumption of mint, chocolate, and peppermint
  • Remaining upright for at least 3 hours after eating to allow your food to digest properly

Weight management

  • If you are overweight or obese, lose weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise

Posture and sleep adjustments

  • Elevate the head of your bed by 6-8 inches using blocks or a cushion
  • Sleep on your left side, to help prevent acid from flowing back into the esophagus

Other lifestyle changes

  • Quit smoking and avoid secondhand smoke
  • Wear loose-fitting clothing
  • Manage stress through relaxation techniques, such as yoga or meditation

Over-the-counter medications for acid reflux

If lifestyle changes don’t provide enough relief, over-the-counter (OTC) medications can be helpful to reduce the amount of acid in your stomach, effectively managing your symptoms.

Antacids

  • Antacids, such as Tums and Maalox, work by neutralising stomach acid
  • They provide quick, temporary relief for mild to moderate acid reflux
  • They do not however treat the underlying cause of the problem and should not be used long-term

H2 Blockers

  • H2 blockers, like Pepcid AC and Zantac reduce the amount of acid produced in the stomach
  • They provide longer-lasting relief than antacids, lasting for 4-12 hours
  • H2 blockers are more effective for treating frequent acid reflux

Follow the instructions on the medication label and consult with your healthcare provider if your symptoms persist or worsen. Your doctor may recommend prescription-strength alternatives if necessary.

Prescription medications for acid reflux

If over-the-counter medications do not provide sufficient relief, your healthcare provider may prescribe stronger medications to manage your acid reflux.

Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs)

  • Prescription-strength PPIs, such as esomeprazole, omeprazole, and lansoprazole are often the first-line treatment
  • These medications work by blocking the production of stomach acid, allowing the esophagus to heal

H2 blockers

  • Prescription-strength H2 blockers, like ranitidine (Zantac) and famotidine (Pepcid), may be an alternative if PPIs are not effective or well-tolerated
  • These medications can also help reduce the amount of acid produced in the stomach

Baclofen

  • Baclofen is a muscle relaxant that can help reduce the frequency of LES relaxation
  • It may be used in combination with other medications or as a last resort for individuals with persistent reflux

Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions and take these medications as prescribed. Stopping or changing your medication without medical supervision can lead to a worsening of your symptoms.

Surgical interventions for acid reflux

If lifestyle changes and medication are not enough to control acid reflux, your healthcare provider may recommend surgical treatment options.

Nissen fundoplication

  • Nissen fundoplication is the most commonly performed surgical procedure for acid reflux
  • The upper part of the stomach is wrapped around the lower esophageal sphincter to strengthen and tighten the valve, preventing acid from flowing back into the esophagus
  • This procedure is often recommended for individuals with a hiatal hernia or severe, persistent reflux that is not responding to other treatments

LINX device

  • The LINX device is a newer surgical option for treating acid reflux
  • It involves implanting a small, flexible ring of magnetic beads around the lower esophageal sphincter, which helps keep the valve closed, preventing acid from flowing back up
  • This procedure is less invasive than Nissen fundoplication

Transoral Incisionless Fundoplication (TIF)

  • TIF is a minimally invasive procedure that involves using an endoscope to create a partial wrap around the lower esophageal sphincter
  • This procedure is performed through the mouth, without any incisions in the abdomen
  • TIF may be an option for individuals who have not responded well to other treatments

Discuss the potential risks and benefits of these surgical interventions with your healthcare provider to determine the best course of action for your individual case.

Alternative therapies for acid reflux

Some individuals may find relief from acid reflux through the use of complementary and alternative therapies. However, consult with your healthcare provider before including these approaches, as their effectiveness and safety may vary.

Herbal remedies

  • Ginger, chamomile, and liquorice root have been used traditionally to help soothe and reduce acid reflux symptoms. However, scientific evidence for their efficacy is limited, and they may interact with certain medications

Acupuncture

  • Some studies suggest acupuncture may help alleviate symptoms of acid reflux by regulating the function of the digestive system, but more research is needed to confirm the long-term effectiveness of this approach

Probiotics

  • Certain strains of probiotics, such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, may help improve the balance of gut bacteria and potentially reduce acid reflux symptoms, but the evidence is inconclusive

Consult with your healthcare provider before trying any complementary therapies, as they may interact with your existing medications or have unexpected side effects.

Preventing acid reflux complications

Chronic, untreated acid reflux can lead to complications that can significantly impact your overall health. It’s essential to take the necessary steps to prevent these complications and to protect your esophageal and digestive health.

Esophagitis

  • Chronic acid reflux can cause inflammation and damage to the lining of the esophagus. This can lead to pain, difficulty swallowing, and an increased risk of esophageal ulcers

Barrett’s esophagus

  • Prolonged exposure to stomach acid can cause the cells lining the esophagus to change, a condition known as Barrett’s esophagus. This is a precancerous condition that increases the risk of developing esophageal cancer

Esophageal stricture

  • Scarring and narrowing of the esophagus, known as esophageal stricture, can occur due to chronic inflammation from acid reflux. This can make it difficult to swallow and may require dilation or other interventions

Respiratory complications

  • Acid reflux can sometimes reach the throat and airways, leading to laryngitis, chronic cough, and even asthma-like symptoms

To prevent these complications, address acid reflux promptly and follow your healthcare provider’s recommendations for treatment and management. Regular monitoring and follow-up care can help catch any potential complications early.

Living with acid reflux: Coping strategies

Managing acid reflux is an ongoing process. Here are some tips to help you navigate life with acid reflux:

Meal planning and eating habits

  • Identify and avoid your trigger foods that tend to worsen your reflux symptoms, such as spicy foods, caffeine, or alcohol
  • Eat smaller, more frequent meals
  • Avoid lying down immediately after eating

Lifestyle adjustments

  • Maintain a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise
  • Quit smoking and limit alcohol consumption, as these can weaken the lower esophageal sphincter
  • Practice stress management techniques, such as yoga and meditation

Medication management

  • Take over-the-counter or prescription medications as directed by your healthcare provider
  • Keep track of your symptoms and communicate any concerns to your doctor
  • Avoid stopping or changing your medication suddenly, without medical supervision

Seeking support

  • Connect with support groups or online communities to share experiences
  • Communicate with your healthcare provider about your concerns

These coping strategies can help you effectively manage your acid reflux and maintain a good quality of life.

Conclusion

By understanding the underlying causes, making lifestyle changes, and utilising both over-the-counter and prescription medications, you can take control of your acid reflux.

Consult with your healthcare provider to determine the best course of action, whether it’s adjusting your treatment or exploring other options.

Sources

Medical Disclaimer

NowPatient has taken all reasonable steps to ensure that all material is factually accurate, complete, and current. However, the knowledge and experience of a qualified healthcare professional should always be sought after instead of using the information on this page. Before taking any drug, you should always speak to your doctor or another qualified healthcare provider.

The information provided here about medications is subject to change and is not meant to include all uses, precautions, warnings, directions, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or negative effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a particular medication does not imply that the medication or medication combination is appropriate for all patients or for all possible purposes.

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