What is acid reflux?
Acid reflux – better known as heartburn – occurs when stomach acid moves up into your esophagus. When everything works as it should, a valve at the entrance to your stomach closes after food passes through it. But sometimes when the valve is leaky or doesn’t stay closed, stomach acid can back up into your esophagus. When acid reflux occurs more than twice a week, it’s classified as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
What are the symptoms of acid reflux?
The following are some of the symptoms of acid reflux:
- A burning sensation in your chest, abdomen, or throat
- Regurgitation – a sour or bitter taste in your mouth. This, along with a burning sensation, are the most common symptoms.
- Chronic sore throat, wheezing, hoarseness, or dry cough
- Postnasal drip
- Feeling like food is stuck in your throat
- Hiccups that last for a long time
What causes acid reflux?
Acid reflux disease can be caused by many factors, including a hiatal hernia. This happens when the diaphragm loosens and allows the upper part of the stomach to enter the chest cavity. Pregnancy can also temporarily cause acid reflux because it puts extra pressure on your internal organs. Additional risk factors for acid reflux may include the following:
- Being overweight or obese
- Smoking or being around second-hand smoke
- Getting little exercise
- Taking certain medications, such as sedatives, antihistamines, calcium-channel blockers, aspirin, or ibuprofen
- Eating large meals
- Lying down shortly after eating
- Eating certain foods, such as tomatoes, chocolate, citrus, or spicy or fatty foods
- Drinking alcohol, coffee, tea, or caffeinated drinks
Is acid reflux caused by genetic factors?
Many diseases are thought to have a genetic link, and acid reflux is no exception. Researchers believe that your genes may play a role in causing the muscular or structural issues that can lead to acid reflux. For example, one study of identical twins (who have the same DNA) found that one twin was 1.5 times more likely to have GERD if his or her identical twin also had it. Another study found that there was a pattern of inheritance of GERD among multi-generational family members. Both of these studies – as well as others – suggest that there may be a link between acid reflux and various genetic factors.
How can you control your acid reflux and minimize your symptoms?
A gastroenterologist can treat and help to minimize your symptoms. This is important because when acid reflux progresses to GERD, complications are more likely to occur if you don’t receive treatment. The following treatments can help minimize your symptoms:
- Lifestyle changes: avoiding foods and drinks that trigger your symptoms, eating smaller and more frequent meals meals, and losing excess body weight.
- Over-the-counter medications: can help with minor heartburn. Options include antacids (such as Alka-Seltzer and Tums) to temporarily neutralize stomach acid , H-2 blockers (such as Pepcid and Zantac) to reduce acid production, and proton-pump inhibitors (such as Prevacid, Prilosec, and Nexium) to block acid production and help heal the esophagus.
- Prescription medications: prescription-strength H-2 blockers and proton-pump inhibitors for more serious cases of acid reflux.
If you have symptoms of acid reflux, make an appointment today with Gotham Gastroenterology. Our NYC practice strives to provide the highest quality of personalized medical care in a scompassionate manner.