Learn More About Acid Reflux
Most frequent questions and answers about acid reflux
It is extremely common to have heartburn at some point in life; for example, after a large meal. Regular smokers and alcohol drinkers experience an increased risk of acid reflux, as do pregnant women and those aged 35-64.
In many cases, symptoms are extremely mild and passes soon.
As with all medication, acid reflux medication has some side effects. Common side effects include:
- Abdominal pain
Normally a circular band of muscles known as the sphincter at the bottom of the oesophagus prevents acid leaking up. When the sphincter does not work properly (e.g due to pressure in the stomach rising), you can have acid reflux.
Antacids, acid-suppressing medicines, prokinetic medicines and surgery are all treatment options for acid reflux.
Antacids reduce the amount of acid in your stomach to produce quick relief.
Acid-suppressing medicines that inhibit proton pumps (omeprazole, lansoprazole and pantoprazole) or block histamine receptors (cimetidine and famotidine) work to reduce the amount of acid the stomach produces. This is the first-line prescription treatment, and should be attempted first to control symptoms.
Prokinetic medicines such as metoclopramide speeds up the rate at which food passes through the stomach. It is uncommon, but may help in specialised situations.
Surgery can be carried out to lower the oesophagus, preventing acid leaking up from the stomach. Surgery is used only as an option if acid-suppressing medication is not working.
There are many lifestyle changes you can make to reduce the impact that acid reflux has.
Stopping smoking can help as chemicals will stop inducing dysfunction of the sphincter.
Some food and drink changes can reduce your symptoms. Common foods include: tomatoes, peppermint, spicy food and chocolate. Hot drinks and alcohol are also thought to be a common cause of acid reflux. If it seems a food is causing symptoms, try avoiding it to see if symptoms improve.
Current medications may make acid reflux symptoms worse. Painkillers such as ibuprofen or aspirin are known to impact acid reflux. You should consult with your doctor if you believe a medicine is making symptoms worse.
Being overweight increases the pressure on the stomach, inducing acid reflux. Losing weight through diet and exercise changes can help ease symptoms.
A gastroscopy is the most common method used to diagnose acid reflux.
A flexible, thin telescope is passes down your throat, and into your stomach to investigate potential conditions.
Other tests can be carried out to rule out other conditions. For example, chest X-rays and heart tracings.
Scarring of the lower oesophagus can occur with severe and long standing acid reflux conditions; however, this is not common.
Barrett’s oesophagus is a condition that changes the cells in your oesphagus. This can make you more prone to developing cancer of the oesophagus.