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Causes Of Heartburn And Acid Reflux

The Real Cause Of Most Acid Reflux

The Real Causes of Acid Reflux, Heartburn & GERD Dr.Berg

Many medical doctors will tell you that if youre feeling the burn, you have too much stomach acid and you need over-the-counter antacids or prescription acid blockers.

Following that advice might give you immediate relief, but these treatments will make the problem worse over time. Acid blockers, known as proton pump inhibitors reduce the production of stomach acid, and antacids neutralize the acid. These are great at reducing the amount of stomach acid you have, but they can actually aggravate your heartburn.

What Kinds Of Complications Are Caused By Frequent Heartburn

  • Excess stomach acid in the esophagus can cause ulcers, damage to the inner layers of the esophageal wall, and narrowing .
  • Very rarely, the esophagus may bleed or tear completely because it is so damaged. In severe cases, a person may vomit blood or have small amounts of blood in bowel movements, found only on testing the stool.
  • Regurgitated stomach acid can damage the respiratory tract, causing asthma, hoarseness, chronic cough, sore throat, or tooth damage . A person may feel as if he or she has a lump in the throat.
  • If the acid exposure continues for long periods of time, the esophagus becomes thick and damaged. A person may then have difficulty swallowing and food becomes stuck.

Are There Any Tests For Heartburn

If it is obvious from the symptoms that a person has heartburn, no tests or exams may be necessary. Advice in regard to lifestyle modifications, diet, or medications may begin immediately.

If your health care professional is not sure about the diagnosis, or if he or she is concerned about damage done by chronic heartburn, tests may be ordered. This is true especially if the patient has already been prescribed medications that are not relieving the heartburn.

There is no simple blood test for heartburn. The tests used to diagnose heartburn include the following:

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How Do Antacids Work To Treat Heartburn

Antacids reduce the amount of stomach acid, relieving your heartburn. These medications can also be used to soothe stomach upset, indigestion and other pains in your stomach. Some antacids contain simethicone, which reduces gas. Antacids that you can get without a prescription include:

  • Tums®.
  • Maalox®.
  • Gaviscon®.

Make sure you always follow the instructions on the package or talk to your doctor about the right way to use an antacid. If you use tablets, chew them well before swallowing for faster relief.

Arm Pain: Heartburn Or Something Else

What is the Cause of Heartburn &  Acid Reflux?

Heart attack survivors often recount their first symptom as a heartburn-like sensation. Many patients explicitly use the word heartburn when recounting their cardiac experience. Patients often realize that their heartburn is in fact not reflux-related but heart-related when:

  • There is a pain radiating up the arm, specifically the left arm
  • They have no history of acid reflux
  • There is a burning sensation in the chest
  • They have not eaten anything prior to the pain
  • The pain doesnt go away with antacid

If your heartburn symptoms dont go away after taking an antacid, and are accompanied by arm pain and back pain, we suggest going to an emergency facility immediately to get medical help.

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What Are The Signs & Symptoms Of Gerd

Often, people who have GERD notice that they regularly have the pain of heartburn in the chest or stomach. This can last up to a couple of hours. Many notice their heartburn is worse after eating.

Regurgitation when food and liquid containing stomach acid comes back up into the throat or mouth is also a sign of GERD. But, like heartburn, occasional regurgitation is common for everyone.

Other symptoms of GERD include:

  • a sore, raw throat or hoarse voice
  • a frequent sour taste of acid, especially when lying down
  • a feeling of burping acid into the mouth
  • trouble swallowing
  • bad breath

How Common Is Gerd

GERD is very common. The condition and its symptoms touch a huge number of people: 20% of the U.S. population.

Anyone of any age can develop GERD, but some may be more at risk for it. For example, the chances youll have some form of GERD increase after age 40.

Youre also more likely to have it if youre:

  • Overweight or obese.
  • Smoking or are regularly exposed to second-hand smoke.
  • Taking certain medications that may cause acid reflux.

Also Check: Can Heartburn Be A Sign Of Heart Disease

Can Gerd Cause Asthma

We dont know the exact relationship between GERD and asthma. More than 75% of people with asthma have GERD. They are twice as likely to have GERD as people without asthma. GERD may make asthma symptoms worse, and asthma drugs may make GERD worse. But treating GERD often helps to relieve asthma symptoms.

The symptoms of GERD can injure the lining of the throat, airways and lungs, making breathing difficult and causing a persistent cough, which may suggest a link. Doctors mostly look at GERD as a cause of asthma if:

  • Asthma begins in adulthood.
  • Asthma symptoms get worse after a meal, exercise, at night and after lying down.
  • Asthma doesnt get better with standard asthma treatments.

If you have asthma and GERD, your healthcare provider can help you find the best ways to handles both conditions the right medications and treatments that wont aggravate symptoms of either disease.

What Are The Symptoms Of Acid Reflux And Oesophagitis

GERD and Acid Reflux. Common Causes.
  • Heartburn: this is the main symptom. This is a burning feeling which rises from the upper tummy or lower chest up towards the neck.
  • Other common symptoms: these include pain in the upper abdomen and chest, feeling sick, an acid taste in the mouth, bloating, belching, indigestion and a burning pain when you swallow hot drinks. Like heartburn, these symptoms tend to come and go and tend to be worse after a meal.
  • Some uncommon symptoms: these may occur and if they do, can make the diagnosis difficult, as these symptoms can mimic other conditions. For example:
  • A persistent cough, particularly at night, sometimes occurs. This is due to the refluxed acid irritating the windpipe . Asthma symptoms of cough and wheeze can sometimes be due to acid leaking up .
  • Other mouth and throat symptoms sometimes occur, such as gum problems, bad breath, sore throat, hoarseness and a feeling of a lump in the throat.
  • Severe chest pain develops in some cases .

Also Check: What Can I Do For Heartburn

Measure Yourself On The Richter Scale/acid Test

How significant is your heartburn? What are the chances that it is something more serious? If you need a yardstick, here’s a simple self-test developed by a panel of experts from the American College of Gastroenterology.

Remember, if you have heartburn two or more times a week, or still have symptoms on your over-the-counter or prescription medicines, see your doctor.

Take this “Richter Scale/Acid Test” to see if you’re a GERD sufferer and are taking the right steps to treat it.

  • Do you frequently have one or more of the following:
  • an uncomfortable feeling behind the breastbone that seems to be moving upward from the stomach?
  • a burning sensation in the back of your throat?
  • a bitter acid taste in your mouth?
  • Do you often experience these problems after meals?
  • Do you experience heartburn or acid indigestion two or more times per week?
  • Do you find that antacids only provide temporary relief from your symptoms?
  • Are you taking prescription medication to treat heartburn, but still having symptoms?
  • If you said yes to two or more of the above, you may have GERD. To know for sure, see your doctor or a gastrointestinal specialist. They can help you live pain free.

    Is Gerd Dangerous Or Life

    GERD isnt life-threatening or dangerous in itself. But long-term GERD can lead to more serious health problems:

    • Esophagitis: Esophagitis is the irritation and inflammation the stomach acid causes in the lining of the esophagus. Esophagitis can cause ulcers in your esophagus, heartburn, chest pain, bleeding and trouble swallowing.
    • Barrett’s esophagus: Barrett’s esophagus is a condition that develops in some people who have long-term GERD. The damage acid reflux can cause over years can change the cells in the lining of the esophagus. Barretts esophagus is a risk factor for cancer of the esophagus.
    • Esophageal cancer: Cancer that begins in the esophagus is divided into two major types. Adenocarcinoma usually develops in the lower part of the esophagus. This type can develop from Barretts esophagus. Squamous cell carcinoma begins in the cells that line the esophagus. This cancer usually affects the upper and middle part of the esophagus.
    • Strictures: Sometimes the damaged lining of the esophagus becomes scarred, causing narrowing of the esophagus. These strictures can interfere with eating and drinking by preventing food and liquid from reaching the stomach.

    Read Also: What Not To Eat When Having Heartburn

    Dont Sleep On Your Right Side

    Several studies show that sleeping on your right side may worsen reflux symptoms at night .

    The reason is not entirely clear, but is possibly explained by anatomy.

    The esophagus enters the right side of the stomach. As a result, the lower esophageal sphincter sits above the level of stomach acid when you sleep on your left side .

    When you lay on your right side, stomach acid covers the lower esophageal sphincter. This increases the risk of acid leaking through it and causing reflux.

    Obviously, this recommendation may not be practical, since most people change their position while they sleep.

    Yet resting on your left side might make you more comfortable as you fall asleep.

    Summary:

    What Are The Main Symptoms Of Gerd

    Acid Reflux

    The main symptoms are persistent heartburn and acid regurgitation. Some people have GERD without heartburn. Instead, they experience pain in the chest, hoarseness in the morning or trouble swallowing. You may feel like you have food stuck in your throat, or like you are choking or your throat is tight. GERD can also cause a dry cough and bad breath.

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    What Is The Treatment For Heartburn

    The health care professional will recommend treating heartburn in a stepwise fashion. For mild or occasional symptoms, simple lifestyle modifications may be enough. The next step is nonprescription antacids such as Maalox, Mylanta, Tums, or Rolaids. Other treatments include acid blockers and even surgery. In most cases, one or more of these treatments provide relief from heartburn and prevent it from turning into a more serious disease.

    I take nonprescription antacids for heartburn, but they don’t seem to help.

    Nonprescription antacids are only part of the treatment for heartburn. They can work very well, but these antacids alone usually can’t stop heartburn. A health care professional will probably recommend that the patient make lifestyle changes in addition to other treatments.

    What kind of lifestyle changes and remedies can I make to reduce heartburn?

    Try any or all of the following:

    Will these changes stop the heartburn?

    They may. If they don’t, adding a nonprescription antacid can be helpful.

    How do antacids work?

    What if lifestyle changes and antacids don’t work?

    If a person still has symptoms after lifestyle modifications and antacids, a health care professional probably will prescribe a stronger drug. The usual choice is one of the histamine-2 blockers, or acid blockers. These drugs block the biochemical process that creates acid in the stomach.

    What are acid blockers?

    Dont Eat Within Three Hours Of Going To Bed

    People with acid reflux are generally advised to avoid eating within the three hours before they go to sleep.

    Although this recommendation makes sense, there is limited evidence to back it up.

    One study in GERD patients showed that having a late evening meal had no effects on acid reflux, compared to having a meal before 7 p.m. .

    However, an observational study found that eating close to bedtime was associated with significantly greater reflux symptoms when people were going to sleep .

    More studies are needed before solid conclusions can be made about the effect of late evening meals on GERD. It may also depend on the individual.

    Summary:

    Observational studies suggest that eating close to bedtime may worsen acid reflux symptoms at night. Yet, the evidence is inconclusive and more studies are needed.

    Read Also: What Do You Do If You Have Heartburn

    Alcohol And Acid Reflux

    The relationship between alcohol and acid reflux isnt as simple as it may seem. If youre reading this, chances are that youve experienced the uncomfortable sensation of acid rising up your throat and into your mouth after drinking alcohol, or may be curious to know what causes this feeling. Alcohol causes irritation in the esophagus and changes the pH levels of its contents, including saliva.

    Nearly 1 in 3 adults suffers from heartburn on a regular basis, and while some turn to prescription drugs, others reach for a glass of wine to relax at the end of the day. But while wine may provide relief, it can also cause problems.

    It is estimated that 30 to 60 million Americans have acid reflux or GERD. Acid reflux can be caused by many factors, including diet, obesity, smoking, stress, and the condition of the throat muscles. Alcohol consumption can worsen acid reflux by increasing stomach acids. Too much alcohol can cause the esophagus to relax and allow food and stomach acid to enter into the esophagus.

    Are There Rare Acid Reflux Symptoms

    Curing GERD and Acid Reflux: 8 Common cause of Acid Reflux and GERD

    Although a common gastrointestinal condition, not all acid reflux symptoms are shared by patients. Some only experience heartburn and regurgitation, which are two distinct signs of acid reflux. Others may exhibit symptoms that stray from the usual list.

    Listed below are some of the usual concerns on uncommon acid reflux symptoms. Keep in mind that the majority of these are caused by chronic acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease and may not be relevant to patients with temporary acid reflux.

    If so, a separate issue not related to acid reflux may be the cause of the following symptoms:

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    Understanding The Oesophagus And Stomach

    When we eat, food passes down the gullet into the stomach. Cells in the lining of the stomach make acid and other chemicals which help to digest food. Stomach cells also make mucus which protects them from damage from the acid. The cells lining the oesophagus are different and have little protection from acid.

    There is a circular band of muscle at the junction between the oesophagus and stomach. This relaxes to allow food down but then normally tightens up and stops food and acid leaking up into the oesophagus. In effect, the sphincter acts like a valve.

    Acid Reflux and Oesophagitis

    Certain Foods And Drinks

    Many people complain that they get reflux after eating certain foods. Common culprits include items high in fat, chocolate, spicy foods, citrusy or acidic foods like oranges and tomatoes, mint, garlic, and onions, as well as carbonated drinks.

    These foods may be more difficult to digest, producing extra stomach acid that can end up in the esophagus. Fatty foods may also relax the lower esophageal sphincter , which usually acts as a lid on the stomach. The LES prevents the backflow of acid from the stomach up to the esophagus, explains Elena Ivanina, DO, MPH, a gastroenterologist atLenox Hill Hospital in New York City.Sometimes, though, the LES doesnt do its job as well as it should.

    Doctors often counsel lifestyle changesincluding avoiding these triggering foodsto combat reflux symptoms before trying medications. Thats something people can do without needing to spend a lot of money on medicine, says Dr. Schiller, also the program director of the gastroenterology fellowship at Baylor College of Medicine in Dallas.

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    Can Acid Reflux Cause Chest Pain

    Chest pain is one of the most common symptoms of acid reflux. Chest pain related to reflux is also called noncardiac chest pain . Chest pain occurs during reflux episodes because the heart and the esophagus share a nerve network. Acid reflux, specifically GERD, causes up to 66% of reported NCCPs.

    Evaluating Your Chest Pain

    Since chest pain from acid reflux and more serious conditions such as heart attack are hard to distinguish, its important to know how to evaluate your chest pain. Chest pain from acid reflux often affects the sternum or the area below it called the epigastrium. Pain from acid reflux is often characterized as a sharp pain, which gets worse with coughing.

    Meanwhile, chest pain from non-acid reflux sources could be described as a deep, searing pain. Heart-related chest pain often radiates to other parts of the body including the back, neck, shoulders, and arms.

    The symptoms that accompany chest pain are also key in evaluating the nature of the pain. Gastro-related chest pain is often accompanied by burping or flatulence, trouble swallowing, bile regurgitation, and a burning sensation in the throat or stomach.

    Cardiac-related chest pain is often accompanied by numbness in the left arm or shoulder, shortness of breath, dizziness, and high body temperatures.

    Ways To Relieve Acid Reflux Without Medication

    Martin

    Image: Bigstock

    A few lifestyle changes are worth trying before resorting to drugs for controlling gastroesophageal reflux.

    If you are sounding a little hoarse and have a sore throat, you may be bracing for a cold or a bout of the flu. But if you’ve had these symptoms for a while, they might be caused not by a virus but by a valveyour lower esophageal sphincter. That’s the muscle that controls the passage between the esophagus and stomach, and when it doesn’t close completely, stomach acid and food flow back into the esophagus. The medical term for this process is gastroesophageal reflux the backward flow of acid is called acid reflux.

    Acid reflux can cause sore throats and hoarseness and may literally leave a bad taste in your mouth. When acid reflux produces chronic symptoms, it is known as gastroesophageal reflux disorder, or GERD. The most common symptom of GERD is heartburnpain in the upper abdomen and chest that sometimes feel like youre having a heart attack.

    Three conditionspoor clearance of food or acid from the esophagus, too much acid in the stomach, and delayed stomach emptyingcontribute to acid reflux, says Dr. Jacqueline Wolf, a gastroenterologist and associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and author of A Woman’s Guide to a Healthy Stomach: Taking Control of Your Digestive Health.

    If you’ve been having repeated episodes of heartburnor any other symptoms of acid refluxyou might try the following:

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