What Is Acid Reflux and What to Do About It

Heartburn and acid reflux are often used interchangeably by people. Many people suffer from this condition fairly frequently, and as much as 10 percent of the population suffers from acid reflux and GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease every day.

Different people experience acid reflux differently. For some people it manifests as a burning sensation behind their breastbone. Some people experience an unpleasant taste, as if their food is returning to their mouth. Heartburn usually occurs after a meal and is made worse by fried or fat-laden foods. Some people also experience acid reflux if they eat lemons, other citrus or even tomatoes. Some people get it after they’ve drunk coffee or eaten chocolate. An attack of heartburn can last a surprisingly long time and doesn’t go away if the sufferer rests. Many people find relief just by standing upright. The symptoms worsen if they bend over or lie flat on their back.

Heartburn and acid reflux happen because the lower esophageal sphincter, a muscle which keeps the esophagus closed after eating or drinking, is weak. This allows for gastric acid reflux, when the stomach acids wash back up the esophagus. Acid reflux and GERD can also be eased if the patient quits smoking, because smoking causes the lower esophageal sphincter to relax even more than it usually would.

Though most cases of acid reflux aren’t harmful, they’re uncomfortable enough for the sufferer to want to do something about them. Some people learn to sleep with their head elevated. Simple gravity reduces the amount of acid that can enter the esophagus. Many people take antacids, with liquid antacids being the best. Chewed, calcium based antacids only increase the amount of gastric acid. However, prolonged use of antacids can have side effects like an imbalance in calcium and magnesium and diarrhea. Because of this, some physicians urge their patients to go on an acid reflux diet. In this sort of diet the patient removes the foods that have been mentioned and eats smaller portions at mealtime.

Foods that are good for an acid reflux disease diet include apples, baked potatoes, cruciferous vegetables, green beans and peas, lean meats, egg whites and egg substitutes, low or fat-free cheeses and dairy products, breads, cereals and rice. The patient might also want to lose weight if he or she is obese, as weight loss contributes greatly to the easing of gastroesophageal reflux disease.

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