Understanding Your Acid Reflux Treatment Options
Many people suffer from occasional heartburn or acid reflux after eating too much or too quickly, but for some unlucky people it can be a regular occurrence.
In this article, we will take a closer look at what causes heartburn, as well as some of the best acid reflux treatments and home remedies to try when you are hit with this uncomfortable condition.
What Is Acid Reflux?
Your stomach contains a strong acid which kills bacteria and helps break down and digest your food. This acid is kept inside your stomach by a tight band of muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter.
Sometimes, this muscle becomes weak or relaxes at the wrong time, allowing acid to flow up into the esophagus (the tube that connects your mouth to your stomach). This causes an uncomfortable, burning sensation and a variety of other symptoms including:
- A sour taste in the mouth
- Coughing or hiccups
- A hoarse voice
- Halitosis (bad breath)
When these symptoms occur on a regular basis, it is known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). It can sometimes be caused by a hiatus hernia, a condition where part of the stomach moves up through the diaphragm into the chest.
Eight Acid Reflux Treatment Options
Fortunately, there are a number of effective treatments for acid reflux, including some simple measures you can take to relieve your symptoms without the need for medication. Let’s take a look at some of the best acid reflux treatments and how they work.
Antacids are one of the most popular treatments for acid reflux. They are made from alkaline minerals, such as calcium carbonate, which help neutralize stomach acid and relieve the symptoms of heartburn.
Antacids are available over the counter and are generally safe, although they can cause some side effects such as constipation or diarrhea if used excessively. Some well-known antacid brands include Rennie and Tums.
These medications contain compounds known as alginates which are derived from algae. They form a protective barrier, or ‘raft,’ on top of the stomach contents to stop it from flowing back into the esophagus.
Raft-forming alginates are available over the counter, and the most popular brand is Gaviscon. Possible side effects include constipation and diarrhea. People with high blood pressure should use these drugs with caution as they contain high levels of sodium.
Drugs to Reduce Acid Production
If you suffer from more severe or frequent acid reflux, you could try medication to reduce the amount of acid produced by your stomach. There are two classes of drugs which are commonly used for this: Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), and H2 receptor antagonists.
Some common PPIs include omeprazole (Prilosec) and lansoprazole (Prevacid). Common H2 receptor antagonists include ranitidine (Zantac) and Cimetidine (Tagamet). You can purchase some of these medications in pharmacies or get stronger versions with a prescription if necessary.
If you would prefer a natural acid reflux treatment, there are several herbal remedies that may help. These include ginger, chamomile, licorice, marshmallow, and slippery elm.
However, it is important to note that there is not much evidence that these herbal remedies for acid reflux are effective, and they might not work for everyone. Talk to your physician or a qualified herbalist before taking any herbal remedies to ensure they are suitable for you.
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Baking soda is a popular home remedy for acid reflux. It contains sodium bicarbonate and neutralizes stomach acid in a similar way to antacid medications.
Try mixing half a teaspoon of baking soda with 4 ounces of water and sipping slowly to relieve your acid reflux symptoms. Side effects include gas and diarrhea. Using too much could make your acid reflux worse, so use this remedy with caution.
There are certain foods and drinks which can either aggravate or alleviate the symptoms of heartburn. Here are some of the best and worst foods for acid reflux:
Foods that may help acid reflux:
- Almonds or almond butter
- Leafy greens such as spinach, kale, and broccoli
- Fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, and kombucha
Foods to avoid with acid reflux:
- Spicy foods
- Fatty foods
- Citrus fruit
If you regularly suffer from heartburn, try keeping a food diary to identify your trigger foods so that you can avoid them more easily.
As well as adjusting your diet, there are several other lifestyle changes that may help with the symptoms of acid reflux.
- Avoid large meals; eat smaller meals more often
- Do not eat late at night or lie down within an hour of eating
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Do not smoke
- Try relaxation techniques to reduce stress
- Avoid clothing that fits tightly around your waist
- Try propping the head of your bed up by a few inches
If you take any medication, check the side effects and see whether acid reflux is one of them. If so, talk to your doctor about possible alternatives.
Surgery for acid reflux is an extreme option, but if you suffer from GERD or have a weak lower esophageal sphincter it may be necessary. Procedures include wrapping the top of your stomach around your esophagus to tighten the muscles, or inserting a ring of magnetic beads known as a LINX device.
Acid reflux is a common condition and is not usually anything to worry about. However, if you frequently suffer from acid reflux, get checked out by a physician to find out whether you could have a hiatus hernia or another underlying cause for your symptoms.