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Have you ever been lying in bed, comfortable, warm, and ready to fall asleep, when suddenly, you felt the acidic burn of your stomach contents in your throat? If you have ever felt this, you probably suffer from acid reflux, which experts have described as stomach acid bubbling up into your esophagus and throat. It is a prevalent condition that most have probably felt at some point.

What Is Acid Reflux or GERD?

Acid reflux is caused by an imbalance between the acid present in your stomach and the protection from having that acid enter your esophagus. It is worsened when the valve between your stomach and esophagus doesn’t close when digesting food. It then allows stomach acid to escape and damage your esophagus. Certain foods can make it hard for this valve to close. Examples are chocolate, peppermint, tomato-based foods, coffee, citrus, alcohol, and spicy foods.

Symptoms of Acid Reflux

  • Heartburn
  • Burping
  • Regurgitation
  • Nausea
  • Bloating
  • Upper abdominal pain

While traditionally, acid reflux or GERD is manifested as a burning sensation in the chest or throat, a handful of other surprising symptoms can be caused by reflux. So while you may have thought you were suffering from something particular, it could be another form of acid reflux, easily treatable.

6 Unexpected Signs of Acid Reflux

Chest Pain

We have been conditioned to think that intense chest pain is due to a heart attack, but this is not always true. Acid reflux is also a cause of chest pain. If you have unexplained chest pain, call 911 or go to the hospital immediately. When in doubt, it is always better to err on caution.

Bitter Taste

A bitter taste in your mouth for no reason could be another sign of acid reflux. The taste could be painful or sour, caused by the juices forced into your stomach. It can foul taste and be hard to get rid of. If this is happening to you frequently, you may want to talk to your doctor about controlling your acid reflux.

Asthma

When acid from your stomach gets into your lungs, it can be hard to breathe. These symptoms can imitate asthma. One sure way to tell the difference between the two is if it gets worse at night or when you lie down, it is probably due to acid reflux and not asthma.

Persistent Cough

GERD or acid reflux can lead to irritation of your throat and give you symptoms of an unexplained cough. You may also experience throat clearing, especially after meals.

Problems Swallowing

Among all of the things that acid can do to your body, scarring is one of the more damaging. Acid can scar parts of your body, like your throat. It is difficult to swallow food when your throat gets scarred and damaged. What’s worse is that the food can feel like it has grown claws of its own, and it’s pinching your throat down to your stomach – a harrowing situation.  

Sore Throat/Red Throat

Because acid reflux can burn, damage, and scar the throat, you may have a sore, red throat. However, an irritated or red throat could be a symptom of something else, even as simple as a common cold or the flu.

Risk Factors of Acid Reflux

Acid reflux can affect people of all ages. It is often the result of lifestyle factors but can also result from things that cannot be prevented. For example, those with a hiatal hernia who have a hole in their diaphragm allowing the upper part of the stomach to enter a chest cavity may have acid reflux. In some cases, pregnancy may cause acid reflux due to the extra pressure on internal organs. It usually resolves after giving birth.

Common risk factors of acid reflux include:

  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Little to no physical exercise
  • Certain medications, including painkillers, calcium-channel blockers, anti-depressants, antihistamines, and sedatives

Diet Linked to Acid Reflux

What you eat can cause acid reflux. Food and drink choices linked to acid reflux include:

  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Too much salt
  • Too little fiber
  • Chocolate
  • Carbonated drink
  • Acidic juices

Lying down within 2-3 hours of eating can also cause acid reflux for some people.

Diagnosis of Acid Reflux

Diagnosis can include:

  • Health history
  • Physical examination
  • Endoscopy (camera imaging)
  • Biopsy (tissue sample for lab analysis)
  • Barium x-ray (imaging of the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum)
  • Esophageal manometry (pressure measurement of the esophagus)
  • Independence monitoring (measuring rate of fluid movement along the esophagus)
  • pH monitoring (acidity testing)

Treatment for Acid Reflux

Treatment may include over-the-counter medication and prescription drugs, including H2 blockers, alginate, and PPIs. Lifestyle and dietary changes can significantly reduce or eliminate symptoms of acid reflux, often without medication.

Lifestyle Recommendations for Acid Reflux

  • Avoiding processed foods, refined sugar, carbonated beverages, and other trigger foods
  • Reducing salt intake
  • Eating a fiber-rich whole foods diet with lots of greens, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and legumes.
  • Improved postures
  • Wearing loose clothing
  • Losing weight if needed
  • Avoiding pressure on the abdomen (e.g., belts)
  • Stop smoking
  • Drinking moderately or avoiding alcohol completely

Some foods help prevent and reduce acid reflux, including:

  • Vegetables
  • Non-citrus fruits
  • Oatmeal
  • Ginger
  • Turmeric
  • Healthy fats (avocados, flax seeds, chia seeds, etc.)
  • Potatoes
  • Fish
  • Egg whites
  • Lean Meat

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I relieve acid reflux?

Dietary changes, such as avoiding processed foods, refined sugar, too much salt, alcohol, and caffeine, and eating whole food fiber-rich diet, can help acid reflux. Losing weight if needed and avoiding pressure on the abdomen is also helpful.

Can acid reflux kill you?

No, acid reflux can’t kill you. When left untreated, in some cases, it can lead to esophageal cancer, which can lead to death.

Are bananas good for acid reflux?

For most people with acid reflux, bananas are beneficial. For a small percentage, however, bananas can be a trigger. Listen to your body.

Is honey good for acid reflux?

Yes, honey is high anti-inflammatory and can provide a protective coating for the esophagus.

What drinks are good for acid reflux?

Herbal teas can be very soothing.

Why is acid reflux worse at night?

It can be due to the concentration of acid build-up and laying down. Try not to eat too close to bedtime and stock up your pillows to help with symptoms.

When you do have acid reflux, it is a condition that should be taken very seriously. If left untreated, it could cause some irreversible damage. If you are suffering or have been suffering from any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor. Your health is essential; don’t let GERD take over your life.

References

  1. https://www.dexilant.com/what-is-gerd?gclid=CjwKCAjw_tTXBRBsEiwArqXyMuQz47VerGXJ_9pO6S2INqcxjVV_UONH-wWgMpJvEyKIdovRtIsvDhoCExMQAvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds
  2. https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/features/foods-that-fight-heartburn#1
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3857010/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3790564/
  5. https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/proton-pump-inhibitors
  6. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/acid-reflux-ger-gerd-adults/eating-diet-nutrition
  7. https://medlineplus.gov/gerd.html
  8. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/acid-reflux-ger-gerd-adults
  9. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/acid-reflux-ger-gerd-adults/treatment

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