Acid Reflux Disease
Over the past several decades, acid reflux disease, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), has become an increasingly common disorder.
In this article, I will go over what this disease is, why these rates are increasing, what typical treatments are, and cover a few home remedies that can often bring instant relief.
What Is Acid Reflux Disease
Acid reflux disease refers to frequent or chronic reflux. Reflux refers to the phenomenon where fluid from the stomach leaves the stomach and enters the oesophagus. Reflux can be stomach acid or even contain digestive enzymes and food.
The term acid reflux disease has fallen out of favour (at least in North America). It is being replaced by the term GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), in part because some people with reflux may not experience “heartburn”.
What are the symptoms of Acid Reflux Disease?
The symptoms of acid reflux disease include:
- Burning pain in the chest, directly behind the breastbone (i.e. heartburn)
- Burping up previously eaten food or vomitus coincident with an acidic taste (sour or bitter)
- Increases after a large meal, especially when lying down or bending over
- Difficulty swallowing or the feeling that something is caught in the throat (these symptoms are the long-term results of acid reflux disease)
Over time, acid reflux disease can damage the oesophagus. Long-term exposure to this can cause difficulty swallowing, as mentioned above. Acid reflux disease can even cause oesophagal cancer over time if left unchecked.
Why Rates are Increasing
Acid reflux disease is rapidly increasing in the modern world. This is because two of the major risk factors for developing GERD are being overweight and eating large meals, both of which are becoming increasingly common in industrialized nations. As a result, acid reflux disease is becoming more common.
Fortunately, acid reflux disease can be eliminated or reduced simply by making a few lifestyle changes:
- Weight loss (if overweight)
- Reducing meal size (spread out food)
- Do not drink alcohol or use tobacco products or caffeine.
- Do not eat right before bed.
While these strategies are simple, it can be quite difficult to make the lifestyle change necessary. The benefits of good health in the long-term will far outweigh the short term pleasures of our vices, but it can be challenging to realize this.
Acid Reflux Disease Remedies
The two heartburn remedies offered on our homepage (chewing gum and drinking a spoonful of vinegar) can be quite useful for reducing acid reflux as it strikes. These two remedies promote the release of saliva, which can naturally improve digestion and protect the oesophagus from stomach acid.
Acid Reflux Disease Treatment
If a person fails to make lifestyle changes and continues to experience regular acid reflux, typically an H-2 blocker or a proton-pump inhibitor will be prescribed by a doctor.
While these drugs are excellent for the treatment of ulcers, they do have their downsides. Many reports that H-2 Blockers are not effective for long-term usage and proton-pump inhibitors have a smorgasbord of side effects (see our heartburn treatment article for a list of side effects and supporting scientific research).
In the long run, the best way to treat heartburn is to make lifestyle changes and only use medication on an as-needed basis.