Have you ever felt the bitter taste of bile up your throat and a burning sensation in your chest, especially after a heavy meal?
That’s acid reflux, and you’ve likely experienced it before in your life. For chronic sufferers, the frequency of acid reflux symptoms is termed gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). We’ve turned to our anchor doctor, Dr Wong Siow Yun, to share more about the condition and the underlying reasons for acid reflux.
What is acid reflux?
“Acid reflux occurs when acidic stomach contents flow back up into the esophagus (your food pipe),” says Dr Siow Yun. This can happen when the lower esophageal sphincter (a muscular ‘valve’ that prevents backflow of stomach contents into the esophagus) opens too often or doesn’t close tightly enough.
What are common symptoms of acid reflux?
Some symptoms by which we can identify acid reflux are:
- Heartburn (burning sensation of discomfort in the upper abdomen or chest towards the throat)
- Sourish taste in your mouth or throat
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Sore throat
- Difficulty swallowing
- Increased salivation
If you feel like you’ve been experiencing these symptoms for a prolonged period, you may want to speak to a doctor to pin-point the cause.
What are the risk factors for acid reflux?
Dr Siow Yun shares that there are a couple of factors that can trigger acid reflux symptoms. This includes:
- Certain foods and beverages. “If you suffer frequently from heartburn, try to stay away from spicy or fatty foods, caffeinated drinks, alcohol, chocolate, peppermint and citrus foods.”
- Being overweight
- Being pregnant
- Experiencing stress or anxiety
- Certain oral medications, which include: steroids, aspirin, non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen, osteoporosis medications, some antibiotics, iron supplements. “You may need to speak to your doctor if you notice that you’ve started experiencing acid reflux, after going on a course of medication.”
How is acid reflux treated?
Acid reflux can be extremely unpleasant to experience, but never fear!
“There are a few types of medications that can ease the symptoms. They primarily act by reducing stomach acidity,” says Dr Siow Yun. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, you are likely to receive over the counter medications such as antacids, histamine blockers and/or proton pump inhibitors
What are the lifestyle changes I can make to reduce acid reflux?
Eating habits are key when it comes to preventing and/or managing the symptoms of acid reflux. “Have small, frequent meals rather than heavy ones,” advises Dr Siow Yun. Food-wise, avoid the foods and beverages as listed above.
The food coma can hit pretty hard after an indulgent meal, and one common mistake made is wanting to take a nap immediately after a heavy meal. “However, try not to lie down immediately after eating a hearty meal,” cautions Dr Siow Yun. This may trigger the backflow of gastric contents into your esophagus, so give your body some time to digest your meal by sitting yourself upright. “Similarly, ensure your head is propped up with a pillow at night while you’re sleeping.”
Generally, a healthy lifestyle can help alleviate the symptoms of most diseases. So try to eat healthily, exercise regularly, and manage excess weight gain!
Lifestyle changes can help ease symptoms of acid reflux, but if you suffer intense discomfort, don’t suffer in silence. See a doctor over the DA app for medical advice. Our doctors are here to support you 24/7, with medications delivered to your home within 3 hours.