How do I know I have acid reflux or GERD and what can I do to stop it?
It is important to remember that GERD is a result of chronic acid reflux. When your symptoms persist then the diagnosis is often GERD.
Acid reflux most commonly occurs at night when lying down. The most common symptom is heartburn. This tends to feel like a burning pain in the chest area, it can be described as food coming back into the mouth leaving a bitter and sour taste in your mouth from the stomach acid. This pain can last about two hours and will only get worse by eating or lying down. Try standing up or taking a PPI (please refer to the section on this below).
Vomiting and Regurgitation
With the acid from the stomach sending food back up to your mouth, you may experience regurgitation, this is the food and bile moving up your throat. However, vomiting is more common in infants than adults.
Burning and Sore Throat
The acid reflux can often feel like it is burning the insides of your throat, resulting in a croaky voice or the feeling of a lump in your throat. This may also lead to a difficulty in swallowing.
Also, referred to as dyspepsia, can be a feeling of a burning sensation in the upper middle part of your stomach. The pain can come and go, and heartburn is often the symptom of this. You may feel bloated, nauseous, bloated or just generally uncomfortable due to the feeling of indigestion. If these symptoms persist, they must be taken seriously and we recommend you consult with your doctor as soon as possible. They may also be the result of ulcers which can cause bleeding. This is only if the symptoms are chronic and result in severe pain or discomfort.
Other Symptoms of acid reflux
Some other symptoms may include:
- Dry cough from the feeling of having a lump in your throat, or scratchy irritation on the back of your throat and feeling the need to repeatedly cough to get rid of it. However, this feeling is only due to the acid build-up creating an uncomfortable sensation in your throat.
- Asthma symptoms such as wheezing being worsened due to the stomach acid agitating the airways.
How do I know if my acid reflux is serious?
GERD is a common disorder and can be easily treated. However, your symptoms can often resemble those of a heart attack. If your symptoms seem more severe than the ones described above, then we suggest you immediately consult with your doctor or physician. This is often the case when your heartburn seems more severe than normal, you experience severe chest pain, a crushing feeling on your chest, a shortness of breath during physical activity or nausea when exercising accompanied with the above. These symptoms warrant an immediate visit to a specialist.
PPIs to treat GERD
PPIs, known as Proton Pump Inhibitors (common brands include Nexium (Esomeprazole), Prilosec (Omeprazole), Prevacid (Lansoprazole), Protonix (Pantoprazole). These help to reduce in the build-up of acid by blocking the enzyme in the wall of the stomach responsible for producing acid. They are only used when suffering from GERD and other conditions resulting in the formation of acid from the stomach, such as stomach ulcers. They are taken by mouth and are available in tablet or capsule form. You can buy some brands of PPIs without a prescription. Please talk to your doctor should you feel that the use of them is becoming chronic, in other words you are taking them on most days to aid in heartburn or GERD.
Some of the side effects may include headaches, constipation, itching or diarrhoea. Should your acid reflux persist, you experience side effects or you are experiencing unusual symptoms, please call your doctor immediately.
So how do I prevent acid reflux / GERD?
As mentioned above, PPIs are often the common solution to heartburn associated with GERD and acid reflux. Speak to your physician or pharmacist about the possible PPIs available to you suited to your symptoms.
In some very rare cases, untreatable and unresponsive GERD patients should have surgical intervention, where a procedure called fundoplication is conducted. This is a very minimally invasive operation which is done in order to restore the function of valve between your stomach and food pipe.
More often than not, GERD or acid reflux is the result of an unhealthy lifestyle and can be easily treated by changing your diet and regime. This can often prevent and help to stop the symptoms by:
- Controlling the portion size of your meals
- Wearing looser clothing to not put pressure on your stomach
- Improving your posture, sitting up straighter can help prevent acid coming back up through your food pipe
- Quitting smoking
- Eating at least 2 to 3 hours before bed, lying down after a meal can cause acid reflux
- Reduce the intake of fizzy drinks, acidic juices, caffeine and chocolate
- Losing weight if you are overweight or obese