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If you have a sore throat or you are beginning to sound a little hoarse, you might be catching a cold or flu. However, if these symptoms have been persistent, then it is likely you are suffering from acid reflux. Also known as heartburn, this condition occurs when stomach acid flows up into the oesophagus, sometimes even the throat causing an uncomfortable burning feeling in the oesophagus and chest. If the symptoms of acid reflux occur more than twice per week, it is known as gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD).
In the opening of the stomach there is a ring-shaped muscle called the oesophageal sphincter. As you swallow food the band of muscle relaxes and opens, then it tightens and closes afterwards which prevents acid from the stomach flowing up into the oesophagus. When people suffer from acid reflux this muscle is weakened which means it cannot close proper so the acid then flows back up into your oesophagus and throat.
Symptoms of Acid Reflux Include:
- Heartburn – a burning sensation in your stomach which will move up to the chest and throat.
- Regurgitation – a bitter taste in your mouth from the acid flowing up the oesophagus.
Causes of Acid Reflux:
- Being overweight
- Eating large heavy meals
- Some medications such as ibuprofen
How to Treat Symptoms of Acid Reflux:
Unlike many other conditions, acid reflux can be prevented, or the very least the symptoms can be reduced with these following steps.
- Do not overeat
Eating smaller portions will help to control your acid reflux. Large meals will mean there will be no space for the acid, which increases the pressure, which will allow the acid to get pushed back up into the oesophagus.
- Eat a low carbohydrate diet
Eating too many carbohydrate rich foods which are undigested will make you feel gassy and bloated. A recent study has found that a diet rich in carbohydrates causes acid reflux symptoms to worsen. Around a third of your diet should be made up of carbohydrates and try to choose high fibre options as well.
- Avoid certain foods
Fatty foods, spicy foods, garlic, onions, tomatoes and some citrus fruits are known to make acid reflux symptoms worse. They can relax the oesophageal sphincter and some can cause abdominal pain and a burning sensation. Similarly, caffeinated and fizzy drinks can also promote acid reflux symptoms. Fizzy drinks can increase the amount of acid in the oesophagus as you are more likely to burp more often. Reducing these trigger foods can help with acid reflux in the short term and help to lose weight in the long term.
- Don’t sleep as soon as you have eaten
Wait at least 3 hours after you eat to go to bed and avoid snacking late at night. The ideal sleeping position is sleeping on a slight incline where your head is a few inches higher than your legs. Gravity will keep the acid in your stomach without it trickling up.
- Limit your smoking and alcohol intake
The nicotine from cigarettes will cause your oesophageal sphincter to relax. When this happens, it is easier for the acid to flow back up, causing the burning sensation. Similar to smoking, alcohol will cause the oesophageal sphincter to relax and increase the amount of stomach acid produced which will make acid reflux symptoms worse.
- Lose weight, if necessary
If you are overweight or obese, you are more likely to have acid reflux. This is because the extra fat which surrounds the stomachs increases the pressure which forces the stomach acid up into the oesophagus. Losing weight, by eating healthy and avoiding snacking late at night will help ease your acid reflux.
- Chew gum
Chewing gum after you eat will stimulate the production of saliva and swallowing. The saliva becomes more alkaline which can help to neutralise stomach acids to help relieve acid reflux. Sugar free gum containing bicarbonate is recommended and avoid mint flavoured chewing gum as it may trigger your acid reflux.
Omeprazole is a popular medicine to treat acid reflux. It is known as a ‘proton pump inhibitor’ which reduces the amount of acid your stomach produces and helps to relieve symptoms of acid reflux and indigestion.