Dr Zoe explains the causes and symptoms of acid reflux
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Heartburn associated with acid reflux impacts up to 25 percent of adults in the UK. Although acid reflux is extremely common, it can still be very embarrassing and uncomfortable for people who experience it. Express.co.uk chatted to Dr Deborah Lee from Dr Fox Online Pharmacy to find out how to get rid of acid reflux in your throat.
The symptoms of acid reflux are pretty distressing and can be very embarrassing if they happen in public.
Acid reflux sufferers complain of a burning feeling in their chest and throat, often accompanied by burping, bloating, hiccups, and feeling or being sick.
The best way to get rid of acid reflux is to understand what lifestyle choices are causing the symptoms in the first place and avoid them.
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Dr Lee explained that acid reflux is essentially just your stomach acid travelling up towards your throat.
She said: “After eating and drinking, the food and drink pass down your oesophagus [throat] and into the stomach.
“Several hours later, your stomach contents pass on through your intestines.
“This is a one-way system. However, acid reflux occurs when the acidic stomach contents pass up the wrong way, back into the lower end of the oesophagus.”
In a normal situation, food and drink stay in your stomach because of the action of the lower oesophageal sphincter (LES).
If you are getting reflux, this means your LES is not doing its job properly.
Dr Lee suggested three reasons why your LES isn’t working how it should be. They are:
- You’ve eaten too much – your stomach is so distended it holds the LES open.
- The LES has become irritated, for example, due to alcohol, smoking, or spicy foods.
- You are overweight, or obese, as this puts too much pressure on the LES.
Acid reflux isn’t always down to your lifestyle choices, it can also be caused by the following factors:
- Stress – as this can result in excess production of stomach acids.
- Non Steroidal Anti-inflammatories (NSAID’s), such as ibuprofen, cause inflammation in the oesophagus, stomach and duodenum.
- A hiatus hernia, a condition in which some of your stomach slides up into your chest.
Dr Lee said: “Most people suffering from acid reflux have a combination of these factors.”
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If you’re experiencing acid reflux when laying down flat in bed, Dr Lee suggests raising the head of the bed 10 to 20 cm.
If you’re a smoker, it’s time to quit that habit if you want to beat acid reflux.
Dr Lee said: “Smoking has a strong association with reflux. It lowers LES pressure, reduces saliva production, and increases the production of stomach acids – meaning the lower end of the oesophagus has prolonged exposure to stomach acids.
If you’re overweight or obese, you might want to try and lose some weight to get rid of your acid reflux.
Dr Lee explained: “Obesity is a major risk factor for acid reflux, and losing weight is likely to significantly improve your symptoms. Get advice and help about how to lose weight from your GP.”
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If you have acid reflux and related symptoms more than three days a week for three weeks, you are strongly advised to see your GP.
See your GP sooner if you have reflux associated with any other symptoms such as food sticking in your throat, or unexplained weight loss.
Dr Lee recommends taking antacids if you have acid reflux symptoms frequently and for a long time.
She said: “These can be purchased over the counter. Antacids work to provide symptom relief because they neutralise stomach acids. They contain either an aluminium hydroxide, magnesium carbonate, or magnesium trisilicate.
“Alternatively, some antacids contain alginates which coat the stomach and oesophagus to help give protection from an acid attack. You can get advice about these from your pharmacist.”
Antacids are generally safe to use, although magnesium-containing antacids tend to give diarrhoea, whereas aluminium-containing laxatives tend to cause constipation.
You may benefit from some natural remedies for acid reflux.
Dr Lee said: “Try mixing a teaspoon of bicarbonate with half a glass of water and drinking this every two hours, but no more than seven times in 24 hours if you are aged over 65 years. “
A 2015 study found that freeze-dried myrtle berries had a similar effect to reduce symptoms of acid reflux as the drug omeprazole.
You may also find Iberogast effective. It’s a natural preparation that contains various herbs including bitter candytuft, chamomile, and liquorice root. Studies have shown it to reduce symptoms of acid reflux.
Adopting a low carbohydrate but high-fat diet such as the ketogenic diet may help you get rid of your acid reflux, and practising breathing exercises and relaxation techniques for half an hour a day may also do the job.
If none of the natural remedies or lifestyle changes make a difference, your GP may prescribe your meditation such as omeprazole or lansoprazole.
Dr Lee said: “Alternatively, you may be prescribed a drug such as ranitidine or cimetidine which is an H2 receptor blocker. These also reduce gastric acid secretion.”
“If medical treatments fail, or you cannot take medication long term, you may be offered surgery.
“One operation is called a Laparoscopic Nissen fundoplication (LNF). This is keyhole surgery to tighten the LES.”
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