Acid Reflux: What Is It And What Do You Do About It?

Heartburn, Heartburn Symptoms, Heartburn Causes

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If someone were to tell you that between 20 and 30 percent of Americans experience acid reflux at least twice a week, what would your reaction be? For most people, it would be genuine surprise, while for a lucky section of the population, the answer would be “What is acid reflux?”. For clarity, it is an unpleasant and occasionally debilitating condition that affects the stomach, the esophagus and potentially other areas. As we will see, it’s something that needs to be dealt with if you’re going to live a healthy life.


What, in full, is acid reflux?


When we swallow food, there is a ring at the entry to our stomach which opens to let the food through and then closes again until we need to swallow again. It’s called the Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES), and acid reflux is caused when the LES doesn’t fully close. Acid from the stomach can then rise into the esophagus and, depending on the severity, can go higher.


What are the effects of acid reflux?


The most notable impact of the condition is pain in the esophagus and throat, more commonly known as “heartburn”, which affects just about everyone with acid reflux. However, this is far from the only impact. Acid can rise into your mouth, causing an unpleasant taste and even tooth decay. If you’ve been experiencing reflux for a while, it’s worth calling up an affordable dentist for a checkup, as you may have dental issues waiting to become a more serious and painful problem. Other effects include bloating, belching and unexplained weight loss.


What causes acid reflux?


Many situational causes can be responsible for the condition, but if you have persistent problems – like the 20-30% of Americans noted above – without fulfilling those causes, you may be experiencing the effects of a hiatal hernia – where the LES and upper stomach have moved above the diaphragm. The diaphragm is responsible for pretty much everything that happens in your torso, from breathing to swallowing to hiccupping, and if it moves below the LES, reflux problems can become very pronounced. Acid reflux may also result from dietary factors, stress, smoking, pregnancy or taking medications.


What can you do about acid reflux?


The first thing to do is visit your doctor and explain your concerns. Answer their questions honestly, because how you treat the condition will depend on its causes. Diagnosing a hiatal hernia will usually involve an X-ray, and the treatment of your condition will then be discussed. This may (usually it will) involve a combination of diet changes and medication, but if it is especially severe or persistent, surgery may be advised.


Can acid reflux be cured?

Acid reflux is more a symptom than a condition on its own, and with the correct lifestyle changes and medication its effects can be significantly lessened and even eliminated. In any and all cases, you can certainly experience a reduction in the frequency and severity of reflux, but you will need to accept that some changes in your diet need to be permanent. Without reducing the incidence and severity of reflux, you can experience complications which have the potential to make you seriously ill.

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