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Acid reflux disease: A condition brought on by stress which can be dangerous if left untreated

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Acid reflux disease can affect anyone of any gender or age. Its symptoms are usually a burning sensation in the center of the chest or frequent burping, and sufferers might experience chest pain.
  • Acid reflux disease can disturb a person’s daily life and cause them to lose face due to its embarrassing symptoms. If left untreated until it becomes a chronic condition, it has the potential to lead to esophageal cancer, which could ultimately be fatal.
  • If you are suffering from acid reflux disease, it is not advised that you rely only on over-the-counter medication as improper use of these drugs may result in additional health complications.

 

Acid reflux disease or GERD refers to acid or digestive fluid from the stomach being regurgitated into the esophagus, leading to a burning sensation in the center of the chest and frequent burping. Some patients might also experience a cough or chest pain. The condition can affect anyone of any age or gender.

In less severe or infrequent cases, acid reflux disease may merely be an annoyance or a slightly disruptive influence on a person’s daily life. However, if the condition is neglected and allowed to reach a chronic stage, a number of complications can develop. Chronic inflammation of the esophagus that results in cell tissue changes in the Barrett’s esophagus region can eventually lead to esophageal cancer.

Causes of acid reflux disease

  1. Irregularities affecting the lower esophageal sphincter tend to occur in the elderly due to degeneration of esophagus. The reduction in function leads to digestive fluid and stomach acid being regurgitated into the esophagus, resulting in a burning sensation in the center of the chest. This type of acid reflux can also be brought on by taking some forms of medication, drinking alcohol and smoking.
  2. Abnormalities affecting esophageal contractions result in the esophagus being unable to squeeze the regurgitated acid back down into the stomach. This leads to stomach acid being stuck in the esophagus for longer than usual.
  3. The stomach contracting less frequently means that not all the food being digested is forced down into the intestines. Food left in the stomach for an extended period leads to pressure that eventually forces open the esophageal sphincter, which in turn causes food and digestive fluids to flow up into the esophagus.
  4. Other associated factors
    • Smoking. Cigarette smoke causes the stomach to produce a greater amount of acid and reduces the frequency with which the stomach contracts, resulting in digestive fluid and stomach acid being forced back up into the esophagus.
    • Stress is another factor that causes an excessive production of stomach acid which can bring on acid reflux disease.
    • Some food and drinks can cause the esophagus muscle to relax. These include high fat foods, caffeinated drinks, alcohol and peppermint.
    • Food or drinks that have a high acid content, such as oranges and lemons, as well as strong-flavored food can lead to irritation that is a cause of acid reflux disease.
    • Some forms of medication may result in acid reflux disease, although the side effects of drugs differ greatly from person to person. If you suspect that your medications are causing acid reflux disease, please consult your doctor instead of discontinuing your course of medication by yourself or buying over-the-counter remedies for your condition.
    • Being overweight causes individuals a greater-than-usual buildup of abdominal pressure when compared to people who are not overweight. This pressure extends to the stomach, placing obese people at greater risk of developing acid reflux disease.
    • Pregnancy can also bring on acid reflux disease. As the fetus grows, so too does the pressure within the stomach. Pregnant women are therefore are at an increased risk of acid reflux disease.
    • Avoid eating fatty foods, such as oily dishes, deep fried food and fast food, as well as dishes containing coconut cream, milk, butter, cheese, ice cream or red meats. The fats contained in these foods combine with stomach acid to cause bloating, discomfort and heartburn.
    • Allow 2-3 hours after eating for your food to digest. Avoid lying down during this time, as this can easily cause acid reflux.

Self-diagnosis of acid reflux disease

To diagnose acid reflux disease by yourself look for the following symptoms:

  • A burning sensation in the chest and sternum. Some cases may involve a pain in the throat that resembles a lump being lodged there, making swallowing difficult and causing a burning sensation, nausea or frequent burping. The increase in stomach acid buildup may also result in a bitter taste in the back of the throat.
  • Colic and distension similar to indigestion, with some people prone to bad breath or overly sensitive teeth.
  • Indigestion, nausea, vomiting or a dry, frequent cough after eating.
  • A sore throat in the morning or a chronic sore throat, which may be a result of the stomach acid causing voice box inflammation.
  • Choking on saliva or being unable to breathe properly while sleeping.

Treating acid reflux disease

  • Take medication prescribed by your doctor to reduce stomach acid production. Under no circumstances should you buy such medication over the counter as improper use could lead to serious complications.
  • Surgery is an option open to those with chronic acid reflux or for those who cannot treat their symptoms with medication, as well as those who suffer severe side effects from their medication.

Preventing acid reflux disease

  • Avoid foods that cause excess stomach acid production, such as fatty and rich foods, cut out caffeinated and alcoholic beverages, and give up smoking.
  • Reduce stress, get plenty of rest and exercise regularly.
  • Regulate weight by maintaining a good diet and exercising regularly.
  • Immediately after eating, avoid exercising or doing anything that involves bending over. Instead, wait around 2–3 hours for your food to digest.
  • Do not lie down straight after meals; you should wait at least 3 hours for your food to digest.

Acid reflux disease during pregnancy

Pregnant women tend to suffer from acid reflux disease, especially those who are entering their third trimester, as the womb will have increased to such a size that it will be impacting upon the stomach. This means that food being digested there is likely to be reflux into the esophagus. Moreover, hormonal changes taking place during pregnancy will result in decreased efficiency of digestion.

Pregnant women experiencing this problem should be sure to refrain from purchasing over-the-counter medication as some such products might negatively impact the health of the fetus or the mother. Instead, consult a doctor who will prescribe treatment based on the symptoms being presented.

Acid reflux disease can disturb a person’s daily life and cause them to lose face due to its embarrassing symptoms. If left untreated until it becomes a chronic condition, it has the potential to lead to esophageal cancer, which could ultimately be fatal. For this reason, be sure to take good care of your health, avoid potential risk factors that could lead to a flareup of the condition, and consult a doctor regarding treatment and advice. Then, ensure that you strictly adhere to your doctor’s recommendations if you wish to stave off acid reflux disease.


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