Acid reflux occurs when the valve, or sphincter, that connects the stomach to the esophagus, or food pipe, is weakened. When this happens, stomach acid, which should stay in the stomach, flows back into the food pipe.
Because the acid is an irritant, the lining of the food pipe also becomes inflamed, and this can cause discomfort.
Drinks to avoid
Managing the symptoms of acid reflux mainly involves learning what triggers the symptoms and then avoiding them.
Alcohol is best avoided by people with acid reflux.
Certain foods are much more likely to cause acid reflux.
As the symptoms occur quite soon after eating the offending food, it is usually quite easy to narrow down what may be causing the symptoms.
It is also important for a person with acid reflux to consider what they are drinking. This is often overlooked when evaluating eating habits.
Certain beverages are the worst offenders when it comes to triggering acid reflux.
Alcohol further relaxes the valve between the stomach and the food pipe, and it stimulates the stomach to produce more acid.
The bubbles found in carbonated beverages expand in the stomach. This creates pressure on the sphincter, and it can push stomach acid and contents back into the food pipe.
Caffeine aggravates acid reflux. It is found in coffee, tea, and soda. Switching to decaf versions of these drinks can help to minimize the symptoms.
Chocolate contains both caffeine and cocoa, and both of these increase the symptoms of acid reflux. Not only chocolate candy, but chocolate in the form of hot cocoa or chocolate milk can also be a trigger.
Juices made from citrus fruits, like oranges or grapefruits, are high in acid. This can worsen acid reflux.
What to drink
There are not many foods that can be used to treat acid reflux. Instead, the person should avoid the triggers and foods that cause the symptoms. However, some drinks can help minimize the symptoms.
Ginger tea with a little honey may help relieve acid reflux.
Ginger is a natural stomach soother, and it can help reduce the production of stomach acid. Caffeine-free ginger tea with a little honey as sweetener is best.
There are a range of different ginger teas available to buy on Amazon.
Ginger ale is unlikely to help, because it is carbonated, and it may contain caffeine. Also, most commercial ginger ale sodas do not contain enough ginger to have an effect.
Dairy products can sometimes reduce the symptoms of acid reflux. People with acid reflux can try a plain yogurt, with a little added honey if needed for sweetness.
Low-fat or fat-free varieties of milk can help, but high fat content can worsen the symptoms. Almond milk can also be effective, because it is alkaline and can neutralize acidity.
Drinking best practices
The way that a person drinks their beverages can also worsen or cause acid reflux or heartburn.
Here are some good ways to help minimize the symptoms:
- Drinking throughout the day to stay hydrated and to avoid drinking large quantities all at once
- Giving up late night beverages and snacks
- Staying upright after having something to drink
There are other self-care measures that can help to manage acid reflux and other symptoms of GERD.
- Losing weight if needed
- Quitting smoking
- Elevating the head of the bed when sleeping
- Avoiding tight-fitting clothing
A number of medications are available over the counter for heartburn and other symptoms of GERD.
- Antacids that neutralize stomach acid, such as Gaviscon or Tums. Various antacid brands are available to buy on Amazon.
- H-2-receptor blockers that can decrease acid production in the stomach for up to 12 hours, such as ranitidine (Zantac)
- Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) that block acid production for long enough to enable the food pipe to heal
Prescription-strength H-2 receptor blockers and PPIs are available from a doctor if over-the-counter medications do not work. They are effective, but long-term use may increase the risk of bone fracture, vitamin B-12 deficiency, and some infections such as pneumonia and C. difficile.
Symptoms of GERD
Symptoms of GERD include:
Acid reflux is sometimes known as heartburn.
- Acid reflux or heartburn, which is a burning sensation in the throat or chest
- Sour taste in the mouth
- Difficulty swallowing
- Chest pain
- Sore throat
- Hoarse voice
- Dry cough
- Feeling like there's a lump in the throat
- Regurgitation of food or acid
Acid reflux is usually a mild, but uncomfortable symptom of GERD. Some people experience it when they eat certain foods.
Other people have more serious symptoms of GERD that interfere with their everyday life. In addition, some medical conditions make people more likely to experience some of the symptoms of GERD.
These conditions include:
- Nicotine use
- Dry mouth
- Certain connective tissue disorders
- Hiatal hernia, where the stomach bulges through an opening of the diaphragm
If a person is affected by regular and severe episodes of acid reflux or heartburn, they should see a doctor, as it may develop into something more serious. However, if the acid reflux is just occasional, it is usually managed with simple lifestyle changes, home remedies, and over-the-counter medications.
When to see a doctor
Acid reflux, though uncomfortable, is very treatable. Some cases can easily be managed at home with some lifestyle changes and the avoidance of triggers. Severe symptoms of GERD may require the use of medication, or in rare cases, surgery.
If an individual has severe or frequent symptoms of acid reflux, they should visit their doctor to rule out other conditions.
The doctor may want to examine the food pipe to see if more serious damage to the tissue has occurred.
It is especially important to seek medical attention if someone thinks they are experiencing acid reflux or any other symptoms of GERD, but also has other symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath, jaw pain or right arm pain. These signs may indicate something more serious, such as a heart attack.