5 Fast Facts About Acid Reflux

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  • Acid reflux, the painful flow of stomach acid back into your esophagus, is a common condition among Americans, with more than 15 million people estimated to suffer from it on a daily basis. But how much do you actually know about the condition, and when should you be concerned if you’re experiencing symptoms? Get informed with these five acid reflux facts—from causes to treatments to alternative solutions—and educate yourself about this common ailment.

  • 1
    There are many different causes of acid reflux.
    Acid Reflux

    Reflux happens when the valve connecting your stomach to your esophagus fails to fully close. Contrary to common belief, spicy foods aren’t always the main culprit behind reflux. Triggers can include rich, greasy foods; alcohol; coffee; or even particular meats, fruits, or grains. Acid reflux can also be unrelated to your diet choices. If you’re pregnant, for example, you’re more likely to experience symptoms as increased hormones and added pressure on your stomach can cause that protective valve to loosen. People who are older and people who smoke are also at higher risk for reflux.

  • 2
    Acid reflux is different from GERD.

    People with severe and chronic symptoms of acid reflux may be diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). If you consistently experience symptoms—including heartburn, regurgitation, a bitter taste in your mouth, and a feeling of having a lump in your throat—more than twice a week, contact your doctor. Your acid reflux may be diagnosed under this more severe category of the condition. While lifestyle changes can often help limited to moderate forms of acid reflux, GERD usually requires more intensive treatments, like prescription medication or, in more severe cases, surgery.

  • 3
    Treatment for acid reflux varies.
    smiling woman taking vitamins

    Depending on the severity and the cause, there are a handful of treatments you may try. For people experiencing occasional acid reflux, tracking and avoiding trigger foods can eliminate symptoms. Alternatively, some people find relief from chewing an antacid, which neutralizes stomach acid, before eating foods that trigger symptoms. If these low-intensity solutions aren’t doing the trick for you, your doctor may prescribe an acid reducer to take on a daily basis. For a limited number of people suffering from particularly intense symptoms that don’t respond to medication, doctors may recommend surgery to recreate the valve that prevents reflux.

  • 4
    Complications of acid reflux can cause lasting damage.
    Man with stomach pain

    Chronic, untreated GERD has been linked to a heightened risk of developing esophageal cancer and other serious conditions like ulcers, bleeding, and a narrowing of the esophagus. The cancer risk is specifically linked to a condition called Barrett’s esophagus, which occurs in a small percentage of people who have long-term GERD. While the risk is small, complications like these are why it is important to tell you doctor about chronic symptoms. If testing shows precancerous cells along the lining your esophagus, they can be treated before they develop into cancer.

  • 5
    Alternative treatments may work.
    Ginger tea with lemon

    Work with your doctor to explore whether non-traditional medical therapies may be effective as complementary treatments. While research is still emerging, some evidence shows relaxation therapy and acupuncture can reduce symptoms of acid reflux. Other people experience relief from reflux symptoms with ginger—either in candied chew form (available at most grocery stores), tea, or cut straight from the root. If you’re interested in trying it fresh, put some slices of ginger into boiling water and drinking the cooled liquid when you experience symptoms. Always check with your doctor before trying any new therapy to discuss the risk of interactions between alternative treatments and your current medications.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2019 Sep 4
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

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