Acid Reflux Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

John Miller

Acid reflux is a common disorder experienced by millions of people around the world. Perhaps it is the middle of the night and you woke up choking or coughing. Or maybe you’re at work and eat a huge greasy meal and all of a sudden you feel the familiar symptoms – incessant pain, stabbing, or burning sensation in your upper body.

If these scenarios sound familiar to you, then you are among those people that experience acid reflux, but not aware of their condition.

Acid Reflux DiagramAcid reflux is defined as the backward flow of stomach acid to the esophagus. This backward flow of acid is possible when the specific muscle at the lower end of the esophagus relaxes at the wrong time or is simply weak.

If this specific muscle, that acts as the valve, opens at the wrong time, it allows the acid to flow backwards into the esophagus. This acid reflux action causes burning sensation in the chest and many other symptoms. The causes of acid reflux symptoms include the following.

  • Eating huge, greasy meals and lying down after eating
  • Snacking before going to sleep
  • Being obese or overweight
  • Being pregnant
  • Smoking
  • Drinking too much coffee, alcohol, tea, or carbonated drinks
  • Taking certain medications

Symptoms of Acid Reflux

  • Heartburn – Heartburn is the most common acid reflux symptom. This is characterized by a burning sensation in the lower ribcage area that continues upwards then neck region. In most cases, the burning sensation begins from back of the breastbone and travels to the throat. Heartburn can be severe to other people and may begin from the stomach and spreads to the neck, jaw, back, and arms.
  • Excessive Salivation – if you feel an increased saliva production right after eating your meal, this may be the body’s natural response to dealing with too much digestive acid. Stomach acid can be neutralized by saliva. When you eat heavy, greasy meals or sour foods, the stomach tends to produce too much acid, which heightens further risks of reflux symptoms.
  • Chest Pain – This symptom of acid reflux can range from dull chest discomfort, pressure, to severe burning pain radiating across the mid upper body.
  • Burning Sensation in the Throat – This acid reflux symptom causes the person to feel a burning sensation in the lower neck radiating close to the mouth. This can also happen in the lower neck area. The painful sensation can worsen when the person tries to swallow food. This symptom is usually brought up by the irritation which occurs when the contents of the stomach have been refluxed backwards into the esophagus.
  • Trouble Swallowing – Dysphagia or difficulty swallowing is a symptom that happens when food passes through the mouth to the esophagus and the digestive system in unnatural manner. Most people who have dysphagia feel that the foods they eat are stuck in the throat, pressure in the chest, a choking sensation, and burning sensation. If you have this symptom, you should consult your doctor as soon as possible because dysphagia might be associated with other complications that involve the esophagus.
  • Sore Throat, Dental Erosion and Bad Breath – These symptoms of acid reflux occur to a person suffering from stomach acid refluxed backwards into the throat and the mouth.

Acid Reflux SymptomsLesser known symptoms of acid reflux include severe chest pain, chronic coughing, and nausea or vomiting. Severe chest pain can develop to the feeling of heart attack. The chest pain caused by acid reflux is not life threatening, but you still need to consult your doctor to look for the proper treatment.

You need to find the right treatment, especially if you are not sure if the chest pain you feel is caused by stomach acid refluxed into the esophagus or heart attack.

Chronic coughing on the other hand, like a persistent dry cough for example, can also be a symptom of the disease. Persistent coughing can cause asthma-like symptoms and hoarseness of the voice. Nausea and/or vomiting are rare acid reflux symptoms. Very few GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease) sufferers experience such symptoms.

When you feel unexplained vomiting and/or nausea occurring, GERD is usually the primary condition doctors suspect.

Acid Reflux Treatment

Acid reflux treatment options may vary among patients. Medications are the most common treatments for acid reflux disease and antacids are the simplest treatment available, which can be purchased over the counter. Also, antacids are the first recommended type of drug that can treat the initial symptoms of acid reflux.

Antacids can neutralize the backward flow of the stomach acid, preventing it from entering the esophagus. But, antacids in general empty the stomach too quickly, which then allows the acid to return.

Acid Reflux Treatment with foodAnother popular treatment for acid reflux is a foaming agent available in different brands of over the counter drugs. This foaming agent covers the content of the stomach, preventing reflux and related symptoms. This acid reflux treatment is usually used along with other treatments to be more effective.

There are plenty of drugs available for acid reflux treatment and the most effective ones are available with prescription only. To those patients that do not respond to medications, there is an implant approved by the FDA to treat acid reflux disease. This implant is a spongy solution that is injected during an endoscopy to strengthen the lower esophageal sphincter.

Many people who experience acid reflux disease prefer to use natural treatment methods over medications. Herbs are also common acid reflux treatment. In fact, there are plenty of herbal acid reflux treatments available in the market nowadays, but some of them are more effective than others and you’ll have to find the one that works best for you.

Acid Reflux Diet and Lifestyle Changes

A change in your diet and overall lifestyle is sometimes the best treatment! This is the initial step towards stopping that chest pain, discomfort and other symptoms caused by the disease.

You can begin your acid reflux diet by avoiding foods that are known to trigger the symptoms of the disease such as chocolate, onions and garlic, mint, peppermint, tomatoes and foods that contain tomato sauce, and citrus fruits.

Also avoid drinking alcohol, carbonated drinks, coffee, tea, and other beverages that contain caffeine. Since it’s unlikely that you can remember all the foods to avoid when you’re at work or on the go, it is usually a good idea to create a customized list of foods that may trigger the acid reflux disease.

This will allow you to keep track and monitor which foods are you more sensitive to and then try to avoid them altogether.