What is Acid Reflux?

Heartburn.  Indigestion.  Vomiting. This is the typical progression of acid reflux syndrome or Gastroesophageal Reflux disease (GERD). Doctors estimate that about 10% of the American population has heartburn and the accompanying acid reflux.

Acid reflux affects your wellbeing.  Living with GERD requires a lifestyle change particularly in your diet and food selection.  Medications specific to the treatment of acid reflux is the other mainstream medical approach to control the effects of acid reflux.

What is Acid Reflux?

GERD is a return of acid fluids from the stomach into the esophagus after the incomplete digestion of food.  Although every person may experience one or two of these symptoms after a disagreeable meal, the distinction for acid reflux is the constancy or regularity of these symptoms.  It s symptoms are:

  • Heartburn
  • Indigestion
  • Vomiting
  • Sour taste
  • Belching
  • Sore throat
  • Briny saliva with an aftertaste.

Normally stomach acid is kept in the stomach by a muscular valve between it and the esophagus called the lower esophageal sphincter. Reflux generally occurs when that valve is faulty.

Doctors use these symptoms and the frequency or duration of each to determine the presence of acid reflux.  As a caution, do not ignore constant heartburn because it may indicate heart problems that could actually threaten your life.

Heartburn photo
Photo by Alaskan Dude

The elderly report higher incidents of acid reflux after eating which is attributed to poor digestion and the usual large volume of prescribed medicines taken on a daily basis.  Women particularly in their early trimester of pregnancy, those who are overweight and even children have been diagnosed and treated for acid influx.

Treatment

GERD is treatable.  Some factors that may contribute to GERD include pregnancy, smoking, obesity, or the use of certain medications and eating aggravating foods.  It feels like something is not right with the food you just ate because you can still take it in your mouth or similar to a storm in the stomach.

Treatment plans are determined after a physical examination.  First the doctor tries to eliminate heartburn causation due to heart disease and then assesses your symptoms against a template of probabilities including GERD.

Once acid reflux has been diagnosed, medications may be prescribed to control the symptoms and lessen throat irritation.  Sometimes, in mild cases, over-the-counter remedies and moderate lifestyle adjustments are suggested as a first step to stop the irregular occurrence of the disorder.

For many, this is enough.  However, for those in the 10% bracket who need deeper intervention, in addition to prescribed medication your physician may offer a dietary plan that limits spices, oils, and gaseous foods you can eat.  A salient benefit of a doctor ordered modified diet for those who are obese is that this often triggers weight loss and then often lessens the frequency of reflux.

If it is determined that medication or combinations of medicines is the cause of reflux, doctors often alter the schedule that certain medicines are taken, change the type of medicine, or remove it to test the  cycle of reflux.

Childbirth usually cures GERD in pregnant women.  It is a known fact that certain foods trigger a number of acid reflux symptoms due to hormonal and ambiotic changes associated with pregnancy.

Babies who have acid reflux usually cry after feeding, exhibit a bloated gassy stomach or spit up a lot.  Doctors may tell parents to change the feeding schedule, elevate the child after feeding, burp the baby properly and often after feeding, and may change the baby formula to arrest the recurring colic like symptoms in the child.  These alterations usually work and the baby usually outgrows infantile reflux.

Older children with acid reflux also benefit from medication and dietary changes.  Some children, like adults, just have a sensitive stomach.  It may be difficult to determine the exact food triggers, but modifications such as limiting spices, fatty and greasy foods, and some vegetables is enough to control acid reflux.  Also doctors may suggest behavior modifications such as resting after eating or limiting vigorous play immediately after eating as a control mechanism.

Some foods do not agree with you over time.  Why, it is not known.  It is especially puzzling when a food you have enjoyed over a life time begins to agitate your stomach and/or create reflux symptoms.

GERD and Eating Disorders

It is not unreasonable to link the effects of acid reflux to bulimia or other eating disorders.  All the more reason to treat the disease and monitor its effects on children, especially developing girls.  Think about it.  If you feel sick or get a distasteful taste after eating, would not not eating become a sensible solution to a young mind.  Usually bulimic or anorexic patients are not thinking about effect, the outcome – regardless of if it is weight control or not – of not feeling bad after eating is dominant.
Researchers have not reported a correlation to eating disorders and GERD yet.  But I posit that it could be a precipitator that develops into more acute symptoms.  Food taste bad or I get an aftertaste after I eat could well trigger the unhealthy response, “Well I just won’t eat.”

Bulimia is an eating disorder distinguished by recurrent episodes of frequent binges and vomiting purges.  It is associated with low self esteem or distorted body image.   Binges where the child gorges on large amounts of food, without the resulting weight gain, and then vomits it away from self-inducted purging or by the intake of laxatives or by fasting is symptomatic of bulimia.  This should be put in check immediately through medical and psychiatric intervention regardless of the triggers.

Anorexia nervosa is another eating disorder characterized by a need to control body image or an aggressive fear of getting fat.  Similar to bulimia, the person usually carries a distorted, unhealthy body image.  An underscore of both disorders is a dislike for food.

If you dislike food and you develop an unhealthy image and association with food, rationally GERD can trigger eating disorder behaviors.   It is not unimaginable.

Acid reflux treatment is also necessary to offset anemia. Long term untreated GERD can slow down the absorption of nutrients based on the types of and quantity of food one intakes.  Anemia is the most common blood disorder that often goes undiagnosed.

Anemia goes undetected in many people. You are diagnosed with anemia when your healthy red blood cell count gets too low. The three main causes of anemia are:  inadequate production of red blood cells, blood loss, and excessive destruction of red blood cells. GERD impacts the production of healthy red cells. If the nutrients in your food are not processed properly, reasonably you can become anemic accidentally and begin to manifest the symptoms.

Symptoms of anemia include pale skin, off color fingernail beds, fatigue, dizziness, and/or irritability. These symptoms closely mimic those for acid reflux and should be checked out by a physician.

Conclusion

Acid reflux or GERD is treatable and treatment should begin shortly after symptoms manifest. Delays in treatment only exacerbate the intensity of what your doctor may have to do to regain control of the disease.  She may make dietary and medical treatment suggestions, depending on the severity of the acid reflux, which you will have to follow for the rest of your life.

Researchers do not know entirely what causes acid reflux.  Foods you have previously enjoyed may abruptly begin to be symptomatic. Other than damage to the throat valve which keeps food down in the stomach, doctors remain puzzled about causation.

Medicines, food, obesity, pregnancy, or smoking may trigger GERD symptoms. However, there is one symptom you should not ignore—heartburn. If you experience regular heartburn, don’t try to self diagnose.  Go to your doctor quickly, like fast and in a hurry, if you experience constant heartburn.

Heartburn could indicate heart problems.  So, don’t take chances which may risk your life.  See a doctor.

Anemia, bulimia, or anorexia nervosa may become byproducts of untreated acid reflux. Thus, you understand to treat GERD with serious concern if the symptoms persist. Diet, exercise, and medicine changes may be all you need to do to control episodes of influx.

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