Everyone’s heard of heartburn, a classic symptom of acid reflux.
Acid reflux happens when the ring of muscle known as the lower esophageal sphincter (or LES) doesn’t close properly or opens too often, causing acid from your stomach to move up into your oesophagus.
The symptoms caused by this include heartburn and a bitter, sour taste in the mouth.
While acid reflux is common, many people don’t know much about it. Here are some basic facts you should know about acid reflux, especially if it’s something you experience regularly yourself.
1. It’s More Common Than You Think
It’s a common stereotype that acid reflux disease, or GERD, is only found among overweight, elderly white men, but this just isn’t true.
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Acid reflux is common among many people – roughly sixty million Americans(1) – and while it’s true that age and lifestyle factors can play a part in the development of acid reflux, ultimately it affects many people of different body types, ages, and ethnic backgrounds.
2. It’s More Than Just Heartburn
Acid reflux can manifest in two distinct ways. “Heartburn reflux” happens when the main symptom is heartburn – a burning, searing sensation in your chest.
“Throatburn reflux” is when the main symptoms are throat-based rather than chest-based: a chronic cough, frequent throat clearing, a sore throat, or the sensation of having a permanent lump in your throat.
3. It Can Be A Big Deal
When not treated properly, acid reflux can lead to more serious problems.
Inflammation of the oesophagus, lungs, vocal cords and throat may cause pneumonia, ulcers, and breathing problems – not to mention that untreated acid reflux can increase your risk of developing esophageal cancer(2).
4. Diet Plays A Role
Highly acidic foods can cause or contribute to acid reflux, as can a handful of other foods which aren’t as acidic but which effect the stomach. These foods include chocolate, caffeine, alcohol, mint, garlic and onion.
Acidic foods that should probably be avoided if you’re struggling with acid reflux include sugary sodas and bottled ice tea, white wine, citrus fruits, tomatoes and blueberries (out of all the berries that exist in the world, blueberries are the only ones to be known as acidic.)
5. Food Preparation Matters
Some acidic foods are good for you, which is why if you’re prone to acid reflux you should invest some time in learning to prepare these foods in a way that neutralizes their acidity.
For example, berries that are highly acidic can be made safer for people with acid reflux by being prepared in a smoothie with some coconut water or coconut oil.
6. Getting Diagnosed Can Be Simple
There are several ways of diagnosing acid reflux disease, from symptom-based diagnoses to more invasive methods.
But a new method of diagnosing acid reflux has taken some of the guesswork out of the process and cut down significantly on the number of invasive procedures needed to diagnose and ultimately treat this disease.
TransNasal Esophagoscopy, or TNE, involves using an ultra-thin camera to examine the oesophagus – without the necessity of placing the patient under sedation. Inexpensive and safe, TNE is becoming a more widely-used alternative to endoscopy procedures, especially when it comes to diagnosing acid reflux disease(3).
Keep Yourself Informed
Hopefully this has informed you a bit more about the causes and potential risk factors of acid reflux disease. If you’re experiencing acid reflux symptoms more than twice a week, it’s a good idea to talk to a doctor – and be sure to ask about alternatives to endoscopy with sedation for a possible diagnosis.