Acid Reflux

Almost all humans experience acid reflux at some point in their life. Usually the reflux is paired with a burning sensation similar to squirting lemon juice in your eye, but not always. Regardless, acid reflux can be annoying and painful. Why do we get acid reflux? And how can we prevent it?

A common form of acid reflux is called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). GERD occurs when acid from the stomach backs up into the esophagus. Typically, food travels from the mouth through the esophagus and into the stomach. The lower esophageal sphincter (LES) – a ring of muscle at the bottom of the esophagus – contracts to keep acidic contents of the stomach from “refluxing” or coming back up into the esophagus. With GERD, the LES does not close properly, allowing acid and other digestive tract contents to reflux up into the esophagus.

Heartburn is often commonly associated with GERD, but GERD does not always result in heartburn. When stomach acid touches the sensitive tissue lining the esophagus and throat, it causes a reaction similar to lemon juice in your eye – heartburn.

There are several symptoms related to GERD:

  • Persistent heartburn
  • Acid regurgitation
  • Nausea
  • Hoarseness in the morning
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Pain in the chest that can be severe enough to mimic the pain of a heart attack
  • Dry cough
  • Bad breath

There are a lot of different ways to prevent GERD, including:

  • Avoid eating and drinking within two to three hours prior to bedtime
  • Do not drink alcohol
  • Eat small meals and slowly
  • Limit problem foods:
    • Caffeine
    • Carbonated drinks
    • Chocolate
    • Peppermint
    • Tomato
    • Citrus fruits
    • Fatty and fried foods
    • Lose weight
    • Quit smoking

If you try making those lifestyle changes and you still experience symptoms on a regular basis (twice a week or more), an otolaryngologist can help evaluate your treatment needs.

To find out more about GERD, click here.