Contributed by: Rachana Arya
Acid reflux – An Introduction
Acid reflux is a widespread condition that occurs when the acid in your stomach travels all the way up into the mouth or upper portion of the esophagus. This is known as regurgitation. But if there’s only one thing that burns more than regurgitated stomach acid — that’s misinformation.
Although acid reflux is among the most frequent and unpleasant pathological situations that afflict a lot of people, there are numerous myths and misconceptions surrounding it. If you or someone you know suffers from acid reflux, make sure you’re aware of some common myths about the condition—and the truth behind them—to ensure you’re doing everything you can to find relief and the proper form of treatment.
Myth #1: Acid reflux is no big deal
Just because acid reflux is a common condition doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be concerned. Acid reflux isn’t a major concern if it only happens once or twice a year. However, the more frequently you get it and the more severe it is, the more you should be concerned. For starters, it’s inconvenient, if not downright unpleasant.
It can make you sleepless and irritable. The acid can damage the lining of your esophagus and over time the damage can lead to a condition called GERD. And what are the consequences of GERD? Barrett’s esophagus. What are the consequences of Barrett’s esophagus? Esophageal cancer. So, is acid reflux a big deal? Yes, it certainly is!
Myth #2: You have to be obese, have muscle atrophy, and be an alcoholic to get acid reflux
Nope! People who eat the right foods and lead a healthy lifestyle can still end up with acid reflux on a daily basis. Researchers are yet to gain a complete understanding of the mechanism of occurrence. While it is true that a poor lifestyle consisting of eating poorly and excessive drinking can show an increased prevalence of symptoms of reflux disease, however, it can also strike completely healthy people.
Myth #3: Spicy foods are the only ones that trigger acid reflux
This is a common myth that you have to live your entire life on non-spicy bland food if you suffer from acid reflux. While it is true that spicy meals might burn some people’s stomachs, but there is no scientific evidence that all sufferers of acid reflux should give up on spicy, flavourful food. Moreover, the foods that induce acid reflux differ from person to person. While some people may be extremely sensitive to spicy foods, others may tolerate these foods but may be sensitive only to oily foods, tomato-based items; carbonated or alcoholic drinks, or chocolate and caffeine.
Start keeping track of when you get acid reflux so you can spot patterns and pinpoint your most common causes. Consume easily digestible foods and that too in moderation. Acid reflux may be triggered for a number of other reasons, including hiatal hernia, smoking, asthma, diabetes, connective tissue problems, pregnancy, smoking, and stress.
Myth #4: Over-the-counter antacids can be safely consumed to fix acid reflux
Another old misconception. Although over-the-counter acid reflux medications don’t require a prescription, it is best to steer clear of acid reflux medications as much as possible. Some people eat antacids on a daily basis to alleviate symptoms, although this is not recommended. Antacids are among the most widely used to neutralize stomach acid.
They do not, however, cure acid reflux, and misuse can result in negative effects such as loss of appetite, excessive fatigue, and weakness, diarrhea, muscular pain, liver damage, etc. It is advised to see a doctor who, basis the severity of the condition, will prescribe medicine that also heals the esophagus or even recommend surgery to strengthen the esophagus for patients with more severe reflux.
Myth #5: Acid reflux has nothing to do with sleep
Even if you eat your last meal three hours before bedtime, going to bed can still cause acid reflux since laying down makes acid more likely to leak back into your esophagus. If this is the case, elevate your upper body up with pillows so that your head is raised 6 to 9 inches. Some study suggests that laying on your left side, rather than your right, may help relieve symptoms.
Myth #6: The only treatment option is medication
Not true! You can control acid reflux and its associated symptoms by altering your lifestyle. Excess weight and tight-fitting clothing both put a strain on your abdomen, causing reflux. This risk can be reduced by maintaining a healthy weight and wearing looser clothing.
To help prevent reflux, learn and avoid trigger foods, quit smoking, eat smaller meals, and avoid lying down for at least three hours after meals (to keep gravity on your side). Remember, there’s no reason to simply endure flare-ups of acid reflux.
If you are experiencing symptoms of acid reflux despite following suggested dietary and lifestyle modifications, see the doctor immediately and get on a well-planned treatment plan.
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