Acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), is a common condition characterized by stomach acid or bile flowing back into the esophagus, causing a burning sensation and discomfort. Fortunately, there are several treatment options available:
For many people, changes in lifestyle habits are the first line of defense against acid reflux. These changes might include avoiding certain foods and drinks that trigger symptoms, such as fatty or spicy foods, chocolate, caffeine, and alcohol.
Other helpful changes can be eating smaller, more frequent meals instead of three large ones, avoiding meals a few hours before bedtime, and maintaining a healthy weight.
There are several types of over-the-counter (OTC) medications that can help reduce acid reflux symptoms.
Antacids neutralize stomach acid and can provide quick relief for occasional heartburn. H2 blockers reduce the production of stomach acid. Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) also reduce acid production and are often used for more severe or persistent symptoms.
Because there are different types of OTC medications available for acid reflux, it can take a few tries to find out which specific medication works best for you. Only try one at a time, though.
When OTC medications are not effective, doctors may prescribe stronger doses of H2 blockers or PPIs. There are also medications like prokinetics, which help strengthen the esophageal sphincter and make the stomach empty faster, although these are generally used as a last resort due to their side effects.
In some cases, when lifestyle changes and medications are not effective or appropriate, surgery may be considered. Fundoplication is the most common surgical procedure for treating GERD. It involves wrapping the top of the stomach around the lower esophagus to reinforce the lower esophageal sphincter and prevent reflux.
Some people find relief from acid reflux symptoms through natural remedies. These can include chewing gum (which stimulates saliva production and acid neutralization), drinking herbal teas (like chamomile, licorice, or slippery elm), or taking natural supplements, such as probiotics or digestive enzymes.
It's important to discuss these options with a healthcare provider to ensure they are safe and appropriate for your specific situation.
Stress can exacerbate acid reflux symptoms, so incorporating stress management techniques, like meditation, yoga, deep breathing exercises, or regular physical activity, can be beneficial. Of course, these are good to do even if they don't resolve acid reflux issues on their own.
Contact a doctor for more information about acid reflux treatment.