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Acid Reflux: Treatment, Procedure, Cost and Side Effects

Last Updated: Jun 28, 2023

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What is Acid Reflux?

Acid reflux is a very common condition in which you feel a burning pain in your lower chest area, this is also known as heartburn. This happens when the stomach acid flows back up into the food pipe. There is a valve at the entrance of your stomach which a ring of muscles called the lower esophageal sphincter .

When the LES does not close all the way or opens too often after the food passes from the food pipe to the stomach, the stomach acid flows back up to the food pipe causing acid reflux.

What are the 4 types of acid reflux?

Acid reflux which is a chronic and progressive condition, consists of different stages which are as follows:-

  1. Stage 1: Mild GERD: It is accompanied by mild symptoms and can be treated with home remedies and lifestyle changes.
  2. Stage 2: Moderate GERD: Symptoms become more frequent and can be controlled with some medications.
  3. Stage 3: Severe GERD: Symptoms become further more severe and are failed to be controlled by basic medications. This may lead to conditions like erosive esophageal inflammation.
  4. Stage 4: Reflux induced precancerous lesions or esophageal cancer: This condition arises when the acid reflux is left untreated for a long time.

What are the Symptoms of Acid Reflux?

Heartburn is caused by acid reflux. Painful burning in the upper chest or abdomen Indigestion causing upset stomach.The pain is often worse after eating, in the evening, or when lying down or bending over. Some of the early symptoms of acid reflux include:

  • A person may have persistent, dry cough.
  • A person may experience the condition of nausea.
  • A person may have some episodes of vomiting.
  • A person may experience pain or difficulty while swallowing the food.
  • They may be dental erosion.
  • A person may feel pain in the upper abdomen.
  • Throat problems like hoarseness, laryngitis, and soreness may be experienced.

What does bad acid reflux feel like?

Bad acid reflux feels like a burning sensation and pain in the chest that can reach upto the neck and throat also. The condition may also be accompanied by the feeling of food lodgment in throat, coughing, vomiting, difficulty in swallowing, sores in the throat and hoarseness and regurgitation.

What is the difference between acid reflux and GERD?

Though acid reflux and GERD are associated with each other, they differ in some forms such as severity of the symptoms. Acid reflux is accompanied by the flow of acid from the stomach back into the oesophagus and burning sensation in the chest. When acid reflux becomes more severe, the condition may be referred to as GERD. It shows symptoms like severe chest pain and heartburn with an increased frequency.

What Causes Acid Reflux?

Hiatal hernia is one of the most common causes of acid reflux in the majority of the people. The stomach has hydrochloric acid, which is a very strong acid whose role in the body is to breakdown the food. The acid also protects against the pathogens like bacteria.

The stomach has a lining which protects against this powerful acid but the oesophagus does not have any such lining. Thus, when the acid flows back it leads to a burning sensation. The other factors which may cause acid reflux are:

  • Eating heavy meal and lying on the back
  • Smoking can also lead to acid reflux.
  • During pregnancy some of the women are diagnosed with the problem of acid reflux.
  • Eating food products like chocolate, spicy food, fatty food, tomato, and citrus fruits can lead to acid reflux.
  • Some drinks like alcohol, coffee, tea, and carbonated drinks can also be a cause of acid reflux.
  • Being overweight and obese.

How long does acid reflux attack last?

The duration till which an acid reflux lasts depends upon the cause of the occurrence and severity of the symptoms. In some cases which are normal and mild, it usually goes away in less time or a few minutes and does not need to be treated, while in some cases when it is associated with a severe condition of symptoms, it may take upto hours to get rid of the discomfort.

What happens when acid reflux doesn't go away?

In case acid reflux does not get resolved easily by medications, there arises some chances of complications. These complications include Barrett’s esophagus and adenocarcinoma. The former is related to a negative effect on esophageal lining and if left untreated may ultimately lead to cancer, while the later one is a form of cancer and life-threatening condition.

What are Standard Acid Reflux Precautions?

Wise people have said precaution is better than cure. For a person who is suffering from the persistent episodes of acid reflux implementing certain precautions in his/her life can bring about a positive change.

The first precaution which must be taken by an individual is bring changes in his/her eating habits. Foods which trigger the condition of acid reflux must be completely avoided. The foods can drinks which can trigger acid reflux are:

  • Mint and menthol
  • Fried and fatty foods
  • Citrus fruits
  • Tomato
  • Alcohol
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Spicy food
  • Caffeine.

Drinking 8 glasses of water every day also helps. Apart from the bringing the changes in the eating habits, a person also needs to bring some changes in his/her lifestyle. Some of these changes are given below:

  • Eating slowly
  • Eating small meals
  • Keep yourself upright for 60 minutes after eating
  • Avoid clearing your throat
  • Quit smoking.

How can I sleep with acid reflux?

Sleeping might be difficult sometimes when an individual suffers from acid reflux. Hence there are some sleeping positions that may be preferred or that may need to be avoided in order to ease the sleeping. Some of them include:-

  • Back sleeping should be avoided.
  • Sleeping on the right side is also not good.
  • Sleeping on the left side is preferred as it eases in reducing the reflux.
  • Propping up which include bed wedge and pillows works well in this case.
  • Sleeping on the left side with an inclination is considered to be the best position.
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How Does a Doctor Diagnose Acid Reflux?

Diagnosing the condition of acid reflux or heartburn can be relatively easy, but a doctor may get confused with some other complaints of the chest like pneumonia, heart attack, pulmonary embolus, and pain in the chest wall. To diagnose the condition of acid reflux the doctor may ask the patient to undergo following diagnostic tests

  • pH monitoring: This test is done to check for the acidity in a person.
  • Barium x-ray: In this test, the patient is required to swallow a chalky liquid and then imaging of the oesophagus, stomach and upper duodenum is done. The chalky liquid provides contrast on the images.
  • Biopsy: In this test a sample of the tissue may be taken for analysis in the laboratory.
  • Endoscopy: in this test an image of the gastrointestinal tract may be taken to confirm the diagnosis.

When should you see a doctor for acid reflux?

Though most cases of acid reflux which are mild can be resolved by themselves and need not to be treated, while some cases require urgent care and consultation with a doctor. Those cases are associated with the symptoms such as pain and difficulty in swallowing, nausea and vomiting, cough, unexpected weight loss, stomach pain, diarrhoea and chest pain.

What is the Best Treatment for Acid Reflux?

The treatment for acid is most medications as it is not a very severe condition. Some of the most common drugs used in treating acid reflux are PPIs including Omeprazole, Rabeprazole, and Esomeprazole. H2 blockers are also used widely which includes Cimetidine, Ranitidine, and Famotidine. Antacids and Alginate drugs such as Gaviscon are also used.

There are also other medications that are used in some very particular cases, some of them are Sucralfate acid suppressants, Potassium competitive acid blockers, GABA receptor agonists, transient lower esophageal sphincter relaxation reducers.

In some very peculiar conditions, some other drugs used are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, tricyclic antidepressants, prokinetic agents, and pain modulators. In some very rare cases if the medication is not effective then acid reflux can also be treated by a surgery known as Fundoplication.

What are the Best Things to Drink When You Have Acid Reflux?

For people suffering from acid reflux there are certain beverages which must be avoided like colas, acidic juices, and coffee. There are various other beverages which can be used for drinking and they also provide digestive relief. Some of beverages which can be taken are:

  • Herbal tea: It helps in improving the digestion along with calming the effects of acid in the stomach.
  • Low-fat milk: Studies have revealed that consuming low-fat milk does not enhance the chance of acid reflux.
  • Fruit Juices: The juice of Aloe Vera, carrot, cucumber, pear and cabbage can be taken.
  • Coconut water: If someone is suffering from the condition of acid reflux then unsweetened coconut water can be a great option. The electrolytes in coconut water balance the pH level of the body.

Also Read: Best Diet for Acid Reflux - Foods to eat and avoid.

What foods trigger acid reflux?

Diet plays an important role in case of acid reflux and it is important for everybody to know about food items which act as aggravating factors in this case. Some of them are such as:-

  • Alcohol, specifically red wine.
  • Hot and spicy foods and Raw onions, garlic and black pepper also.
  • Citrus fruits like oranges, orange juice, lemons etc.
  • Peppermint, tomatoes.
  • Chocolate.
  • Caffeine sources such as coffee.

Are There Any Side Effects?

There are no major side effects as such only if you don’t have an already existing condition such as heart condition or digestive problems. However, in some cases they can cause minor problem such as causing difficulty in absorbing nutrients causing malnutrition. Diarrhoea, stomach cramps and mild fever are also some other side effects of acid reflux medication in some very rare and extreme cases.

What are the Post Treatment Guidelines?

Since the condition is related to the food pipe and stomach, the most emphasized post treatment guideline is to maintain a healthy lifestyle that focuses strongly on a balanced and healthy diet. In some cases, some exercises such as walking after a meal is also prescribed. Heavy meals and sleeping after meals should also be avoided. As for surgery, the post treatment guideline remains the same.

How Long Does it Take to Recover?

Acid reflux is a very minor condition that gets taken of almost instantly. In case of persistent development of the condition, it can take a week or a couple of months to get treated. In case of surgery, you will be discharged from the hospital the very next day but the recovery can take up to 8 to 10 weeks.

What is the cost of acid reflux Treatment in India?

The price of the treatment is very cheap. Some medications for acid reflux start at just a rupee and can go up to INR 100. Surgery is also not very expensive and it can range between INR 50000 to INR 200000.

Are the Results of the Treatment Permanent?

The treatment results are prompt and permanent in most cases. In some cases, there are chances that the condition doesn’t get treated completely. Acid reflux can be triggered by the slightest of lifestyle changes such as sleeping very late so the chance of the condition developing again is also high.

How to Stop Acid Reflux Naturally?

There are few natural ways through which we can stop or prevent acid reflux naturally. Consuming these in your diet may help a lot:

  • Organic Apple Cider Vinegar: it enhances the immune system, reduced the bad gut bacteria which are responsible for causing acid reflux. Apple Cider Vinegar is an alkalizing food thus; it balances the pH level of the body.
  • Fennel seeds: These seeds are rich in vitamins and minerals. For centuries around the world, they have been used as a digestive aid as it contains ethanol which helps in relaxing the stomach.
  • Aloe Vera: Ingesting Aloe Vera can provide relief to inflamed stomach lining and oesophagus.

What are the Home Remedies to Treat Acid reflux?

Since it is a very common and ancient condition, there are a lot of home remedies to cure acid reflux. Some of the most effective home remedies are Apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, and baking soda. Homeopathy is also another alternative for treating acid reflux.

Some of the most widely used medicines are Arsenic album, Carbo vegetables, nux vomica, and phosphorus. Ayurveda is also a very effective and safe treatment for acid reflux. Some of the most common Ayurvedic treatment includes Ashwagandha, coconut water, pomegranate, and baked fennel seeds.

References

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Written ByDr. Amit C MD - Physical Medicine & RehabilitationPediatrics
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Reviewed ByDr. Bhupindera Jaswant SinghMD - Consultant PhysicianGeneral Physician
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