The next time you finish off a spicy burrito and feel the burning sensation start to gurgle in your stomach, chest, and throat - know you are not alone. Approximately 60% of adult Americans experience gastroesophageal reflux disease which bring on a slew of acid reflux symptoms.
If you are one of the many people who suffer from this uncomfortable to painful condition, it may be time to begin keeping track of your lifestyle choices and frequency of heartburn symptoms. Whether it’s behavior changes or physician-prescribed assistance, relief is in sight.
What is reflux, you may ask. The term is thrown around loosely, but reflux is usually identified by a burning sensation that moves from the stomach/abdomen region to the chest and throat. Some people experience more troublesome symptoms that lead to a radiating burn in the chest, throat, and neck areas with trouble swallowing and even vomiting. Regular reflux is identified as acid reflux disease; this is when symptoms happen at an abnormal frequency, more than a few times a week.
Why me? Acid reflux is often caused by food or behavior choices, but sometimes the problem is due to a person’s lower esophageal sphincter (LES). This small muscle at the bottom of the esophagus exists to serve as the gatekeeper between the throat and the stomach. It quickly opens to let food into the stomach and should immediately close afterwards. If the LES is sleeping on the job, it allows acid to go back up into the esophagus, causing that nasty burn.
Most physicians will suggest lifestyle changes that remove a large part of the fun from your life to remedy acid reflux. You will need to stop drinking mimosas and stop gorging on late-night pizza, since oranges and tomatoes have high acidity levels. Antacids and prescription options may help as well.
Need more ideas on how to transition from a fire-breathing dragon back to a normal person? The solutions below are simpler than you might think.
- Cut out the coffee and caffeine.
- Scale back at happy hour (especially the red wine.)
- Remove the spicy.
- Eliminate citrus.
- Stop chomping on peppermint gum.
- Avoid tomatoes (Marinara sauce is made of tomatoes. Sorry about it.)
If these behavior changes and medication are cumbersome or ineffective, acid reflux surgery is a minimally invasive option. Your physician will likely suggest a fundoplication where the top part of the stomach will be wrapped around the bottom of the esophagus to reinstate the valve that controls the flow of food. This procedure can be performed laparoscopically, offering great relief with minimal recovery time.
Regardless of the frequency or severity of your acid reflux, it is important to begin thinking about how you will address these problems. Lifestyle changes are a logical place to start, but be sure to speak to your physician if you think the problem is not easily solved by curbing some of your dietary indulgences.