In a world where indulging in a flavorful meal is a cherished pleasure, acid reflux can be an unwelcome guest. It’s more than just an occasional inconvenience; for some, it’s a chronic condition that can significantly impact their quality of life.
Tryon Medical Partners gastroenterology nurse practitioner Lindsay Ostergaard sees patients frequently with questions and concerns about acid reflux. As an acid reflux sufferer herself, she knows firsthand how disruptive it can be and provides some helpful information to stop the burn.
What does acid reflux look like?
At its core, acid reflux occurs when the acidic contents of the stomach irritate and flow back into the esophagus, setting the stage for a myriad of distressing symptoms. It can manifest differently in each individual, causing irritation from the gut to the esophagus that may result in:
- Burning sensations and abdominal discomfort (typically under the breast and between the rib cage)
- Feelings of bloating
- Chest pain
- Difficulty swallowing
- Frequent belching
- Unusual odors or tastes
- Asthma symptoms like wheezing or tightness in the chest
“As someone who has suffered through acid reflux, I really do know what you’re going through and how bad it is,” Lindsay empathizes.
Who experiences reflux?
Several factors can contribute to the onset of acid reflux, making it an issue that many people grapple with. Stress, being overweight or obese, dietary choices (such as consuming greasy fried foods or acidic products) and the intricate brain-gut connection all play pivotal roles. Additionally, the use of antibiotics, other therapies and even over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen can sometimes trigger or exacerbate acid reflux symptoms.
How can I manage my acid reflux?
For those experiencing acute symptoms that have persisted for no more than 2 to 4 weeks, a focus on education and lifestyle changes is often recommended. This may include:
- Dietary modifications to eliminate irritating foods (such as coffee, carbonated beverages, alcohol and acidic foods like tomatoes and oranges)
- Stress-reducing behaviors like therapy or meditation
- Lifestyle habits such as: eating earlier in the evening, engaging in physical activity to aid digestion, or elevating the head while sleeping
“It took me a long time to find something that worked,” Lindsay notes. “Make sure you’ve given it a solid chance before ditching it. The same thing doesn’t work for everyone so try multiple interventions.”
In chronic cases where symptoms persist, further investigation may be required. This can involve an esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) to assess the severity of the disease, rule out other potential causes and address issues like hiatal hernias.
“Patients often don’t realize how severe acid reflux is,” Lindsay emphasizes. “Untreated acid reflux can have serious long-term consequences, including esophageal cancers, ulcers and perforations.”
If you’re suffering from acid reflux, make an appointment to take your first steps toward a reflux-free life today.