Acid Reflux: Causes, Symptoms, Treatments & Prevention
Have you been feeling an irritating burn in your stomach or throat? It can be an uncomfortable experience and may be due to a condition called acid reflux.
We’ve brought together some useful information to help you understand what acid reflux is, the treatments available to you, and how to get relief.
What is acid reflux?
Acid reflux is when acid, which your body produces naturally in the stomach, leaks and flows back up into your oesophagus or food pipe. This causes an internal burning sensation in the area beneath your chest and can range from being uncomfortable to quite painful. It can affect anyone, but adults tend to experience it more frequently than children.
What are the signs of acid reflux?
Do you sometimes feel a burning pain just above your stomach after eating?
If yes, then you may be suffering from heartburn – which is a symptom associated with acid reflux. This discomfort can last for several hours and can get worse when you lie down or bend over.
Another sign of acid reflux is regurgitation, which occurs when your stomach acids come back up into your mouth and produce a sharp, sour taste.
What causes acid reflux?
Acid reflux can be caused by controllable and uncontrollable factors.
Controllable factors may be lifestyle-related and are often preventable. Some of these include smoking, overeating and being overweight.
Some foods can also trigger stomach-acid issues, so it’s also important to monitor your diet. For example, consuming too much caffeine, alcohol, salt-heavy foods and meals low in dietary fibre are all linked to acid reflux.
An example of an uncontrollable factor that causes acid reflux is pregnancy. Pregnant women can suffer from acid reflux because of the extra pressure placed on their stomach by the growing baby.
What happens when you have acid reflux?
Hydrochloric acid is naturally produced within your stomach. This acid assists in breaking down food and protecting the body from germs that can make you sick.
When stomach acid flows back up into the oesophagus, the symptoms of acid reflux such as heartburn can be felt.
What are the treatments for acid reflux?
There are several treatments available to ease acid reflux, including prescription medication and over-the-counter medications such as antacids and alginates.
Antacids work by neutralising the acid produced by your stomach. The active ingredients that achieve this include calcium carbonate, magnesium carbonate or aluminium hydroxide which are all effective remedies for indigestion. They work best if taken 1–3 hours after a meal.
Alginates, on the other hand, work by forming a protective layer on top of the contents in the stomach, creating a physical barrier to help prevent stomach acid from getting up into the oesophagus.
Gaviscon Dual Action offers the combined benefits of both an antacid and an alginate. This means that, in addition to neutralising stomach acid, it forms a protective barrier that helps stop excess acid from entering the oesophagus. Gaviscon Dual Action Liquid starts to relieve heartburn from 4 minutes.* Together, this brings effective relief because it doesn’t just help with heartburn, but also relieves indigestion, providing fast, soothing relief that can last for up to four hours.**
How can you prevent acid reflux?
Acid reflux can be caused by controllable lifestyle factors, so you can help prevent it by adjusting parts of your lifestyle that are known to be related. You can try:
- Quitting smoking
- Not overeating
- Avoiding foods that trigger your reflux (e.g. fatty or spicy foods, tomato products, mint or chocolate)
- Avoid caffeinated drinks or alcohol
- Check with your healthcare professional if any medications you may be taking may be contributing to reflux
When do you need to see a doctor?
If medications are not working and your acid reflux has become severe, it’s important to consult a GP.
Of course, if you’re ever unsure or have further questions regarding acid reflux, your healthcare professional is always the best source of information to help you manage your symptoms.
*Strugala V et al. 2010. **Chevrel B, 1980*
This medicine may not be right for you. Read the label before purchase. Follow the directions for use. If symptoms persist, talk to your healthcare professional.