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What is Acid Reflux and How do I Know if I Have it?

| Articles | October 7, 2013

Acid reflux, also known as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is technically defined as chronic symptoms or mucosal damage produced by the abnormal reflux of gastric contents into the esophagus. This is commonly due to transient or permanent changes in the barrier between the esophagus and the stomach.

Symptoms of heartburn in adults is the major symptom of acid reflux, characterized by a burning discomfort behind the breastbone. Some of the symptoms of acid reflux in adults include difficulty swallowing and chronic throat and chest pain. Some people may have only one of those symptoms.

Atypical symptoms of acid reflux include burning sensation at the base of the throat, cough, hoarseness, changes of the voice, chronic ear ache, or sinusitis.

Complications of acid reflux include stricture formation, Barrett’s esophagus, esophageal ulcers and possibly even esophageal cancer.

Occasional heartburn is common but does not necessarily mean one has acid reflux. Patients that have heartburn symptoms more than once a week are at risk of developing acid reflux. The presence of a hiatal hernia is a risk factor for development of acid reflux.

Symptoms of acid reflux may be difficult to detect in infants and children. Symptoms may vary from typical adult symptoms. Acid Reflux in children may cause repeated vomiting, effortless spitting up, coughing, and other respiratory problems.

Inconsolable crying, failure to gain adequate weight, refusing food and bad breath are also common. Children may have one symptom or many. No single symptom is universally present in all children suffering from acid reflux.

Babies’ immature digestive systems are usually the cause, and most infants stop having acid reflux by the time they reach their first birthday. Some children don’t outgrow acid reflux and continue to have it into their teen years.

Children that have had heartburn that doesn’t seem to go away, or any other symptoms of acid reflux for a while, should talk to their parents and visit their doctor.

Certain foods promote acid reflux. They include but are not limited to: Coffee, alcohol, calcium supplements, and excessive amounts of Vitamin C supplements are stimulants of gastric acid secretion. Taking these before bedtime especially can promote acid reflux in the evening. Calcium containing antacids is a good example of this.

Foods high in fats and smoking reduce lower esophageal sphincter competence, so avoiding these tends to help, as well. Fat also delays emptying of the stomach.

Having more but smaller meals also reduces the risk of acid reflux. Why? Because there is less food in the stomach at any one time.

Disclaimer

The information presented here should not be interpreted as medical advice. If you or someone you know suffers from acid reflux, please seek professional medical advice for the latest treatment options.

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