What are the symptoms of acid reflux?

A common question we are asked is what are the symptoms of acid reflux. To understand this and the treatments we first must understand what acid reflux is. Acid reflux is a common condition where acid from the stomach travels upwards into the food pipe or oesophagus and causes a burning sensation from the throat to the centre of the chest, also known as heartburn. If acid reflux occurs more than twice a week, then you may have gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD), a more severe form of acid reflux

Here at Click2Pharmacy, we have various products that can treat the symptoms of acid reflux by completing a simple consultation. Our practitioners can issue prescription treatments which can be delivered direct to your door 

7 Most Common Symptoms of Acid Reflux

Acid reflux can have many symptoms but here is a list of the 7 most common ones:

  1. Heartburn, which is an uncomfortable burning sensation or pain in the chest, that can occur after eating food and last for several hours. It can happen occasionally, or can be persistent if you have gastro-oesophagus reflux disease.
  2. A sour or bitter taste in taste in the mouth – caused by stomach acid reaching the mouth.
  3. Dry cough
  4. Wheezing
  5. Problems with your voice such as hoarseness
  6. Bad breath
  7. Nausea and/or vomiting

Acid reflux symptoms can happen or worsen after eating, bending or lying down. Diagnosis of acid reflux is usually made from the symptoms and physical examination. However, heartburn can seem similar to a heart attack, so it’s important to rule that out. If symptoms are persistent or severe, then further tests may be carried out, such as an endoscopy.

At Click2Pharmacy we offer various Acid Reflux treatments that can be delivered straight to your door

What is acid reflux caused by?

The stomach contains hydrochloric acid which helps to break down food. Acid reflux is caused by acid from the stomach traveling up into the oesophagus and even into the mouth. The acid irritates the lining of the oesophagus, causing it to become and inflamed and painful. At the bottom of the oesophagus there is a valve called the lower oesophageal sphincter, which is relaxes to allow food and water to pass into the stomach. If the sphincter is weak or relaxes too much, then stomach acid can travel back into the oesophagus.

It is very common to suffer from occasional acid reflux or heartburn without knowing the cause.  There are some triggers that can cause acid reflux, or make it worse. These include:

  • Certain foods or drinks
  • Eating large meals
  • Smoking
  • Being overweight
  • Stress
  • Low levels of exercise
  • Pregnancy
  • A hiatus hernia- a hole in the diaphragm which allows part of the stomach to move into the chest
  • Some medications such as drugs for asthma, antihistamines, and anti-inflammatory pain killers (such as ibuprofen)

Acid reflux foods to avoid

There are certain foods and drinks that have been associated with acid reflux. It has been suggested that tobacco, chocolate, alcohol and coffee may cause relaxation of the lower oesophageal sphincter, and should be avoided. Other foods and habits that are also linked to acid reflux include:

  • High intake of salt
  • Low dietary fibre
  • Having carbonated (fizzy) drinks and acidic juices
  • Eating large meals
  • Lying down within 3 hours of eating a meal

Acid reflux in pregnancy

Acid reflux in pregnancy is quite common, but can be very irritating and uncomfortable. In pregnancy, hormonal changes cause the lower oesophageal muscle to relax, which means the acids in the stomach may travel up. Secondly, as the baby grows in the uterus it puts pressure on the stomach, which causes acid and food to push back up.

In the first trimester, you may experience heartburn or acid reflux due to the oesophageal muscles moving food more slowly into your stomach. Your stomach may also take longer to empty. As the pregnancy progresses to the third trimester, the size of the baby can push against the stomach and affect its normal position.

Acid reflux treatments

There are two main acid reflux treatments, those that you get over the counter (OTC) and prescription medicines.

Over the counter medicines can be used for mild acid reflux or heartburn, and work to relieve the symptoms. These are normally either antacids or alginates. At Click2Pharmacy we have the following OTC treatments:

  • Pepto Bismol- this is available as tablets or as a liquid, which work by protecting the stomach and food pipe from stomach acid
  • Gaviscon double action tablets- they work by neutralising the excess stomach acid and forming a protective barrier

Sometimes OTC treatments may not be effective, and so you may require a different type of medication. Proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs) work by reducing the amount of stomach in the acid. The following PPI medicines are available on prescription:

  • Losec (Omeprazole)
  • Zoton (Lansoprazole)
  • Nexium (Esomeprazole)

As these medicines are prescription only, you will be required to fill out a short consultation form, which will ned to be approved by one of our prescribing pharmacists.

Lifestyle Changes

If you have mild or occasional acid reflux or heartburn, then there are lifestyle changes that you can help which can help prevent episodes, or reduce the symptoms. Examples of these are:

  • Eat smaller meals
  • Lose weight
  • Avoiding or cutting down trigger foods (see Acid reflux foods to avoid)
  • Raising your head at the end of the bed
  • Keeping upright to ease the pressure off the stomach
  • Avoiding tight clothing around the abdomen
  • Do not eat up to 4 hours before bedtime
  • Stop smoking

FAQs

Is acid reflux common?

Yes, acid reflux is very common, in fact around a quarter of UK adults experience heartburn and acid reflux.

What causes acid reflux?

Acid reflux is caused by a weakness in the lower oesophageal sphincter, a muscle which is supposed to stop movement of acids back up the oesophagus.  This results in acid from the stomach travelling up the oesophagus, causing a burning feeling in the chest.

Can acid reflux cause sore throats?

Yes, acid and contents from the stomach can reach the throat, making it feel irritated and sore.

 Is there an acid reflux diet?

Although there is no specific acid reflux diet, there are foods and drinks that can make acid reflux worse, which include chocolate, caffeine, alcohol and tobacco.

How can I reduce acid reflux in pregnancy?

You can reduce acid reflux in pregnancy by making changes to your diet and lifestyle. Eating healthily, and having smaller meals can help control symptoms. Keeping upright, and sleeping with your head slightly raised may also be useful.

When do I need to see a doctor for acid reflux?

Mild or occasional acid reflux can be treated with over-the-counter medicines from the pharmacy. If you are getting acid reflux more than several times a week, or your symptoms do not improve despite having treatment, then it is best to see your doctor. 

How can I treat acid reflux?

If you have mild symptoms, then you can make lifestyle and dietary changes. If you find these do not work then you can treat acid reflux with a range of medications which include over the counter antacids (such as Pepto Bismol) and alginates (e.g., Gaviscon). There are also proton pump inhibitors that work by reducing stomach acid. These include Omeprazole, Losec and Nexium.

Source of information: NHS

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