It’s very common to have heartburn. One study suggests that 60 million Americans experience heartburn each month. Most individuals, as a result, think that they’re suffering from a relatively commonplace condition. And that’s not automatically a bad thing, a little bit of heartburn after eating some spicy Chicken Tikka Masala is pretty normal.
But you may want to pay attention when you experience heartburn again and again. That’s because heartburn could be a sign that something else is happening: acid reflux.
What is acid reflux?
Acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (or GERD), usually happens due to the weakening of a certain muscle. When food is going down the esophagus, this muscle, called the lower esophageal sphincter, needs to open and then stay closed at other times (keeping the food in the stomach). It’s like your esophagus has a handy open – close valve.
Stomach acids, food, and other material can find their way up the esophagus (not where you want it) as this muscle fails. And this can bring about several symptoms, including heartburn.
Acid reflux and heartburn – What’s the difference?
In general, it’s good that your stomach is so acidic. Your stomach acid helps break food down and helps in the process of digestion. Occasionally, the food you eat can throw off the acidic balance in your stomach, causing the presentation of heartburn (normally, an antacid will resolve this).
GERD, on the other hand, is a substantially more systemic issue. When your esophageal sphincter isn’t working properly, even well-balanced stomach acids can go back up.
How to Treat Acid Reflux
The treatments for GERD or Acid Reflux generally depend on how severe the symptoms are. For most people, GERD can be treated with a few lifestyle changes. Here are some examples:
- Treat the symptoms with over-the-counter medicine.
- Stay away from foods that cause heartburn or intensify your other GERD symptoms.
- Sleep with your head raised at night.
If these treatments do not help reduce your symptoms, we may recommend a prescription-strength medication to help you. There are various prescription options obtainable, and we will work with you to find the right one for your symptoms.
If prescription medication doesn’t help you control your GERD symptoms, we may refer you for surgery. GERD symptoms can be reduced and symptoms can be managed with minimally invasive surgery and specialized devices.
How can you tell if It’s Acid Reflux And Not Heartburn?
Of course, that begs the question: are your heartburn symptoms a sign that something else is happening? That is, how can you tell if you’re experiencing simple heartburn or whether it’s acid reflux?
That can be a bit of a challenge, mainly because heartburn is itself a symptom of GERD. That’s why you should keep an eye out for the following:
- Your heartburn isn’t random: You might be dealing with reflux if your heartburn keeps coming back again and again.
- You have difficulty sleeping at night due to these symptoms.
- You feel the sensation of a lump in your throat. This lump is normally undigested food.
- You experience difficulty swallowing. This is most likely because of a failure of your esophageal sphincter.
- You burp up stomach acid or even small amounts of food. This symptom usually signifies acid reflux.
- you’re having chest pains (acid reflux can often cause chest pains, but it’s significant to point out that if you experience chest pains, you should get medical attention immediately).
It’s very likely that you’re dealing with acid reflux if these symptoms show up. You should contact us for an appointment to get diagnosed if you begin to experience any of these symptoms.