GERD is a medical condition that causes great discomfort. It is a chronic condition and hence the disease will often remain for the rest of one’s life. So the treatments given for acid reflux are to reduce discomfort and prevent further complications rather than treating the condition on the whole. The treatment can improve the patient’s quality of life without much effort. Very rarely do you require changing your eating habits and lifestyle?
Symptoms of Acid Reflux
- Bloody or black stools or bloody vomiting
- Dysphagia — the sensation of food being stuck in your throat
- Hiccups that don’t let up
- Weight loss for no known reason
- Wheezing, dry cough, hoarseness, or chronic sore throat
Acid reflux is often more severe and problematic at night. This is because of the lack of gravity. During the daytime, acid reflux is pulled back from the oesophagus into the stomach due to gravitational force. Hence there is less pain and discomfort when sitting or standing. To avoid discomfort and pain due to acid reflux while you sleep, you can sleep in an elevated position. This helps the reflux flow back from the oesophagus into the stomach. This helps to keep you free from pains and also prevents the damage caused to the oesophagus due to acid content. To get an elevated position you can lift your bed slightly up supporting it with some block of books or any other material or you can even sleep on pillows such that an elevation is formed. All that is required is your head has to be higher than your feet. Also, sleeping on the left side causes less uneasiness from acid reflux as compared to sleeping on the right side.
There are some foods and drinks that weaken the LES muscles. This in turn increases acid reflux and complicates the condition. Hence such foods or drinks have to be avoided completely. Some of them are chocolate, alcohol, spicy and acidic foods and citric juices. Intake of fatty foods has to be reduced to avoid symptoms of acid reflux. Smoking can also create problems and hence needs to be avoided.
Consumption of antacids prescribed by the doctor helps in neutralizing the acidic contents in the stomach. The amount of acid produced in GERD patients is higher than in normal people and intake of antacids reduces the acid produced in the stomach by neutralizing it. This reduces painful sensations and heartburn.
Antacids are helpful in reducing acid content in the stomach for a short period of time. Hence they need to be taken frequently to maintain the effect. There are a number of drugs developed which are known as histamine antagonists. These medicines block the acid-producing agents in the stomach thereby decreasing acid reflux. Pro-motility drugs are also available which strengthen the contractions of muscles by working on the pressure in the lower oesophageal sphincter. This in turn reduces acid reflux.
Lifestyle changes and over the counter medications would be good enough for most people.
Maalox, Mylanta, Rolaids, Alka-Seltzer, Riopan, Gaviscon, or Rennie can neutralise the acid from your stomach.
Using antacids for a long time is not recommended. These medications can be addictive and cause side effects like diarrhoea and constipation.
Ask your doctor or pharmacist to prescribe you something with magnesium hydroxide and aluminium hydroxide.
There are numerous treatments available to help you relieve the symptoms of GERD. Your physician will be the best to guide you and prescribe treatment based on your condition. With proper treatment, you can reduce the discomfort and pain caused by GERD.
Steps to take to treat Acid Reflux
- Quit smoking
- Quit alcohol
- Use many pillows as much as you can and raise them to 4 to 6 inches
- Never eat 3 hours before your bedtime
- Sleep at a chair during the day time
- Don’t choose tight clothing
- Lose weight if you are overweight
- Eat less but more often
When Antacid don’t work
Antacids would work most of the time however if they don’t work then it means it’s time for some prescribed medications:
- H2 blockers (Pepcid, Tagament)
- Foaming agents (Gaviscon)
- Proton pump inhibitors (Aciphex, Nexium, Prilosec, Prevacid, Protonix)
- Prokinetics (Reglan, Urecholine)
It’s not advised to combine any of these medications unless you have been told by your doctor.