Sixty million people in the United States experience symptoms of acid reflux at least once a month, while fifteen million people in the U.S. experience symptoms every day.
Sometimes acid reflux progresses to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a more severe form of reflux. If not treated and managed properly, over an extended period of time, GERD can cause the esophagus to narrow to a point where food or medicine cannot get down and/or develop into a precancerous condition known as Barrett’s esophagus.
The main symptom of the disease is a rising sour taste and burning sensation in the chest and esophagus, commonly referred to as heartburn. Other, less common symptoms include bad breath, severe chest pain, asthma, eroded tooth enamel, ear pain and throat-clearing.
To avoid flare-ups of acid reflux symptoms, it is important to moderate your consumption of foods that are high in fat, greasy or especially spicy. Alcohol, tobacco and caffeinated and/or carbonated beverages are also common triggers of acid reflux. Individuals who are overweight or obese should lose weight to help mollify acid reflux symptoms. Do not go to bed shortly after eating a large meal, as this also increases your likelihood of experiencing acid reflux symptoms.
Fortunately, there are many treatment options for acid reflux and GERD. Over-the-counter antacids, such as Tum’s and Maalox, neutralize stomach acid and provide fast-acting, short term relief of acid reflux symptoms. Acid reducer agents, such as Zantac and Pepcid AC, reduce the stomach’s ability to produce acid and provide relief for longer periods of time. Medications called proton pump inhibitors, such as Prilosec OTC, are the most effective acid reducers and are often taken on a daily basis.
Those who are experiencing heartburn or other symptoms of acid reflux more than three times a week should discuss how to properly manage and treat the condition with their doctor. Cone Health has an exceptional network of gastroenterologists, primary care physicians and other related healthcare providers dedicated to educating and treating patients with acid reflux disease and other gastrointestinal conditions.
Dr. Robert “Mike” Rourk is a gastroenterologist at Rockingham Gastroenterology Associates in Reidsville, N.C., and a member of Cone Health medical staff. Dr. Rourk is a 1985 graduate of East Carolina University School of Medicine. He completed his residency in internal medicine at Pitt County Memorial Hospital, and a fellowship in gastroenterology at University of Virginia Health Sciences Center.