Signs and Symptoms of Acid Reflux and Heartburn
Heartburn is a condition in which the liquid content of the stomach backs up (refluxes) into the esophagus.
The most common and persistent symptom of Heartburn is a burning sensation centered in the middle of the chest and/or throat, brought on by stomach acid that churns up onto the lining of the esophagus.
Acid Reflux, also known as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), is a condition which has many symptoms that are similar to heartburn. In many cases, people suffering from Acid Reflux typically suffer from persistent heartburn two or more days per week. In the long term, this can be very serious since, over time, the reflux of stomach acid can erode or wear away the delicate esophagus lining. This can then lead to scar tissue, which causes swallowing problems. GERD has also been linked to an increased risk of esophageal cancer. However, some people have Acid Reflux without heartburn. In such cases, symptoms include chest pain, wheezing, coarseness in the throat, breathing problems, a bitter taste in the mouth, dry coughing, interrupted sleep, tightness in the throat, and halitosis or bad breath. Acid reflux can also lead to regurgitation of acid into the mouth, often due to overeating or bending down or going to bed right after a meal.
Causes of Acid Reflux
Just like other health conditions, there is not one specific cause of Acid Reflux and Heartburn. However, a malfunction of a band of muscle tissue called the Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES) can ultimately lead to many of the problems and symptoms associated with Acid Reflux and Heartburn. The LES is a complex area of smooth muscles and various hormones, which is responsible for the opening and closing of the lower end of the esophagus when we eat and swallow. It normally keeps the stomach contents from regurgitating, but due to certain physical conditions it can weaken and lose its contraction control. If this happens, the LES fails to close up and cannot maintain the pressure barrier between stomach and esophagus. As a result, acid and pepsin from the stomach can back up and cause acidity and heartburn in the esophagus.
The most common causes of Acid Reflux and Heartburn include:
- some antidepressants and sedatives
- elevated hormone levels during pregnancy
- eating before going to bed
- eating large meals
- slower emptying of the stomach
- frequently eating greasy, fried, and fatty foods
- drinking lots of bubbly (carbonated) beverages such as soda
- diseases that weaken the esophageal muscle (such as scleroderma, mixed connective tissue disease, or hiatal hernias)
Home Remedies and Natural Treatments
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple Cider Vinegar is an amazing remedy for Acid Reflux. It may sound bizarre to drink an acid as a cure for an acid problem, but there are good acids and bad acids and Apple Cider Vinegar is among the good ones.
- Add 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to 1/2 glass of water.
- Sip this glass of water while eating your dinner.
Ginger Root is an amazing natural herb that is known to absorb stomach acid and have the secondary effect of calming the nerves. For an effective natural remedy from the symptoms of acid reflux, try the following:
- Purchase ginger root capsules from a natural health food or nutritional store.
- Regularly take one capsule immediately after dinner.
Fennel seed is an aromatic but powerful herb that helps in digestive conditions and has many other benefits. Fennel seeds contain a compound known as Anethole, which is known to suppress spasms of the stomach or gastrointestinal tract spasms. Therefore, it is considered to be an effective remedy for Acid Reflux.
- Take half a tea spoon of Fennel Seeds and chew them slowly after your meals.
Anise and Lavender Tea
Here is a tea that you can make to help relieve the symptoms of heartburn, since it reduces the amount of acid you have in your stomach. Note that some variants of this remedy suggest adding peppermint, but this is NOT recommended since peppermint is known to relax the LES (described earlier), which is exactly what you don't want to do.
- Mix together equal amounts of aniseed and lavender.
- Boil 2 1/2 cups of distilled water.
- Pour the boiling water over a teaspoon of the herbal mixture.
- Let this tea sit for 3 to 5 minutes.
- Strain the tea and add a little bit of honey as a natural sweetener.
- Drink up to 8 oz of this tea in the morning and 8 oz in the evening to get relief from acid reflux or heartburn.
Drinking aloe vera juice or consuming aloe vera gel may help soothe the lining of the esophagus and reduce acid reflux symptoms.
Drinking a cup of chamomile tea before bed can help relax the muscles in the digestive tract and reduce acid reflux symptoms.
Taking slippery elm in the form of lozenges, capsules, or tea to coat and soothe the lining of the esophagus, helps reduce irritation from acid reflux.