Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Can You Cure Acid Reflux?

Acid reflux is regurgitation of acidic contents from the stomach into the esophagus. Reflux is prevented by the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) which remains tightly closed and opens when peristaltic waves herald the imminent arrival of swallowed food. When the LES becomes incompetent acid reflux will result.So can you control your acid reflux? If it is due to true LES incompetence, then there is no cure. You will need maintenance treatment with acid suppressants like omeprazole, or if very severe or you develop secondary problems then fundoplication will relieve your symptoms.There are, however, various factors that can affect the efficiency of the LES and acid reflux. Consider eliminating these factors that may impact on GERD before seeing your doctor or taking over the counter acid suppressants. Sometimes all you need is a change of lifestyle.Obesity can cause or contribute to acid reflux. This is especially so in the apple type distribution of weight. The extra weight increases bulk in the upper abdomen and makes it difficult for the esophagus to discharge food effectively into the stomach. In addition obese individuals are prone to developing hiatus hernias. A hiatus hernia can weaken the LES. Losing weight is an important aspect of acid reflux treatment.Wearing tight fitting clothes can cause acid reflux especially if it is two sizes too small. The increased pressure in the stomach may force acid back up into the esophagus. Wear loose clothes and your reflux symptoms will go away.Large volume of food in the stomach will put pressure on the LES and can trigger acid reflux. It has happened to us all at some time or other. The large volume also reduces gastric clearance time allowing more opportunity for reflux. Eating smaller portions more frequently will counter this problem.Certain foods can affect GERD. Cow's milk protein intolerance can cause esophagitis. It is called Allergic Eosinophilic Esophagitis. This is controlled by removing cow's milk protein from the diet. Other foods that can affect the LES include fats, coffee, tea, alcohol, and some spices.Some drugs can affect the LES and cause acid reflux. These drugs include broncho-dilators such as theophylline, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID), tri-cyclic antidepressants ie amitriptylline and drugs for Parkinson's disease.Female hormones can affect acid reflux. In a Scandinavian Study, women on hormones had increased risk of GERD. These drugs include the contraceptive pill and hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Sedatives and tranquillisers can slow down peristaltic waves in the esophagus affecting clearance of food from the esophagus.If you are on medication and you have GERD, opt for liquid medication. Certain drugs ie tetracycline are corrosive to the esophageal lining. Tablets and capsules (gelcaps) can lodge in the esophagus. Always drink a glass of water after medication to wash it down into the stomach. Avoid taking medication while lying down. GERD patients should always take medication sitting up or standing and avoid lying down immediately after.Smoking relaxes the LES and nicotine is corrosive to esophageal lining. Stop smoking and your GERD might improve.Certain exercises can increase the risk of GERD. This is the case in competitive weightlifting and cycling. Joggers can develop acid reflux symptoms.If you have acid reflux symptoms, look at all the potential risk factors and eliminate them. If by doing so, your symptoms disappear, you have actually cured your acid reflux. However, if the symptoms persist, the next step is a visit to your doctor.
By: Dr Phil Hariram
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