Acid Reflux Diagnosis: What to Expect and How to Treat It

Acid reflux, technically known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), is a condition where stomach acid leaks from the stomach and into the esophagus. This can result in a burning sensation in the esophagus that worsens after eating, a sour taste in the mouth, and heartburn.

Who gets GERD? The short answer is just about anyone who has an upper GI tract. GERD only really falls off our collective radar when people are young children, but it’s worth remembering that GERD can also show up as “grown-up” heartburn.

Please confirm with your health care provider that your symptoms are due to GERD , as other conditions including heart disease, may mimic GERD.  Patients with long-standing GERD also need to be monitored for Barrett’s disease and esophageal cancer.

Symptoms of Acid Reflux

The symptoms of GERD vary from person to person, but the vast majority of people experience the following:

Heartburn is a burning sensation in the chest that usually occurs after eating a meal or snacking on something like cheese. It is often described as an “off-roader.” Many people also experience their heart beating faster or more erratically than normal following such a trigger event, even if they don’t actually have any pain.

How to Prevent Your Symptoms from Worsening

If you have a GERD diagnosis, you’ll want to keep your symptoms from getting worse as you figure out how to prevent them.

Preventative measures a doctor might suggest include:

  • Avoid stomach acid triggers like caffeine, alcohol, and fatty foods.
  • Eating smaller meals and snacks throughout the day instead of three large meals.
  • Reducing stress levels to a minimum.
  • Brushing your teeth after eating and making sure there are no food particles left between the teeth and the gum line.
  • Avoid smoking, chewing tobacco, or sucking on hard candy, as these can trigger the inflammation that leads to heartburn.
  • Keep important medicines up-to-date if you take any of them (like blood thinners, anti-inflammatory medication, or medications that contain aspirin).

How to Ease the Symptoms at Home

For most people, treating acid reflux is an at-home job, and finding ways to treat the issue is an ongoing process.

Here are a few ways you can help yourself at home:

Keep a Food Diary

Keep a journal and write down the foods you eat and how they make you feel. You may find some foods trigger your symptoms, and others don’t, but it’s hard to tell which foods are doing what when you are in the throes of a flare-up.

Watch Your Liquid Intake

Avoid drinking while eating, or at least drink slowly. This will not only help you avoid swallowing air with your food, but it will also allow your stomach time to digest food before more gets sent on its way.

If you are finding swallowing thinner liquids particularly difficult, try using Simply Thick pumps with food thickening agents to thicken your liquids. This will help you to swallow the liquid and reduce the amount of air you swallow with your drinks.

Raise Your Bed Head

Elevate the head of your bed by 4–6 inches if possible so that gravity can help keep stomach acid where it belongs—in your stomach.

Add Peppermint Oil

Peppermint oil is an excellent natural remedy for GERD, but it can be too strong for some people.

If peppermint oil doesn’t work for you, try using peppermint tea or peppermint-based hard candy (opt for sugar-free options) instead, but be warned that hard candy may make your symptoms worse.

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Last Updated on January 11, 2022 by Marie Benz MD FAAD