Everyone at some point has probably experienced some form of heartburn. We generally experience a burning sensation in the chest, occasionally accompanied by an unpleasant acidic taste. Most of us can cope by taking one or two antacids, which generally gives the relief we desire. Unfortunately for some, there is a frequent occurrence, perhaps several times a week.
Heartburn occurring on a more frequent basis is known as GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) or more commonly ‘acid reflux’. Acid reflux itself is not a serious problem; however over extended periods of time, damage to the lining of the oesophagus can occur.
For this reason, an effective treatment is required in order to prevent long term damage.
Why does Acid Reflux Occur?
As we eat a meal, the food passes from the mouth, along the oesophagus and eventually into the stomach. Whilst in the stomach, natural digestive acids reduce food particles allowing nutrients to be easily absorbed through the intestines, into the body, whilst waste is eliminated. The oesophagus has a circular ring at its base, which is called the lower oesophageal sphincter (LES).
The LES effectively functions as a doorway between the oesophagus and the stomach. So as food passes through the oesophagus into the stomach, the door is shut tight. However if the LES isn’t functioning properly food can escape back into the oesophagus. As a result of this, stomach acids escaping back into the oesophagus, attack the oesophageal lining. The oesophageal lining isn’t designed to cope with stomach acid and as a result, a burning uncomfortable sensation occurs.
Treatment to protect the delicate oesophageal lining is therefore required.
How is Acid Reflux Treated?
Commonly over the counter antacids are sought to facilitate an instant relief, and in general they are a quick and effective solution. Many people suffering more long term, sustained recurrence, however will perhaps seek alternative medication. In this case H-2 receptor blockers such as Tagament or Pepcid can prove a more effective alternative. The benefit of such medication results in a reduction in the amount of stomach acid produced, therefore providing longer relief.
A Proton pump inhibitors such as Prilosec, is another option worth considering.
As the oesophageal lining needs time to heal, these medicines play an important role in reducing the production of acid. If left unchecked, not only will there be a recurrence of discomfort, but the possibility of long term damage.
Professional medical advice should always be sought from your doctor should you suspect that you are suffering the effects of acid reflux.
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