A ring of muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter guards the gateway of the stomach. This muscle at the juncture of the food pipe and stomach allows food to pass down the food pipe and into the stomach. It then closes immediately to prevent the contents of the stomach from moving back up the food pipe. When this muscle does not function properly, stomach contents may move up the food pile leading to discomfort including heartburn. This is called acid reflux, or more commonly acidity. If it occurs frequently then you may have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Risk factors for acid reflux:
- Lying down immediately after a meal
- Being overweight or obese
- Eating near bedtime
- Eating spicy or fatty foods
- Eating foods like tomato, citrus fruits, chocolate, onion, garlic, mint etc.
- Drinking alcohol, carbonated drinks, coffee or tea
- Taking certain medications
Symptoms of acidity include:
- Heartburn, a burning sensation or discomfort from stomach to chest or throat
- Regurgitation, sour or bitter taste in the throat or mouth
- Bloating, burping
- A feeling of food stuck in the throat
- Wheezing, dry cough, hoarseness, chronic sore throat
- Weight loss
- Bloody or black stools
- Bloody vomit
If you have these symptoms and they are mild, you can manage the problem by taking a few simple steps. If, however your acidity problem is chronic and severe, you should consult a doctor.
Tips to control acidity.
- Eat frequent small meals instead of one large meal
- Avoid eating fatty or spicy food
- Avoid drinking too much water or fluids with your meal
- Get a diet plan for stomach friendly meals
- Reduce weight
- Quit smoking
- Check with your doctor regarding medications you take
- Eat at least 2 or 3 hours before lying down
- Raise the head of your bed by about 6 inches
Acidity may be very uncomfortable and chronic acidity if left untreated may lead to inflammation of the food pipe, narrowing of food pipe, ulcer, cancer, respiratory problems, dental problems and throat problems.
If you have symptoms of acidity consult a doctor for immediate diagnosis and early treatment. Treatment options include lifestyle changes, medication to control acidity and in severe cases surgery to strengthen the muscle.
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