Acid Reflux

Acid Reflux
  • Acid reflux is just another term for gastroesophageal reflux
  • The stomach juice that refluxes contain many chemicals of which acid is only one
  • Drugs that are used to treat GERD decrease or remove acid from the juices that are refluxing, but the reflux continues 
Causes of Acid Reflux

Acid reflux describes the situation when stomach juice moves upward into the esophagus (swallowing tube) due to a malfunction of the special “valve” (LES) that separated the two structures. Stomach juice is composed of a wide array of chemicals, including, among others, bile, enzymes, and acid. The term acid reflux refers to all of the chemicals in the stomach juices that reflux; it is the acid that irritates the esophagus.

Symptoms of Acid Reflux

The symptoms of acid reflux fall into two categories; typical and atypical. The usual symptoms are heartburn, regurgitation, and trouble swallowing. Atypical symptoms include cough, hoarseness, sore throat, dental disease, worsening asthma, and even bad breath. The typical symptoms tend to respond well to acid reflux treatment, while the atypical symptoms are much more challenging to treat.

Treatment of Acid Reflux

Treatment for acid reflux focuses on the acid itself, and not typically the reflux. When reflux occurs due to the damaged valve, removing the acid from the refluxing stomach juices improves the symptoms. Relief can be achieved with the use of acid-reducing medications. These medicines include Proton pump inhibitors (PP)s), including Prilosec, Nexium, Prevacid, Dexilant, and others. Less potent H2 blockers include Zantac and Tagament. Tropical antacids such as Mylanta and Tums also help. These medications are often required for life. There are some long-term side effects of these medications that can be problematic. These can include an increased chance of hip fractures, low magnesium levels, an increase in certain types of pneumonia, and a higher risk of developing a severe colon infection.

Also of note is that lifestyle changes can help treat acid reflux as well. These include elevating the head of the bed, not eating before bedtime, losing weight, and avoiding certain foods that trigger reflux. These foods vary from person to person.

For some patients, focusing on the reflux rather than the acid is a good option. Several minimally invasive surgical procedures restore the function of the damaged LES, which reduces or eliminates reflux. The acid stays in the stomach where it belongs!