Acid reflux disease is one of the most common gastro-related ailments in the United States. If you don’t have it, you probably know a family member, friend or acquaintance that suffers from acid reflux. Because symptoms can surface so suddenly, acid reflux frequently sends patients to their doctors’ offices, the emergency room and walk-in healthcare clinics (like Banner Urgent Care). Yet the disease also includes chronic, long-lasting impact as well.
What exactly is acid reflux, and what are some specific lifestyle adjustments that can reduce symptoms? This blog post takes an in-depth look at one of America’s most prevalent – and at times, puzzling – disorders.
What is Acid Reflux?
Acid reflux is also known as “GERD,” which stands for gastroesophageal reflux disease. To put acid reflux disease in the simplest terms, it’s a reverse flow issue, specifically involving stomach acid. Normally, stomach acid stays where it’s supposed to – in the stomach. People that suffer from acid GERD experience the uncomfortable (and usually painful) sensation of the stomach acid traveling upward.
But why does the stomach acid go into the esophagus? The “weak link” in the GERD equation has to do with a valve (between the stomach basin and bottom of the throat) that is supposed to prevent acid from entering the esophagus. In some people, the valve doesn’t close all the way, allowing harmful acid to collect in the esophagus and eventually travel up toward the back of the mouth cavity.
Unlike heartburn, acid reflux is more permanent. While a few antacid tablets might make heartburn go away for days, weeks or months, GERD is much tougher to treat. That’s why people with acid reflux usually have symptoms for at least 2-3 days per week, which means that, over the course of an entire year, it’s not uncommon for acid reflux to surface for 150 or even 200 days!
Another key distinction between heartburn and acid reflux is severity; heartburn just happens to be one of many symptoms associated with acid reflux. While heartburn is the most common side effect, others include:
- Frequent coughing (this is the body’s way of trying to rid excess stomach acid from the esophagus)
- Trouble swallowing
- Sensitivity to spicy foods
- Constant sour taste buds
- Severe stomach discomfort
- Upper chest pain
If you suffer from any or all of these symptoms, you should visit your local Banner Urgent Care physician for more information.
Acid reflux is one of those conditions that is only partially explained by its name. Dig into the causes and specific side effects, and you soon discover just how serious acid reflux actually is. Typically, conditions as corrosive and destructive as acid reflux aren’t that widespread. Unfortunately, as you’ll see below, the statistics suggest otherwise.
Acid Reflux Statistics
The so-called “diseases of civilization” include those ailments which are rare or obsolete in primitive societies. Certain maladies only show up in modernized, Western countries, like the United States, based on cultural factors. Some “diseases of civilization” include rheumatoid arthritis (and many other autoimmune conditions), heart disease, high levels of “bad” cholesterol, joint pain, obesity and many more. Acid reflex / GERD can also be added to this list due in part to dietary choices that invoke acid reflex, like sugar, hydrogenated vegetable oils, heavy starches, chemical processing, etc. These highly inflammatory foods have caused acid reflux to shift from a relatively rare disorder to a major health concern over the span of two generations.
According to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD), approximately 1 in 3 Americans suffer from GERD. The same study from the IFFGD calculated the cost of acid reflux across the United States, and the price tag wasn’t cheap: over $9 billion in cumulative costs each year.
Three more troubling facts about acid reflux:
- Climbing obesity rates seem to correlate with the rise of acid reflux
- Scientists and medical professionals have begun to link esophageal cancer with acid reflux
- There is no outright cure for acid reflux
Try These Things to Tame Your Acid Reflux
While no cure exists, you can modify your diet, lifestyle and other behaviors to lessen symptoms. For overweight GERD patients, the absolute #1 tip is to lose weight. Research increasingly shows strong links between acid reflux frequency and severity with being overweight. But if you’re lean, or have trouble losing weight, here are some other tips:
- Quit smoking
- Watch your carbonated beverage intake
- Optimize your sleep habits
- Limit caffeinated drinks and alcohol consumption
- Avoid fried foods, chocolate, citrus fruits and mint (sorry, mint chocolate chip ice cream lovers)
- Don’t overeat, especially before bedtime
If acid reflux (GERD) has become unbearable, stop in to an Banner Urgent Care facility today. We have more than 30 Arizona healthcare clinics. Our staff can help diagnose your specific acid reflux triggers, and we’ll also assist with healthier lifestyle choices. Since acid reflux symptoms are dependent on diet, sleep habits and other factors, Banner Urgent Care’s comprehensive healthcare options can put in place a sound, sensible plan to help you better manage your condition.
For questions about acid reflux disease, our walk-in clinic experts are only a phone call away. You can reach us at (480) 988-9108.