The esophagus is a tube that carries food from your mouth to your stomach, normally. However, with acid reflux, the opening of the esophagus malfunctions at the site where it normally dumps food into the stomach. In this way, acid from the stomach goes back into the esophagus or refluxes. When acid reflux causes noticeable symptoms or damage, this is called gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD.
The symptoms of GERD vary. Common symptoms include heartburn or a burning feeling in the middle of the chest. Some experience regurgitation which is when undigested food and acid come back up into the throat. Others may complain of a cough, hoarse voice, sore throat that is on and off, stomach/abdominal pain, nausea/vomiting, and difficulty swallowing.
A few lifestyle changes might help mild symptoms. This includes eating smaller meals more frequently, avoiding caffeine intake, eating meals slowly (taking at least 20 minutes to chew food), stopping acidic foods that include spices, tomatoes, oranges, onions, chocolate, and alcohol, and discontinuing smoking. Trying not to lie flat after eating for three hours may also be helpful. Losing weight in those who are overweight is also helpful. Avoiding tight clothing may also be helpful.
Acid reflux symptoms vary from mild to severe and the treatment may vary. Majority of the treatment is medication based. Majority of patients are treated with medications called proton pump inhibitors (PPI). However, consult the providers first since sometimes acid reflux requires testing and PPIs may interfere with that testing. If your child or teenager has any of the above symptoms, do not give any medications without first consulting a physician.
However, you should also see a provider right away if you:
- Have trouble swallowing, or feel as though food gets “stuck” on the way down
- Lose weight when you are not trying to
- Have chest pain
- Choke when you eat
- Vomit blood or have bowel movements that are red, black, or look like tar