Acidity — medically referred to as acid reflux or heartburn — is a condition that causes a burning pain in your lower chest area. It usually occurs when food, liquid or stomach acid flows back up into the esophagus, the tube connecting the mouth and stomach. In particular, this backwash, or acid reflux, can irritate the lining of your esophagus, leading to discomfort or pain.
Though occasional acid reflux is quite common and can be managed with lifestyle changes and over-the-counter medications, frequent or more severe forms, like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), require medical attention.
Acidity affects individuals differently, with some experiencing it occasionally while others may feel it daily.
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Causes of Acidity
Here are the most common causes:
- Overeating: Large meals can cause pressure on your stomach and lead to acid reflux. Eating smaller meals spread throughout the day can help mitigate this issue.
- Certain Foods and Drinks: Some food items are more likely to cause acidity than others. This includes spicy foods, fatty foods, citrus fruits, tomato-based foods, chocolate, mint, garlic, onions, and caffeinated or carbonated drinks.
- Lifestyle Choices: Certain lifestyle habits can exacerbate acidity. These include smoking, excessive caffeine or alcohol intake, high-stress levels, and lack of physical activity.
- Medications: Some drugs, like certain pain relievers or antibiotics, can also cause acid reflux.
- Lying down after eating: Gravity plays a role in controlling reflux. So when you lie down with a full stomach, it becomes easier for stomach acid to backflow into the esophagus.
- Being overweight or obese: Excess weight can put pressure on your abdomen and your lower esophageal sphincter, increasing the risk of acid reflux.
Symptoms of Acidity
The symptoms of acidity may vary among individuals, but some common signs include:
- Burning Sensation: This is the most common symptom of acidity, often experienced in the lower chest area and upper stomach.
- Sour or Bitter Taste: You may have a sour or bitter taste in your mouth due to the backflow of stomach acid into your throat or mouth.
- Difficulty Swallowing: Acidity can lead to a feeling of food being stuck in your throat, making swallowing difficult.
- Regurgitation: This is a sensation of acid-backed food being returned into the mouth.
- Belching or hiccups that won’t stop.
- Bloating: A feeling of fullness or discomfort in your upper abdomen.
Treatment for Acidity
Fortunately, acidity can be treated through several methods, depending on its severity:
- Lifestyle Changes: Simple modifications like maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding foods that trigger acidity, eating smaller meals, not lying down immediately after eating, and exercising regularly can significantly reduce the frequency and severity of acid reflux.
- Over-the-counter Medications: Antacids, H-2-receptor blockers, and proton pump inhibitors can help neutralize stomach acid or reduce its production.
- Prescription Medications: If over-the-counter medications aren’t effective, your doctor may prescribe stronger versions of these drugs or medications to heal the esophagus.
- Surgery: In severe cases of GERD, surgical procedures may be necessary.
When to See a Gastroenterologist
If you’re frequently experiencing acid reflux or if your symptoms are severe, it’s crucial to consult a gastroenterologist. Continuous exposure to stomach acid can damage your esophagus and lead to more serious health issues. Signs that you should seek immediate medical attention include chest pain, weight loss, difficulty swallowing, or vomiting blood.
While acidity is a common condition, it should not be taken lightly, as it can significantly affect your quality of life. It’s crucial to note that while lifestyle changes and over-the-counter medications can alleviate occasional acid reflux, persistent or severe symptoms require medical attention. Therefore, if you’re experiencing frequent or severe acidity, be sure to consult with a healthcare provider.