Acid Reflux Disease
Acid reflux disease is a chronic digestive disorder that occurs when stomach acid or bile flows back into the esophagus. In most people, their lower esophageal sphincter (LES) closes when food passes through, but for acid reflux sufferers, the LES doesn't entirely close, allowing stomach acid to move back into the esophagus.
People are prone to develop acid reflux if they:
- Lie down after a large, heavy meal
- Snack close to bedtime
- Are overweight or obese
- Frequently consume beverages such as coffee, carbonated drinks, or tea
- Eat foods like chocolate, garlic, tomatoes, citrus, or anything fatty or spicy
Common symptoms of acid reflux disease include heartburn, food regurgitation, burping, bloating, nausea, black stools, unexplained weight loss, and/or chronic sore throat. If you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms two or more times a week, consult your physician.
Although frequent heartburn is a good indication you have acid reflux, your doctor may also suggest performing tests and procedures to confirm his or her suspicions. Common tests include an X-ray of your upper digestive system, an endoscopy, or an ambulatory acid probe test.
Over-the-counter medications that control heartburn usually decrease symptoms of acid reflux disease. However, those medications are sometimes not enough. Prescription-strength medications could be one solution, as could surgery. There are surgical procedures -- for example, the reinforcement of the LES, or the creation of a barrier to prevent stomach acid from entering the esophagus -- that patients can consider for symptom relief.