Acid reflux is a common condition that many people suffer from. In mild cases, antacids after a heavy meal will help. For some people, however, acid reflux is persistent and severe, and typical over-the-counter medications don’t provide much in the way of relief. Here’s how acid reflux can negatively impact your life and what you can do to reduce the symptoms of acid reflux.
Persistent acid reflux, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), can make mealtimes unbearable. It may be difficult to eat anything without experiencing burning chest pain, nausea, and difficulty swallowing. Going to restaurants can be dicey because acid reflux triggers are in nearly everything. Most people with severe acid reflux need to cook at home and use limited seasonings. Rich foods, spicy foods, citrus, tomatoes, onions, garlic, and other common triggers should be avoided, which can make mealtimes challenging.
Sleeping flat with acid reflux can be nearly impossible. Acid and stomach contents can creep up the esophagus, causing burning pain. People with severe GERD may sleep very poorly and wake up often during the night. Sleeping on your left side can help, and a wedge pillow can be used to elevate the upper body so acid is kept in check by the force of gravity. If you have an adjustable bed, you can elevate the head of the bed and sleep more comfortably. It’s not uncommon for individuals with acid reflux to sleep in their recliners to prevent acid rushing into their throats at night.
It can be hard to focus on work when you’re in pain, but certain work activities can worsen acid reflux symptoms. Bending and lifting, in particular, can cause acid to flow up into the esophagus. You may be able to get a note from your physician that allows you to refrain from bending and lifting, or you may be able to modify how you do things in order to avoid symptom flare-ups. For example, you can bend at the knees while keeping your back straight to pick up something off the floor to avoid doubling over and putting pressure on your stomach. You may even be able to use a device that helps you pick up items without having to bend at all. Although modifications can sometimes be made to bring relief at work, having to deal with acid reflux on the job can be difficult and disheartening.
In some cases, the chest pain associated with reflux can mimic the pain of a heart attack. It’s not uncommon for individuals with acid reflux to go to the emergency room during a bad flare-up, thinking that something could be seriously wrong or that it’s their heart that is generating the pain. Because the nerve that runs along the esophagus and to the stomach is the same nerve that is responsible for the autonomic nervous system, the symptoms can be confusing. Some people with reflux will get classic “heart attack” pain in their left arm or may experience heart palpitations. Typically, emergency rooms can provide temporary relief with a “GI cocktail,” which is like an antacid with numbing medicine. They can assure you that it’s not your heart, however, you will be urged to follow up with a specialist for testing to determine how severe your reflux is.
Increased risk of cancer
Prolonged acid reflux can cause a condition known as Barrett’s esophagus, where the cells inside the esophagus mutate in an attempt to better survive in a highly acidic environment. Barrett’s esophagus on its own is not a critical condition, but it must be monitored regularly. There is a small increase in the risk of esophageal cancer when Barrett’s esophagus is present, although the risk is much lower than previously thought.
Acid reflux ruining your life? Get help today
GERD can affect every aspect of your life. It can be hard to feel “well” when you have persistent reflux. Get help today at the IBI Healthcare Institute. Dr. Christopher Ibikunle specializes in acid reflux treatment and can perform diagnostic testing and recommend medication and surgical options that can bring you relief. Book your appointment online today or call us at (678)466-6760. We look forward to helping you find ways to feel better!
- WebMD: What Is Acid Reflux Disease?
- Medical News Today: Learn About Obera
- NIH: Acid Reflux (GER & GERD) in Adults
- MedicineNet: GERD (Acid Reflux, Heartburn)