Acid reflux is a common condition with heartburn as its major symptom. There is a lot of research on acid reflux and how it degenerates into a more severe condition like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Acid reflux can cause a lot of discomfort in the body and the need to suppress the burning sensation and other symptoms are very high. A lot of people keep antacids and other over the counter medicines at home when they begin to feel a heartburn sensation. Some try out home remedies like milk, apple cider vinegar, etc, for temporary relief.
UNDERSTANDING ACID REFLUX
What Is Acid Reflux?
Acid reflux is a condition in the digestive system where the acid juices in the stomach find a way to travel back into the esophagus and line up the tract. The acidic contents then attack the linings of the esophagus and cause an inflammation which gives a burning sensation. As cited earlier, frequent acid reflux grows into a more severe condition; the gastroesophageal reflux disease.
What Causes Acid Reflux?
There’s no exact condition that causes acid reflux but there are different factors or conditions that can enable the development.
Some of these conditions or factors include:
Eating certain foods like spicy foods, beverages, fatty foods, chocolates, alcohol, etc.
Eating late in the night
Usage of aspirin and ibuprofen
Hiatus hernia: a condition where the upper region of the stomach and the lower esophageal sphincter shifts above the diaphragm. The sphincters will no longer be able to keep stomach contents from returning into the esophagus.
How Acid Reflux Occurs
In the digestive system, food passes through the mouth into the esophagus before moving down into the stomach. The esophagus is more like a linking tube that connects the mouth and the stomach. It connects continuously with the pharynx directly attached to the back cavity of the mouth. The muscles present in the esophagus acts upon food taken in through the mouth to make sure they’re pushed down into the stomach.
There are also two special kinds of these muscles at the ends of the esophagus known as the upper esophageal sphincter (UES) and the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). These sphincters are circular in shape. The UES is located at the junction between the pharynx and the esophagus, it helps prevent food from returning into the mouth while the LES is located at the junction between the esophagus and stomach.
It’s very important for food boluses already pushed down into the stomach not to return and that’s why the LES is present in the digestive tract; it helps prevent food in the stomach refluxing back into the esophagus.
There are also cells in the stomach that line up the walls to shield it from the corrosive actions of stomach acids and digestive juices present but the esophagus sadly lacks these cells and therefore is not protected. The stomach combines the food passed down by the esophagus with the necessary enzymes and acids to initiate the process of digestion.
Now when there is a situation where this stomach mixture finds a way to reflux back into the esophagus, there’ll be inflammation in the tract. The acids will react violently with the lining of the esophagus because of the absence of protective layers like we have in the stomach. When this happens one is said to have an acid reflux condition and the heartburn sensation that’s being felt is a result of the inflammation that occurs in the esophagus.
Symptoms Of Acid Reflux
Symptoms of Acid Reflux can be mild or severe depending on how critical the condition might be. Symptoms shouldn’t be ignored as complications can arise from the continuous refluxing of acidic contents. In some people, these symptoms worsen at night or after every meal. Eating foods like chocolates, spicy foods, fatty foods, etc can also worsen the symptom.
The common symptoms of Acid Reflux include:
Bloody Vomit, etc.
Diagnosis Of Acid Reflux
There are different tests the doctor can recommend to diagnose acid reflux. Having symptoms are not enough to confirm it is acid reflux, it could be a symptom of another condition. Below are some tests to help you determine to reach a more concrete diagnosis;
Esophageal Manometry: This diagnosis examines the regular muscle contractions in your gullet while you swallow. It furthermore deals with the coordination and power exerted by the muscles of your esophagus.
Upper Endoscopy: In this test, a thin, plastic tube would be inserted down your throat. The tube would have light and a camera (endoscope). It would analyze the insides of your esophagus in order to detect any form of inflammation that might be present.
Digestive Tract X-ray: You’ll be required to drink a chalky liquid when they’re about to take the X-ray of your digestive tract. The liquid will glaze the lining of your esophagus and run down into the intestine. The glazing will make it easier for the doctor to have a vivid picture of the esophagus, stomach, and intestines. From the X-ray, they’ll be able to detect parts of the tract affected by the acid reflux.
Treatment for Acid Reflux
There are different ways in which the symptoms of acid reflux can be managed. We can categorically divide them into two parts depending on their severity; non-surgical and surgical treatment.
Non-surgical Treatment: This form of treatment is the most common treatment adopted for acid reflux. It helps manage the symptoms to ensure the condition doesn’t get worse. There are two types of non-surgical treatments for acid reflux.
Natural or Home Remedies: These are different medications that can be found in the home or other natural sources. They are easily accessible and can give quick relief from the symptoms of acid reflux. Some of these home remedies are baking soda, apple cider vinegar, milk, chewing gums, avoiding raw onions, sleeping with the bed slightly elevated, and many others.
Over the counter medications: Over the counter medicines are simply drugs you can purchase without having a doctor’s prescription. You can easily walk into a pharmaceutical store and request them without presenting any form of prescription slip. OTCs are widely used for the treatment of acid reflux, some of them include antacids, milk of magnesia, lansoprazole, Omeprazole magnesium, cimetidine, ranitidine, nizatidine, etc.
Surgical Treatment: Surgical treatment is recommended by the doctor in a more severe condition of gastroesophageal reflux disease. Common home remedies or over the counter medications might not suffice to manage the condition at that stage. Laparoscopic Anti-reflux Surgery also known as Nissen fundoplication is the surgical procedure for the treatment of GERD.
APPLE CIDER VINEGAR AS A TREATMENT FOR ACID REFLUX
What Is Apple Cider Vinegar?
Apple Cider Vinegar is made by grinding apples, extracting the liquid, and allowing it to ferment. Sometimes the fermentation can either be natural or by addition of yeast.
Acetic acid is the main component in the apple cider vinegar as a result of the fermentation process.
Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar For Acid Reflux
Raw apple cider vinegar is rich in proteins and can aid the digestion process in the body. Acetic acid fights against certain bacteria in the digestive tract and helps soothe the linings of the esophagus where inflammation has occurred.
It may also increase the amount of acid in the digestive tract to balance out the level of acidity.
Usage of Apple Cider Vinegar.
It’s recommended to consume the liquid in small quantities in order to avoid an excessive increase of acid level. It’s safer to dilute first with water before consumption to reduce the corrosive action of the acetic acid. You can also add two tablespoons of honey to help cushion the acidic effects.
Side Effects Of Apple Cider Vinegar.
While the risk of developing different forms of the adverse effect is minimal in some people, the effects can also be very hard on others. Some of the side effects that may be experienced include:
Worsened Heartburn: The acetic acid present in the vinegar can increase the irritation in the esophagus and result in a more burning sensation.
Tooth Erosion: Apple cider vinegar especially the raw one can attack the gum of the tooth and erode the enamel. In order to avoid this complication, people often dilute the vinegar with water before consumption and rinse the mouth properly with water or mouthwash after consumption.
Drug Antagonism: It can also interact negatively with other medications in the body like laxatives, insulin, diuretics, etc.
There is no extensive research to confirm that apple cider vinegar exactly treats acid reflux but there is evidence to show it helps relieve symptoms. Although it works for some, it worsens the symptoms in other people.
To be on a safer side, it shouldn’t be consumed in raw form and large quantities. Combined with other natural remedies, lifestyle changes, and over the counter medications, if symptoms persist, one should see a doctor immediately.