Is this common or a precursor to bigger health complications?
Is there a constant burning within? Is the annoyance occasional? Do you carry a bottle of Tums around in your bag? Have you been told you must take a prescription proton pump inhibitor indefinitely?
That mild burning sensation in and around your mid-chest area comes and goes, most often after meals or around bedtime when lying down. We all experience a little discomfort here and there with a spicy meal, overindulgence, or acidic foods, but when should there be concern?
Occasional acid reflux is not typically associated with severe complications or long-term illness. However, when reflux is left untreated or occurs more frequently, it can intensify conditions like Barrett's esophagus, ulcers, esophagitis, or esophageal strictures, which is an abnormal narrowing of the esophagus. These chronic circumstances cause pain and make swallowing difficult. Many describe feeling as though they have something stuck in their throat. Over time, the reflux of stomach acid can damage the tissue lining the esophagus. The inflammation can lead to permanent damage.
Acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal disease (GERD), becomes problematic when it occurs frequently or more severely. Common causes of heartburn or discomfort are acidic or
high-fat foods. Spicy and large meals can also induce distress, but additional sources of irritation can include aspirin, ibuprofen, sedatives, and high blood pressure medication. Additionally, stress, carbonated drinks, ulcers, smoking, bacterial infections, hormonal fluctuations, and caffeine can impact when acid flows back up into one's esophagus.
Short-term relief like antiacids, RX meds, and avoidance of certain foods or drinks can help, but digging deeper for long-term improvement is feasible if you are looking for permanent alleviation of symptoms.
Different foods affect us in various ways. Bananas are a natural antiacid that may sound gimmicky but are touted for neutralizing acid and lessening reflux symptoms. Other plant-based foods that aid in reducing excess acid are melons, broccoli, asparagus, and green beans. Whole grains, tofu and nuts, seeds, beans, peas, legumes, yogurt, ginger, and healthy fats can also help with inflammation.
What works for one may not work for another, so finding the best plan usually requires elimination, lifestyle modifications, and stress management.
Adjustments or modifications to try include:
Temporary avoidance of food or drink that trigger discomfort
Restrain from eating too close to bedtime or lying down too soon after a meal
Not wearing tight-fitting clothing, especially around your waist
No excessive alcohol or avoidance altogether for optimal healing
Long-term medications like omeprazole and lansoprazole are examples of proton pump inhibitors that will provide relief but, in continual use, will severely deplete vital stomach acid needed to effectively break down food into nutrients we need to grow, rebuild, and nourish our bodies.
We have become conditioned to live with discomfort or band-aid symptoms as we move about in our daily routines. Still, the long-term consequences will eventually catch up and present with more concerning and unfavorable outcomes to one's health. The price we pay for continual medications is often kept secret or disclosed in print so small it's often overlooked. It is also essential to ask questions and become familiar with the side effects of long-term use.
As of now, if one is actively taking prescribed medicine, it is critical to NOT stop cold turkey without consulting a doctor first. There is a considerable rebound effect that occurs when stopping a PPI. While these drugs offer relief by making the stomach environment more alkaline, ceasing use abruptly will cause a surge of acid, and you will be right where you started.
If nagging symptoms are a constant, speak to a trusted professional and suggest an endoscopy procedure where a thin tube and microscopic camera can identify more severe conditions like ulcers or bacteria such as H Pylori. Seek medical intervention if:
consistent lifestyle adjustments are not helping despite your best efforts
you are experiencing heartburn most days
you have the feeling of food being stuck in your throat
are frequently becoming ill
losing weight for no reason
Lifestyle medicine is the first step in managing the condition and preventing complications. Diagnosing underlying causes requires detective work, but isn't your health worth the effort?
‘Staying loyal to your journey means you never abandon yourself by compromising your integrity or discounting your intuition or the signals that come from your body - the knot in the gut, emotional detachment, or loss of energy that signals something is amiss.”
~ Charlotte Kasl