Foods to avoid if you have acid reflux aka Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, commonly referred to as GERD
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Some medical conditions have no respect for age; the young or the old, and Acid Reflux, also known in medical terms as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) seems to be one of them. The lower end of the esophagus is protected by a valve called the Lower Esophageal sphincter (LES). This valve opens to allow food from the esophagus into the stomach and then closes up to protect the esophagus from the acid content of the stomach. Several conditions can compromise this valve, allowing gastric content into the esophagus.
As in adults, infants also suffer from heartburn on occasions. This is mainly attributed to the fact that infants consume essentially liquid and soft foods, which tend to be rich in diary proteins. The most unfortunate part of infant acid reflux disease is that, unlike in adults, it is very difficult to determine if an infant has developed chronic gastroesophageal reflux disease. An infant is most unlikely to be able to complain of heartburn or any symptoms of the disease.
Because infants, unlike adults, cannot complain of symptoms or explain how they feel, it is always very difficult to know when an infant is suffering from acid reflux. The best bet is to consult a pediatrician. Nevertheless, there are signs and clues that you may look out for in your infant that could suggest the presence of the disease. Some of these clues are:
- Sleeping problems
- Weight loss
- Lack of appetite
- Spitting up frequently
- Unusual irritability
- Chest pain
- Sore throat
- Bad breath
Acid reflux disease can also cause respiratory problems including pneumonia, strictures and ulcerations on the esophageal wall, and malnourishment. Although, these signs don't always mean your infant is suffering from acid reflux disease, but they constitute a good enough reason to go see your pediatrician.
Of course, there are a few things you could do to help your child avoid acid reflux. Simple things like changing the child's food, keeping him/her upright for some time, especially after eating, keeping a eye on the child for any sign of chest pain or heartburn and a host of others. This extra attention could be all your child really needs.
Your Independent guide to Acid Reflux
As always, before you attempt to self medicate or try a new health regimen or program we suggest you retain the services of a qualified health care professional.
Acid Reflux - Treating it with Medication
Of course, as with any medical condition, there are numerous ways of treating acid reflux, or to give it its full title, gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Here, we will look at medication.
The usual ingredients of antacids are magnesium or aluminium and they work by neutralising the acid produced in the stomach which is the cause of indigestion and acid reflux.
Antacids and Alignates
Antacids are generally available without a doctor's prescription and relieve the symptoms of acid indigestion and heartburn (dyspepsia). This group often contain sodium alginate which forms a protective coating over the lining of the gullet and the stomach.
Proton Pump Inhibitors
Proton pump Inhibitors are drugs which shut down the system in the stomach called the proton pump. It is this system which produces acid in the stomach, the leaking of which into the oesophagus causes acid reflux.These drugs are taken in the form of tablets or capsules, as a powder to be diluted in water or as injections and are used to treat stomach ulcers and a rather rare condition called Zollinger-Ellison syndrome as well as acid reflux.
Omeprazole and Lansoprazole are well known varieties of this particular type of drug although there are several others.
Side effects are rare although they can include diarrhoea or constipation, stomach pains, wind, drowsiness, dizziness and headaches. In unusual cases, a severe allergic reaction can result. My personal experience with Omeprazole was seriously raised blood pressure and severe head pain. However, replacing Omeprazole with Ranitidine and taking blood pressure reduction medication for a couple of weeks sorted out that problem.
This group of drugs works by attaching to and blocking the H2 receptor area on stomach cells which, when stimulated by the naturally produced chemical, histamine, generates acid.
Ranitidine is the best known of this drug group, others being Nizatidine, Famotidine and Cimetidine.
Side effects are few but can display as diarrhoea, headaches, dizziness and tiredness. Loss of hair has been reported by takers of Cimetidine and with nizatidine, sweating.
Both proton pump inhibitors and H2 receptor antagonists are used together with antibiotics to get rid of Helicobacter pylori infection which can cause stomach ulcers and duodenitis.
Warning: If symptoms of heartburn persist, consult your doctor. They could be indicative of something much more serious than indigestion. Never embark on a course of medication without consulting a doctor. Never take medicines prescribed for somebody else.
Your Independent guide to Acid Reflux
Acid Reflux - Treating it with Diet and Lifestyle Changes
In my previous article, we looked at medication which could be taken to treat acid reflux. In this one, we'll look at the dietary and other considerations to prevent it recurring.
Not good news for the drinkers amongst us. Take heart though, it is probably only excessive drinking that's to blame - perceived wisdom is that a couple of glasses of wine with your dinner won't hurt you, although there is some argument as to whether red or white is better. Personally, I find white wine more acidic and therefore assumed that it would be more likely to cause acid reflux. However, as alcohol prevents the oesophageal sphincter from working properly and thus allows stomach acid to reflux into the oesophagus, the acidity of the alcohol may be irrelevant. Notwithstanding that, when drinking alcohol, limit quantities and dilute spirits with water or a mixer. Wine may also be diluted with water or lemonade. Gassy drinks like champagne and beer should be avoided if possible.
Alcohol is not the only culprit - chocolate, peppermint, coffee, tea, caffeinated soft drinks such as colas and citrus fruit juices also inhibit the normal workings of the oesophageal sphincter so keep intake of these to an absolute minimum, if you can't give them up completely.
Chewing gum and eating hard sweets cause excessive air to be swallowed, thus causing wind and reflux.
Fatty and fried foods also delay the emptying of the stomach so steer clear of any fatty meat, particularly those found on the delicatessen counter, such as salamis, sausages and patés. "Fatty" includes full fat milk and other dairy products (cheese, cream, butter, margarine). Tomatoes can aggravate the condition in some people, as can spices such as chillies (powdered, fresh or dried) and any derivatives like Tabasco. Condiments such as Worcestershire and soy sauces and any sort of horseradish or mustard should also be taken with care.
Now for the good news - you can eat, with some freedom, vegetables (not tomatoes), chicken and turkey (without skin), fish, apples, peaches, melons, pears and berries. You can eat, in moderation, skimmed or semi-skimmed milk, low fat spreads and cottage cheese. Oh, and you can drink water until you float!
A few other things you can do to avoid or alleviate acid reflux are:
Avoid eating large meals - little and often is better.
Avoid eating too late at night.
Don't lie down or bend over when you've just eaten a meal.
Put blocks of wood under the head of the bed to raise it by six inches or so.
Try not to wear tight clothing around the area of the abdomen and stomach.
Nicotine weakens the lower oesophageal muscle - give it up - it's not good for you anyway!
Lose weight if you need to. Obesity is not only usually caused by eating all the foods that you should be avoiding, but leads to worsened acid reflux.
Ultimately, everyone is different and foods that some people can tolerate cause incredibly painful indigestion for others. Only you can tell, so be sensible and avoid those foods that have an adverse effect.
Your Independent guide to Acid Reflux
Acid reflux or indigestion. We all get it. Maybe we've eaten too much or too late in the evening. Maybe we've drunk too much alcohol at that party the night before. We could have bent down to do a bit of weeding too soon after a meal and oops, that pain in the middle of the chest can be quite severe.
What is acid reflux though?
It is the liquid in the stomach regurgitating into the oesophagus (gullet). Much of this liquid is acid produced in the stomach which is harmful to the walls of the oesophagus. Reflux happens to most people but because we spend much of our time upright, gravity ensures that the liquid returns to the stomach unnoticed. In addition, we swallow frequently which again returns regurgitated liquid to the stomach and saliva contains bicarbonate which helps to neutralise the acid in the stomach liquid.
It doesn't do to ignore repeated instances of painful indigestion though, as it could be symptomatic of something much more serious. That refluxing acid can cause lasting damage to the lining of the oesophagus, which, if left untreated, can lead to other conditions.
A friend relates that when she was a child, her father was always chewing on Rennies, a well known antacid in the UK. He used to say that a good belch would cure the indigestion. It later turned out that he had a stomach ulcer. Despite that, when my friend, in turn, started suffering from frequent indigestion, she too chewed on the Rennies and went about her business.
Eventually, she realised that the extent of the indigestion couldn't be normal so she consulted her doctor who referred her to a specialist for an endoscopy.
An endoscopy is a procedure whereby an endoscope, a thin, lighted tube, is inserted down the throat. The endoscope transmits images of the oesophagus, stomach, and duodenum, enabling the specialist to identify problem areas and, if necessary, obtain biopsies. The endoscope is usually inserted while the patient is under sedation thus avoiding the gagging reflex.
To return to my friend, a hiatus hernia was diagnosed. A hiatus hernia occurs when the upper part of the stomach pushes through the opening in the diaphragm where the oesophagus connects with the stomach, allowing the acid from the stomach to reflux. Fortunately, this was a small hiatus hernia, which could be easily treated with a course of medication.
A couple of years went by with only minor instances of indigestion,
then my friend started to experience occasional bouts of very severe
heartburn and sickness which she treated with the usual array of antacid
preparations. Suddenly, one day she woke up with a severe pain in her
lower stomach which didn't respond to the usual remedies and in any event,
didn't resemble any of the normal symptoms of acid reflux.
A visit to the doctor and my friend found herself hospitalised for tests which revealed that the original small hiatus hernia was larger and bleeding and had lead to gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining) and duodenitis (inflammation of the duodenum), both caused by an infection with the Helicobacter pylori bacteria. This bacteria is extremely common, thought to infect 70% of the world's population, although most people do not display any symptoms of the infection.
The moral of this story is "Don't ignore persistent acid reflux, it may be much more that just indigestion".
Watch out for my next article on the treatment of acid reflux.
Your Independent guide to Acid Reflux
Treatment of Acid Reflux
Acid Reflux is the other generally used name of Gastro-esophageal reflux disease, also more often referred as GERD. The disease causes damage to the esophagus as the acidic contents from the stomach, containing acids and pepsin, pushes back to the esophagus since the sphincter becomes weak and can no-more prevent the contents from stomach from gushing back in esophagus. The acidic contents burn the esophagus and causes irritation in the esophagus. This is a chronic disease, which has life long repercussions. The treatment in this case can only help temporarily, i.e., as well as one continues with the medication.
To diagnose Acid Reflux, one can go through gastroscopy, since the symptoms of this disease re so mild that diagnosing them is very difficult and people rather than going to the doctor stick to own medication. The very commonly used resort to escape the pains and the problems from GERD is going for an antacid. These are actually helpful in case of short-term and infrequent attacks of the disease. But these can't provide much relief for a long time.
People can change their diets to actually eliminate or reduce the effects of Acid Reflux. A proper routine can be made to reduce the problem which generally causes due to the irregular habits of eating or eating more junk food and also from excessive drinking. Patients also in this case maintain diaries for keeping a track of what they eating and drinking to keep a check on the recurrence of the attacks of Acid Reflux. And when these controlled diets also don't help in controlling the disease then the doctors resorts to drugs to keep the disease in a controlled position.
The most popular and largely used drug for this disease is PPI (Proton Pump Inhibitors), this is the drug which is generally prescribed by the doctors for relief from the pains causing due to the attacks of Acid Reflux. The drug helps in stopping the production of the acidic contents in the stomach which pushes into esophagus and cause acid reflux. Not many side effects do these drugs have, but are really relieving at times of attacks.
The other drug primarily prescribed by the doctors all over the world is 2 Blocker, which also restores relief to the esophagus. Both these drugs have been proved to be successful drug therapy for long term acid reflux sufferers. But patients with more severe damages, who don't respond to these drugs, are prescribed more radical drugs, with strong effects, known as Promotility agents. These drugs have sometimes adverse side effects, so these are very seldom prescribed by the doctors.
DISCLAIMER: This information is not presented by a medical practitioner and is for educational and informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read. Since natural and/or dietary supplements are not FDA approved they must be accompanied by a two-part disclaimer on the product label: that the statement has not been evaluated by FDA and that the product is not intended to "diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease."
Everytime you turn on the television these days, there is a downpour of over-the-counter and prescription medications for the relief and prevention of acid reflux. As with medications for any ailment, there are theories regarding the disease and how well the medications work.
The tendency for liquid food to cause regurgitation, when combined with the pressure lying in a supine position exerts on the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) constitutes a greater risk of reflux acid incidence in infants. The incidence, however, could also be attributed to some other factors like, the anatomy of the infant's stomach, improper or incomplete development of the lower esophageal sphincter during fetal growth, poor diet, overweight, food allergies and a host of other factors.
From a medical point of view, acid reflux is a condition caused by acidic contents from the stomach moving upward into the esophagus, which results in a burning sensation. When the valve found at the lower end of the esophagus is dysfunctional, it allows the acidic content of the stomach to be regurgitated, where it would block this behavior when functional.
Another belief is that acid reflux is caused by an individual's eating habits. As the civilized world eats more and more junk and processed foods, the majority of the food ends up in the stomach undigested. This undigested material turns into acidic waste, which causes stomach spasms. These spasms create stomach gas which pops open the valve between the stomach and esophagus, allowing the acidic content to return to the esophagus.
Others believe that acid reflux is related to aging. As we age, the activity of the stomach is reduced. This also reduces the ability to produce hydrochloric acid. The result is the stomach turning into a breeding ground for infection which can cause stomach pain and acid waste irritation.
Whatever the cause behind acid reflux, it is often a chronic disease. Therefore, most medications for the disease merely relieve the burning and other symptoms and cannot actually cure the condition. As medications relieve the symptoms caused by acid reflux, they can cause several undesirable side effects due to the fact that they cut down the acid production in the stomach, leading to a reduction in ability to digest food. These medications can make you more susceptible to diseases and microbes transmitted through food. This may increase your risk for food poisoning and a host of other problems.
Before you choose a medication or a natural method to rid yourself of the burning that accompanies acid reflux, you should first make a thorough assessment of the food you eat and your lifestyle. Studies show that foods such as citrus, chocolate, garlic, onions, spicy, fried and fatty foods all contribute to and can aggravate acid reflux. Limiting your intake or avoiding such foods as much as possible is a good first line of defense against future acid reflux bouts.
Lifestyle modification, such as losing weight, cutting back on alcohol and caffeine, sleeping with your head raised six to eight inches, and waiting three hours after eating before going to bed can assist in reducing the number of acid reflux episodes you may have.
Though you should discuss your options with your physician, something as simple as lifestyle improvements and dietary changes can help to keep you from adding an acid blocker or acid reflux medication to your daily diet.
Amanda Baker writes for http://tobeinformed.com - a website for health, fitness and wellness information
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