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How to treat reflux

Updated on June 9, 2013

A man with reflux


What is reflux?

Anyone who has ever experienced reflux knows all too well how unpleasant it can be. Also known as GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), it is a very common condition with around 20% of Americans experiencing reflux symptoms at least once a week.

The mouth is connected to the stomach via the esophagus. Food stays in the stomach due to tightening of a ring of muscles at the base of the esophagus, called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). When this sphincter doesn’t close properly, stomach contents including food and stomach acid, get splashed back up the esophagus. This causes a burning sensation, which many people call “heartburn”.

What causes reflux?

The lower esophageal sphincter can become weakened due to a number of causes. Hiatal hernia, smoking, obesity, pregnancy, and a range of medications may all cause weakening of the LES, promoting reflux symptoms.

What are the symptoms of reflux?

The primary symptom of reflux is the burning sensation of stomach contents rising up the esophagus. This sensation may be worsened by lying down or bending over, and is often rapidly relieved by using antacids. Other common symptoms may include a feeling that something is stuck behind the breastbone; and nausea may be experienced when eating.

What is the treatment for reflux?

Reflux is usually effectively treated with antacids. This is a suitable treatment option for people who experience infrequent symptoms. Over the counter medications such as Zantac (ranitidine) reduce the amount of stomach acid released. These can be effective in preventing reflux, and may be used in combination with antacids. Prescription medications such as Nexium (esomeprazole) and Protonix (pantoprazole) are the strongest available medications for reducing stomach acid production, and may be needed for people who experience frequent symptoms and who may be at risk of other disorders of the stomach and esophagus.

What other ways can reflux be treated?

There are numerous lifestyle changes that can be made to help treat reflux. Avoiding certain foods that trigger reflux can be very helpful in reducing the frequency and severity of reflux attacks. Having smaller, more frequent meals may also be helpful. Sleeping propped up on pillows in bed rather than supine can help prevent reflux from occurring. Avoiding medications that can cause reflux such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil) and naproxen (Aleve) can be beneficial. Seek advice from a pharmacist or doctor to review your prescription medications, as there are several that can contribute to reflux symptoms.

Reflux is a common problem that can be easily treated for most people. Taking medications and making lifestyle changes are simple ways reflux is usually treated. If symptoms become severe or increase in frequency, seek medical advice.

General Note:

This article is of a general nature and in no way should be seen as a substitute for your own doctor’s or health professional’s advice. The author accepts no responsibility for loss occasioned to any person acting on or refraining from action as a result of the published information. Before commencing any health treatment, always consult your doctor.

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    • smpharm profile image

      Sarah Knight 4 years ago from Brisbane, Australia

      Thanks, I'm glad you found it helpful :)

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 4 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      my hubby used to have bloated stomach and reflux almost everyday. He had tried ENO and seems to work well. Anyway, eating too fast , causing indigestion causes stomach reflux too. Great article and thanks for writing out the medications.