Acid reflux is an uncomfortable, sometimes painful condition that affects the digestion system. A ring of muscle, the lower esophageal sphincter, opens and closes as food moves through into the stomach. When this opening does not seal entirely or opens too often, acid from the stomach can bubble up into the esophagus. Eating late, over-eating, pregnancy, and living an unhealthy lifestyle can cause acid reflux, which results in symptoms of varying severity. If acid reflux occurs more than two times per week, it may be a sign of a chronic form of acid reflux called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Heartburn, a burning sensation or pain in the chest, is one of the first noticeable signs of acid reflux. While heartburn is not always a sign of chronic acid reflux, if other symptoms are also evident, reflux could be the cause. Sometimes pain in the chest is an indicator that stomach acid is entering the esophagus, though it can also indicate heart problems, and in some cases, acid reflux or heartburn and heart issues are mistaken for one another. Prolonged chest pain should always prompt a person to seek medical evaluation.
Acid reflux can also cause bloating, caused by excess gas or acid in the stomach. Many conditions can cause bloating, and anyone who experiences this symptom frequently or recurrently should see a medical professional if minor lifestyle changes do not have a positive effect.
Burping has many causes, including swallowing air while eating or drinking carbonated beverages that create excess gas. However, burping frequently may also be a warning sign of acid reflux. Acid in the stomach increases the tendency to swallow air. When air builds up, the body attempts to release the excess pressure through burping.
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Bleeding in the intestines, stomach, or esophagus can cause black or very dark stool. Bleeding from the esophagus usually occurs when the esophagus is severely inflamed and always needs immediate medical attention. Internal bleeding can be life-threatening. Like many symptoms of acid reflux, there are many causes of bloody bowel movements, and this is another symptom that should be evaluated by a medical professional.
Dysphagia is the medical term for difficulty swallowing. Acid reflux can cause scarring and swelling of the lower esophagus. This makes the tube narrow, which makes swallowing food difficult. People who experience this symptom should cut their food into small pieces and chew each bite thoroughly. It is important to seek medical attention. Long-standing acid reflux can damage the lining of the esophagus, causing chronic inflammation. This development must be closely monitored as it increases the risk of developing cancer of the esophagus.
Nausea is yet another symptom attributable to many conditions. When considered alone, without other symptoms, it can be difficult to determine the cause of nausea. It is a common symptom of acid reflux, and may be identified as such by when it occurs. This type of nausea typically manifests right after a meal, especially large meals. While a doctor can prescribe medications, over-the-counter drugs can also help relieve this symptom in minor cases.
Weight loss can also be a symptom of acid reflux and other conditions that affect digestion. Acid reflux causes a variety of digestive problems, including severe cramping and pain. Many people with acid reflux find it difficult to eat, especially large or even adequate meals. Some individuals also avoid eating for fear of subsequent discomfort. They may develop a habit of skipping meals or reducing portions. Extreme, rapid weight loss is unhealthy and a physician can offer solutions. Weight loss can sometimes be a sign of other health issues, so it's important to seek medical evaluation.
Sore throats often prompt people to assume they have an infection, but this symptom can also point to a digestive problem such as acid reflux. Heartburn can also cause a sore throat. In both cases, the rise of acid in the esophagus causes burning and irritation of the tissues that line the throat. Often, over-the-counter pain medications can help with the pain, as most have anti-inflammatory properties, but this will not prevent the issue from recurring in the future, as it doesn't address the underlying problem.
An individual with acid reflux may experience unsavory tastes, the most common of which is stomach acid. This occurs when the acids from the stomach splash up into the esophagus. Gaseous issues can also bring stomach acid up into the mouth. Many people experiencing acid reflux frequently use mouth or dental rinses. Rinsing the mouth with or chewing on products containing peppermint can both mask this bad taste and may also help settle the stomach, though some people with GERD find it exacerbates the issue.
Some people with acid reflux experience few or no symptoms when standing or sitting upright, unless they eat a large meal or wear tight clothing that constricts the stomach. However, when a person experiencing acid reflux lies down flat, acid can drain into the esophagus, causing pain and severe heartburn. This can also occur when a person bends over. Elevating the head of the bed seven inches or more may help relieve nighttime acid reflux.
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