How to Treat Acid Reflux at Home
If pain or burning in your throat or chest keeps you up at night, you might have acid reflux. It happens to everyone occasionally, but diet and lifestyle changes can help. Keep reading to learn more about what causes it and how to treat acid reflux at home.
What Does Acid Reflux Feel Like?
Acid reflux happens when acid from your stomach backs up into your esophagus, the tube that connects your throat and stomach. The acid causes a burning sensation in the middle of your chest and toward your throat. Mild acid reflux is commonly called heartburn.
Besides the burning, you might also have these symptoms:
- Regurgitation, a feeling like your stomach contents are backing up into your throat.
- Chest pain.
- Problems swallowing.
- A hoarse voice.
- A chronic cough.
Acid reflux symptoms can last for a few minutes or hours. They often feel worse at night when you lie down but they can happen anytime.
Some symptoms, like chest pain or nausea, are similar to a heart attack. This can make it hard to tell the difference between heartburn and a heart attack. So if you’re having chest pain, call 911 just to be safe.
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What Causes Acid Reflux?
Acid reflux develops when the ring of muscles between your stomach and esophagus (the lower esophageal sphincter or LES) relaxes too much. Normally, these muscles only open when you swallow to let food or drinks pass through your esophagus and into your stomach. They should close tightly afterward.
If the muscles are weak or too relaxed, acid from your stomach can escape and back into your esophagus. It happens to everyone from time to time. But you’re more likely to experience frequent acid reflux if:
- You’re pregnant.
- You’re overweight or obese.
- You smoke cigarettes.
- You have a hiatal hernia, an opening in your diaphragm that lets the upper part of your stomach move into your chest.
- You take certain medications for high blood pressure, asthma, or NSAID pain relievers.
How to Treat Acid Reflux at Home
Home remedies for acid reflux include diet, lifestyle changes, and over-the-counter (OTC) medicines if needed. An excellent place to start is by limiting these foods that often trigger acid reflux:
- Fried or fatty foods.
- Spicy foods.
- Tomatoes or foods with tomato sauce.
- Citrus fruits like oranges or grapefruit.
- Coffee, tea, or other caffeinated drinks.
Doctors also recommend losing weight if you’re overweight. Excess weight puts pressure on your abdomen and LES muscles, triggering heartburn symptoms.
These things can also help reduce your symptoms:
- Eat smaller meals. If you’re hungry throughout the day, add healthy snacks between your meals.
- Eat dinner earlier. Allow at least three hours between your last meal and bedtime (or lying on the couch). Acid reflux symptoms are often worse if you lie down shortly after eating.
- Raise the head of your bed six to eight inches with a foam wedge or use extra pillows. Sleeping on an incline helps acid stay down.
- If you smoke, quit.
You can also try OTC medicines. Antacids are helpful for occasional acid reflux. They work by neutralizing stomach acid.
If you have more frequent or persistent symptoms, ask your healthcare provider about using an H2 blocker or proton pump inhibitor (PPI). These are available OTC and work by reducing the amount of acid your stomach produces. These medicines work well, but you shouldn’t take them long-term.
When to Call the Doctor
Mild acid reflux symptoms usually go away quickly, especially with diet and lifestyle changes. But if acid reflux happens frequently or your symptoms are severe enough to interfere with sleep or daily activities, visit your doctor.
Your health care provider can help you get to the root of the problem so you can manage your reflux better. They can also check you for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a more severe, long-lasting form of acid reflux.
Left untreated, GERD can cause complications like:
- Inflammation or bleeding in your esophagus.
- Narrowing in your esophagus which makes it hard to swallow.
- Barrett’s esophagus, a condition in which the cells in your esophagus change and increase your risk of esophageal cancer.
- Wearing away of your enamel.
- Laryngitis, which causes you to lose your voice from time to time.
To treat GERD, your doctor may recommend the same diet, lifestyle, and OTC treatments used to treat acid reflux. But if these don’t work well enough, you may need a prescription medication or surgery.
Whether you have mild or more severe acid reflux, home remedies often help. Your health care team can guide you in making the necessary diet and lifestyle changes. And your doctor can advise you on the best medications to try if you need further relief.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Acid Reflux (GER & GERD) in Adults. LINK
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