Reflux often exacerbates asthma symptoms in children and adults. Symptoms such as wheezing are worsened by stomach acid irritating the airways. Although acid reflux is extremely common and rarely serious, don’t ignore your acid reflux symptoms. Making a few lifestyle changes and using over-the-counter antacids are often all you need to control acid reflux symptoms. That’s why people with chronic heartburn raise the head of their bed, and why they shouldn’t eat big meals right before bedtime. A ring of muscle, the gastroesophageal sphincter , normally acts as a valve that lets food into the stomach but not back up into the esophagus. When this valve fails, and stomach contents are regurgitated into the esophagus, the symptoms of acid reflux are felt, such as heartburn.
These medications are generally safe and effective, but like any prescription drug, they are not appropriate for all people with reflux disease and can cause side effects. The lining of the stomach is specially adapted to protect it from the powerful acid, but the esophagus is not protected. Antacids can help neutralize acid in the esophagus and stomach and stop heartburn. Many people find that nonprescription antacids provide temporary or partial relief. An antacid combined with a foaming agent helps some people. These compounds are believed to form a foam barrier on top of the stomach that prevents acid reflux from occurring.
If heartburn occurs two or more times a week, it is known as GERD for short. The pain of heartburn may move up toward the neck and throat. Stomach fluid can reach the back of the throat in some cases, producing a bitter or sour taste. Long-term use of antacids, however, can result in side effects, including diarrhea , altered calcium metabolism (a change in the way the body breaks down and uses calcium ), and buildup of magnesium in the body. Too much magnesium can be serious for patients with kidney disease If antacids are needed for more than 2 weeks, a doctor should be consulted.
Endoscopy is an important procedure for individuals with chronic GERD. By placing a small lighted tube with a tiny video camera on the end (endoscope) into the esophagus, the doctor may see inflammation or irritation of the tissue lining the esophagus (esophagitis). If the findings of the endoscopy are abnormal or questionable, biopsy (removing a small sample of tissue) this link from the lining of the esophagus may be helpful. Infants and children with gastroesophageal reflux (GER) may experience repeated regurgitation. This can be harmless and perfectly natural in infants under 18 months old. According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, about half of all infants experience reflux in the first three months of life.