Today I am going to talk about reflux. The acidic burning and painful feeling you have in your throat after you have eaten too much or eaten certain foods. The pain that goes away after you have an antacid such as Gaviscon or after you take your prescription medication.
Why do I get reflux?
Around 20% of Australians experience reflux (Gastro-Oesophageal reflux) once a week and it is one of the most common gastrointestinal conditions in Australia. It represents a relaxation of the valve that is between the oesophagus and the stomach allowing acidic contents of the stomach to flow back up, even reaching the mouth where you taste that disgusting acidic bile taste.
The cause is a relaxation in the valve, often caused by a hiatus hernia. The valve should be a one-way valve allowing food into the stomach but not the other way around
This image shows the normal stomach on the left and a hiatus hernia on the right which causes a change in the behaviour of the valve from the oesophagus to the stomach.
The main symptoms are heartburn and often regurgitation of foods, but you can also have a cough, sore throat, or feel like food is sticking in your throat.
A significant way to manage GORD is to lose some weight if you are overweight or obese, around a 10% loss of weight can be quite effective
Avoid eating 3-4 hours before going to bed as it takes your stomach 3-4 hours to empty after eating
Eat smaller meals
Try to avoid foods that affect the pressure on the valve including foods high in fat, chocolae, caffeine and alcohol
Raise the head of the bed
Avoid tomatoes, even sauces with a tomato base, avoid fruit juice and citrus fruits.
Don't wear tight clothes around your stomach area
There are three main types of medications:-
1. Antacids such as Gaviscon which you use when symptoms are present and they neutralise the acid. These are often purchased over the counter at the pharmacy, or even the supermarket
2. H2 Antagonists - such as Zantac which reduce the secretion of acid from the stomach and help for longer than an antacid
3. PPI therapy such as Nexium or Somac, you need a prescription for these medications.
These are very effective, however should only be used for shorter periods of time
Alternatively, there are those who may require surgical intervention to help with symptom management for the long term, depending on the severity of the condition.
To find out more, discuss your symptoms with your GP, and if further dietary and lifestyle advice is required, make an appointment with your dietitian. Reflux can be quite debilitating and importantly if not managed well you can find that your oesophagus can become damaged by the acid contents of the stomach, and so finding the cause, and the best management of symptoms is important for long term good health.