Acid reflux is a very common problem. However, it is also one that is not always spotted at first by its sufferers, given the wide range of symptoms that it can produce, and which may lead many people to initially conclude that another condition or disease is to blame.
More than 60 million Americans are thought to experience acid reflux at least once a month. Below, we’ve detailed the condition’s most frequent symptoms.
Acid reflux occurs when the valve at the entrance of your stomach – known as the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) – doesn’t close all the way, as it should do as soon as food passes through it. This can lead to acid produced by your stomach backing up into your esophagus.
Heartburn is the most common symptom of acid reflux, manifesting as a painful burning sensation in your chest. While heartburn can sometimes be merely uncomfortable and at other times more painful, its severity does not necessarily signal that lasting or permanent injury has been caused to the esophagus.
Sometimes, traces of the aforementioned stomach acid may reach as high as the back of your throat or mouth, resulting in a bitter or sour taste in your mouth, possibly accompanied by a burning sensation in the throat and mouth.
You may know this symptom better as indigestion. It’s a burning feeling and discomfort in the upper middle part of the stomach, and is associated with a wide range of its own symptoms, from heartburn and a bloated feeling to an upset stomach and vomiting or burping a lot.
These symptoms should not be ignored, given that they could indicate another disorder known as peptic ulcer disease. Ulcers can cause various chronic symptoms and may occasionally bleed. In the worst cases, an untreated ulcer could even burrow right through the stomach, resulting in perforation, which is a medical emergency.
This is the term given for the feeling of food, liquid or bile moving up your throat instead of down. Vomiting can even occur, although this is rarely seen in adults.
For infants and children with gastroesophageal reflux (GER), however, it’s a different matter – they may repeatedly regurgitate, although this is often harmless and perfectly natural in infants below 18 months of age. The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NIDDIC), for example, has said that about half of all infants experience reflux before they are three months old.
If your voice is starting to crack, your initial instinct may be that you are in the early stages of a cold. However, it could also indicate heartburn.
That’s because your vocal chords can be irritated by stomach acid that seeps into your esophagus. So if you do sound more husky than usual and it occurs after you have eaten, we would – if we were you – be very suspicious of acid reflux.
Often accompanying the aforementioned hoarseness is a sore throat, which arises due to the escaped stomach acid causing irritation to the throat. You may also experience the sensation of a lump in your throat.
So how can you be sure that a given sore throat can be attributed to acid reflux instead of a cold or flu? Well, it’ll ache only after meals, can also be chronic and won’t be accompanied by other symptoms like sniffling or sneezing… unless you just happen to have a cold or the flu at the same time, of course.
A reflux-related dry cough can occur in both children and adults. It may arise due to stomach acid getting into your lungs, meaning that you feel the need to repeatedly cough or clear your throat.
If such coughing happens immediately after eating – thereby leading you to suspect acid reflux – you may wish to discuss with your doctor the idea of having a pH test performed. It’s an outpatient procedure that measures how much acid is in your esophagus over a 24-hour period, so that you can determine whether you have acid reflux.
There is an oft-mentioned relationship between acid reflux and asthma, although the nature of that relationship – for example, whether frequent heartburn may actually cause asthma to develop in a person – is unclear.
Nonetheless, there can be little doubt that such symptoms as coughing and wheezing can be worsened by stomach acid irritating your airways.
Nausea is one of those symptoms that seem to be associated with pretty much every condition or disease going – so if it’s your only symptom, you may not exactly initially attribute it to acid reflux.
Yet, for many sufferers of acid reflux, nausea is literally their one symptom. So if you experience nausea and nothing else and it comes on straight after meals, you should certainly strongly consider that it could be acid reflux.
Your mouth suddenly producing more saliva than usual could be another indicator of acid reflux, as it may be your body’s way of trying to wash out an irritant in the esophagus. It’s a phenomenon known as water brash, and the nerves and reflex used are the same as those used for vomiting.
As you can see, the symptoms associated with acid reflux are much broader than you may have initially guessed. Nonetheless, by keeping yourself educated on such symptoms and watching for them if you do feel unwell after eating, you will be able to determine so much sooner that acid reflux is the likely problem.
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