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Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease or simply acid reflux is a fairly common gastric complaint that affects over a million people worldwide. Acid reflux disease is a combination of troublesome symptoms as well as complications resulting from involuntary reflux of gastric contents into the esophagus.
Gastro-oesophageal reflux is a normal physiological process that occurs several times throughout the day without damaging the esophageal mucosa. In gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GERD), reflux of gastric contents produces severe and frequent symptoms that adversely affect patientsâ€™ quality of life.
On the other hand, patients who are on regular treatment for acid reflux show an improvement in the quality of life in the form of improved physical and mental functioning, emotional stability, and a decrease in physical pain.
This article will let you know the causes and signs and symptoms of acid reflux and does water help acid reflux. And also know how does water and acid reflux are related to each other?
Causes Of Acid Reflux
1. Lower Oesophageal Sphincter (LES) Dysfunction
The junction between the stomach and the esophagus is guarded by the lower oesophageal sphincter. Loss of tone of this sphincter when food enters the stomach allows the same contents to reflux into the esophagus.
2. Uncoordinated or Weak Oesophageal Contractions
Facilitate improper or incomplete passage of food into the stomach resulting in reflux. Prolonged contact of food with the oesophageal mucosa causes irritation and adverse symptoms.
3. Gastric Contents
The irritating nature of stomach contents can also reflux of gastric contents including hydrochloric acid secreted into the stomach.
Acid reflux disease tends to be more common among elderly people as there is a progressive decrease in muscle tone as age advances.
5. Food Habits
Excess consumption of tea, coffee, or extremely oily or spicy food, irregular meal timings, unusually large meal portions especially before bedtime.
Signs And Symptoms Of Acid Reflux
Acid reflux presents with some characteristic signs and symptoms which allow quick diagnosis, such as;
- Heartburn is a peculiar burning sensation felt in the chest often radiating towards the mouth.
- Heartburn may also be associated with a sour taste in the mouth due to the regurgitation of gastric contents.
- Nausea and vomiting may be present along with acid reflux.
- People suffering from acid reflux more commonly exhibit extra-oesophageal symptoms such as;
- Constant attempt to clear the throat
- Hoarseness of voice
- The sensation of a lump in the throat
Does Drinking Hot Water Help Acid Reflux?
Management of acid reflux requires a combination of conventional medical treatment along with a slight alteration in diet and lifestyle. Here you can know the relation between water and acid reflux.
It has been general advice by doctors and dieticians to all people to drink at least 6-8 glasses of water every day. This section will clear out a common doubt, of how does water and acid reflux are related to each other and also know how does drinking water help in treating acid reflux.
- Water does provide some relief to people suffering from acid reflux since it has a neutral pH.
- The neutral pH of normal water not only helps to neutralize the acid up to some extent.
- Drinking warm water also works in a great way to clear out the esophagus of refluxed food and acid.
- Apart from its role in rinsing the mouth and esophagus, it also helps to maintain adequate hydration.
- Hot water can also be consumed with a tablespoon of baking soda for better results. This must be avoided by pregnant women and people with hypertension.
- Recently, a lot is being spoken about alkaline water and acid reflux and their benefits in reducing the effects of acid reflux.
- Alkaline water, just as the name suggests has an alkaline pH that neutralizes the acid and eases heartburn.
- Although alkaline water or simply plain water can neutralize pH and ease acid reflux, it cannot treat the root cause for acid reflux.
Concern On Water For Acid Reflux
- Although water is the most convenient, easily available, and most cost-effective way of managing acid reflux naturally, drinking an excess of water can also be harmful. It can cause an imbalance in the minerals present in the blood leading to additional problems.
- Another thing to keep in mind is that water must not be taken along with food. The stomach requires an acidic environment to break down and digest food.
- When we consume water along with meals, the lower oesophageal sphincter tends to remain open resulting in food getting refluxed into the esophagus.
- Also, it is better to stick to plain and natural water instead of opting for flavored water or water which contains artificial sweeteners added minerals, and flavors as these ingredients can further irritate the oesophageal mucosa resulting in worsening of acid reflux symptoms.
Some Additional Tips To Manage Acid Reflux
- Avoid unusually heavy meals. Instead, opt for eating smaller meal portions but well-timed.
- Avoid warm milk. Although it is said that milk helps to soothe the stomach, yet proteins and fats present in milk can worsen acid reflux.
- Being overweight is one of the causes of hiatus hernia. Losing weight helps greatly in reducing acid reflux symptoms.
- Limit alcohol intake as it exacerbates the symptoms of regurgitation and heartburn. Studies have also shown that even a small quantity of alcohol can cause acid and food reflux among healthy individuals.
- Avoid excess coffee. It is found that caffeine is a possible culprit for the loss of tone of the lower oesophageal sphincter.
- Chewing gums contain bicarbonate which helps to reduce the effects of refluxed acid upon the esophagus. However, it does not directly stop the acid reflux.
- Avoid carbonated drinks as they temporarily relax the lower oesophageal sphincter allowing reflux of acid and gastric contents.
- Limit or avoid drinking citric juices as they may irritate the already damaged oesophageal lining causing worsening of heartburn.
- Avoid going to sleep within three hours after eating.
- Avoid sleeping on the right side. Sleep with head slightly high.
- Avoid cigarette smoking or nicotine products in general as they make the lower oesophageal sphincter lax resulting in regurgitation and acid reflux.