What is Acidity?
There are times we suffer from heartburn near the lower chest area and a burning sensation in the food pipe after eating excessive amounts of spicy and oily foods.
This sensation is called Acidity or acid reflux and is caused by the hydrochloric acid of the stomach flowing back into the food pipe, due to consistent unhealthy eating habits and a poor lifestyle.
For healthy digestion, the stomach has gastric glands that produce acid to aid the process. Acidity is caused when the gastric glands of the stomach produce an excess of acid, due to unhealthy eating, and some amount of the acid content flows up, into the esophagus and the gullet. This is followed by a burning sensation above the stomach.
Symptoms of Acidity
Acidity has many serious symptoms, that may differ from one person to another. However, most problems that lead to gas and flatulence also contribute to the symptoms of acidity. Some highly common symptoms of acid reflux are chest pain and a burning sensation above the stomach.
Some other symptoms of acidity are:
- Burning sensation and pain in stomach, throat, chest
- Difficulty swallowing or the sensation of food being stuck in the throat
- Frequent and excessive burping, belching, or hiccups
- Regurgitation ie. prolonged sour taste in the mouth or bitter-tasting acid that backs up into the throat and mouth
- Post-meal heaviness
- A discomfort in the stomach, with a strong urge to vomit ie. Nausea
Causes of Acidity
- Acidity is caused by unhealthy eating habits, which include skipping meals, overeating, and inappropriate timings of consumption of heavy food, like before sleeping and bathing. Smoking, alcoholism, lack of sleep, stress, excessive exercise are lifestyle reasons for acidity.
- Acid reflux can also be caused by consuming too much of some foods that are sometimes difficult to digest. These foods include tea, coffee, spicy food, excessive citrus fruits like lemon and oranges, and fatty and oily foods like burgers, pizzas, and fries.
- Frequent consumption of steroids, medicines, and drugs for inflammation, high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, and other ailments are also some reasons for acidity.
- Several existing medical conditions also cause acidity in stomach. Ailments like Peptic Ulcers, Asthma, Diabetes, and Hernia are some additional reasons for acidity.
How to diagnose Acidity?
You may go to your doctor for consultation on acidity remedies and know-how on how to reduce acidity. In cases of prolonged acidity, the doctor performs varied tests and x-rays to determine the cause.
Here are some of the common tests for acidity:
Barium Swallow Radiograph
A common way to diagnose severe acidity is through a special x-ray- commonly known as the Barium Swallow Radiograph. For this method of diagnosis, the patient is asked to swallow a solution of barium so that the doctor can take a detailed x-ray of the esophagus. This procedure x-ray is performed to diagnose any structural abnormalities in the esophagus.
Endoscopy or EGD
During an endoscopy, the doctor inserts a small tube with a camera into the patient’s esophagus, through the mouth to view the lining of the food pipe and the stomach. The procedure lasts about 20 to 30 minutes and is used to detect complications related to GERD or hyperacidity (chronic acidity).
A biopsy is a procedure followed by endoscopy, where depending on the results of the EGD, the doctor decides to insert a tiny instrument through the small tube, to take out a small piece of esophageal lining for sampling. This tissue sample is sent to the laboratory for further testing and analysis for any other disease like esophageal cancer.
Home Remedies for Acidity
In cases of mild, and occasional bouts of acidity, there are a few home remedies that can be followed by the patient to avoid any future repercussions. The acidity remedies are:
Keep the head elevated while lying down
People often experience acid reflux at night, causing difficulty in sleeping. Keeping your head elevated while sleeping is an effective home remedy for acidity.
Additionally sleeping on your left side has also been shown to reduce acidity.
Chewing gum increases the formation of saliva which reduces acidity in the esophagus, and the bicarbonate helps in neutralizing acid to avoid reflux.
Don’t have dinner just before sleeping
Eating within 3 hours of sleep is known to cause acidity, worsen acid reflux, and GERD symptoms because lying horizontally makes digestion difficult and increases the esophagus’s acid exposure.
Avoiding eating late at night, or sleeping just after having a meal potentially decreases acid reflux.
Eating large amounts of food increases acid reflux due to excess amounts of acid in the stomach and pressure on the muscle. Eating small meals throughout the day may help in reducing acidity.
Losing weight, especially belly fat is a very effective remedy to prevent and cure acidity.
Medical Treatments for Acidity
In cases of increased symptoms of acidity, emergencies, or a failure of home remedies, trying prescription medical treatments might provide quick relief to the patient.
- Consuming antacids help in neutralizing stomach acid and provide instant relief to the patient.
- H-2-receptor antagonists (H2RAs), and Proton pump inhibitors like Lansoprazole and Omeprazole help in reducing stomach acid.
- If the acidity is severe and prolonged, a Vagotomy might also be suggested by the doctor. A Vagotomy is a surgical procedure where branches of the vagus nerves are cut to reduce gastric secretion.
Surgery for Acidity
Surgery is suggested as a last resort to cure hyperacidity. In case of bleeding ulcers, inflammation of the esophagus, prolonged difficulty in swallowing and severe GERD complications surgeries like Fundoplication, Transoral Incisionless Fundoplication, or Stretta Procedure may be considered by the doctor.
The symptoms of hyperacidity are usually managed with medication, a change in diet, and lifestyle. If these remedies are not effective for the patient, long-term medication is considered.
However, medication often has adverse side-effects on the patient, due to which surgery is the alternative option that is opted by many people suffering from GERD symptoms and complications.
Although people often don’t take acidity seriously, it is usually a wake-up call to improve their quality of life, eating habits and lead a less stressful life. The repercussions of acidity are huge, leading to cancer, bleeding ulcers, and other life-threatening ailments. There are several treatments and home remedies for acidity available. Consult your doctor and take the first step towards a healthy life today.
What food kills acidity?
Bananas, buttermilk, warm water, cold milk, almonds, and mint leaves are effective in relieving you from acidity.
How can I test acid reflux at home?
Simply consume a solution of ¼ tablespoon of baking soda into 120 ml cold water and note the time it takes for you to burp. If you don’t burp within 5 minutes, you probably have insufficient stomach fluid.
What is the main cause of acidity?
Excessive consumption of foods high on fat, or are acidic like chocolates, cheese, peppermint, citrus fruits can cause acidity.
How severe is acidity?
Occasional acidity is not associated with life-threatening diseases or has severe complications. However, chronic acidity if left untreated can cause serious ailments like Esophagitis, Ulcers, Aspiration Pneumonia, etc.