What Exactly is Acid Reflux?Published on Tuesday, November 02, 2021 by
Is it acid reflux or is it heartburn....and is there a difference?
You may find acid reflux formally referred to as gastroesophageal reflux (GER), as opposed to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Acid reflux can occur when your stomach acids or indigestion from food from your stomach come back into your esophagus through the relaxation of your lower esophageal sphincter (LES) and/or if you have an increase in abdominal pressure.
Your LES is critical to keeping your stomach acids in your stomach and not in your esophagus, so if the muscles of the LES are weakened by any means or if you have delay in the emptying of your stomach contents, you are at risk of experiencing acid reflux/GER.
The most common symptom of acid reflux is heartburn. Heartburn is most often described as a burning feeling in the chest or throat. The lining of your esophagus is sensitive to the exposure of stomach acid, which is why there is often a burning sensation and at times pain in the throat. Some individuals who experience heartburn also report a tart, bitter taste in their mouth and pain when bending over or lying down.
A Few Quick Tips for Preventing Acid Reflux
Depending on the sensitivity of the esophageal tissue, foods that cause heartburn in some individuals might not affect others. Typical foods that cause irritation include carbonated beverages, spicy foods, and citrus fruits (such as lemons and oranges). High-fat meals both have a tendency to decrease LES pressure while delaying gastric emptying time, which are both contributors to acid reflux.
Having your beverages between meals and making sure that you are getting enough fiber to prevent constipation will help to keep your abdominal pressure controlled. Getting your meals and snacks in at least 2-3 hours before you lay down for the night will also help ensure that your food has had time to steer clear of your esophagus.
We will be diving even further into acid reflux here at Foodguides, but the important take-away right now is that if you are experiencing this infrequently, it is considered normal. However, if this is something that is happening to you more than twice a week, you should contact your medical provider because it could be a sign of a more serious health condition, such as GERD.
If you are experiencing pressure or crushing pain in the chest, it could be a sign of a heart attack and you should call 9-1-1 to seek medical attention immediately.
Additional ways to help prevent acid reflux are to keep your portions in check. If you are finding that you are having acid reflux after eating a larger meal, be mindful of your servings in the future. Here are some food recommendations to help increase your whole-grains, which can help prevent acid reflux by increasing fiber and helping you manage your portions by staying fuller longer:
Allison KochPhD, RDN