According to the American College of Gastroenterology, about 60 million Americans experience heartburn at least once a month. Almost all of us have occasionally overeaten (or drank), and experienced that feeling of mild tightness in the chest. But do you know why this happens? In short, heartburn is typically a symptom of acid reflux.

Acid reflux is a very commonly occurring condition during which some of the acidic contents of the stomach travel back up into the esophagus, causing uncomfortable symptoms. Although sometimes unavoidable, there are a variety of factors that are known to increase your chances of symptoms. Also keep in mind that even though occasional bouts of acid reflux are fairly common, frequent incidents can be a symptom of GERD.


What Are The Symptoms Of Reflux In Adults?

The main symptoms of acid reflux are heartburn and an acidic taste in the back of the throat. Heartburn will typically feel like discomfort or a slight “burning” sensation in the chest, and will sometimes start in your stomach and travel upwards. Please be aware, however, that not all chest pain is caused by acid reflux, and that sudden bouts of chest pain can be signs of a cardiac issue.

  • Heartburn: A burning sensation in the chest that occurs after eating or drinking
  • Chest pain: A feeling of pressure or pain in the chest
  • Sour taste in the mouth: A metallic or sour taste that occurs when stomach acids come up into the mouth
  • Regurgitation: The feeling of stomach acid or food coming back up into the throat
  • Hoarseness: A change in the voice caused by stomach acid irritating the voice box

What Are The Warning Signs Of Reflux?

As mentioned earlier, a bitter/sour taste in the back of the throat and some chest pain are the most common signs that you might have a case of acid reflux. Having said that, you should also keep an eye on how often these bouts happen. Frequently occurring acid reflux can be a sign of GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease).


What Are The 4 Types Of Acid Reflux?

Acid reflux itself just references a commonly occurring, short-term condition during which some of your stomach acids travel back up into the esophagus. It’s important to differentiate GERD from just acid reflux. GERD is a chronic and progressive disease during which acid reflux regularly occurs. 

GERD is a more severe form of reflux that can cause more serious problems, such as inflammation and scarring of the esophagus. It can also lead to pneumonia if stomach acids are inhaled into the lungs.

There are 4 commonly recognized types of GERD:

  1. Mild GERD.
  2. Moderate GERD.
  3. Severe GERD.
  4. Precancerous lesions or esophageal cancer.


Foods That Cause Acid Reflux

Infographic showing which foods to eat or avoid to cure acid reflux


According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, the biggest culprits when it comes to acid reflux are typically foods that delay the digestive process and cause the esophageal sphincter to relax. Foods that are salty, fatty, or spicy are particularly common offenders.

Considering this, it’s best to avoid foods such as:

  • Fried food
  • Pizza
  • Potato chips
  • Processed snacks
  • Salt, pepper, and chili powder
  • Fatty meats such as bacon and sausage
  • Cheese
  • Carbonated beverages


What Food Helps Acid Reflux Go Away?

Although there aren’t any foods that can instantly make acid reflux “go away,” most sources agree on a general set of foods that help prevent it. Generally speaking, foods that are high in fiber are considered a solid option for those trying to avoid symptoms. Think oatmeal and whole grains rather than bread and cookies. As for vegetables and fruits, try to select options that are less acidic. Some good options would be nuts, watermelons, and bananas. 


How Can I Relieve Acid Reflux?

The best way to relieve acid reflux is usually by addressing your diet. As mentioned earlier, staying away from fatty foods, salt, and carbonated beverages can be a huge help in trying to reduce reflux. Aside from this, over-the-counter medication such as Tums or  Pepto-Bismol can help relieve mild heartburn as well. 

Some experts also say that physical movements or changes can ease acid reflux as well. For example, elevating your feet or avoiding food before bedtime are often touted as easy ways to avoid digestive issues.

Does Water Help Acid Reflux?

Water can dilute the contents of your stomach and wash down anything stuck in your esophagus. So if you are already mid-bout of acid reflux, it can be worth a try. Having said that, gulping down large quantities of water can also disturb your esophagus and cause acid reflux. The best overall strategy is probably taking small sips with your meal and eating slowly. Keep in mind that swallowing food without chewing can also increase your chances of symptoms.

Do Tums Help Digestive Reflux?

As mentioned earlier, Tums can help ease mild heartburn and acidity. Since most people only occasionally suffer from acid reflux, Tums are a common and effective medication for these cases of mild acid reflux. Having said that, it is best not to rely on over-the-counter medication for long periods of time. Some people find that Tums help to reduce their symptoms, while others find that they do not help at all. If your symptoms are severe enough that this issue persists and interferes with your life regularly, it is best to consult your primary care physician.

Does Milk Help Reflux Symptoms?

There is some evidence that milk can help to relieve symptoms of reflux. It is thought that the calcium in milk may help to neutralize stomach acids. Low-fat milk and yogurts can be effective at stabilizing your stomach acidity and providing momentary relief from acid reflux. Keep in mind, however, that any large quantities of fat can cause further acidity, so it’s best to stay away from full-fat dairy.

What Can Stop Acid Reflux Immediately?

There’s no magic pill to stop acid reflux immediately. Tums or Pepto-Bismol may provide some fast relief, but it’s always best to simply prevent reflux in the first place. Eat slowly, don’t swallow huge chunks of food or water all at once, and stay away from salty/fatty foods. Keep in mind that later stages of GERD can be seriously harmful to your health and that over-the-counter medications are not a substitute for medical intervention.


Best Sleeping Position For Acid Reflux

The last thing to consider if you find yourself suffering from acid reflux, are your daily habits. Even the way you sleep can inadvertently be bringing on bouts of reflux symptoms. According to multiple research studies, sleeping on your left side, with your head elevated helps reduce nighttime episodes of acid reflux.


What Can Be Mistaken For Acid Reflux?

Although we may have already mentioned this, it’s very important to keep in mind that not every twinge in your chest is a simple case of acid reflux. Please see a medical expert if you notice anything concerning. 

Recurring acid reflux may be a symptom of GERD, which is a chronic condition that can worsen over time.

Very frequent acid reflux can also cause esophagitis (aka inflammation of the esophagus). This condition can lead to some difficulty swallowing, although a physician may be able to prescribe a medication to relieve some of these symptoms.

Heartburn specifically, should be monitored carefully, since chest pain can have a number of different sources and sudden tightness of the chest may or may not be a simple case of heartburn. Keep in mind that stomach ulcers, anginas, or heart conditions may present similar symptoms of chest pain or discomfort.


Surgical Treatments For Gerd And Acid Reflux

Although a stand-alone case of acid reflux is usually no call for surgery, more serious conditions related to acid reflux may occasionally need surgical intervention. For conditions such as GERD or Gastroparesis, for example, there are a number of options for surgical intervention. Here at the Surgical Clinic, we offer several surgical procedures that can address the root cause of your GERD.

Our providers have years of experience and respect within the medical community.  We are very honored to have Dr. Trudie Goers here at the Surgical Clinic. Not only is she a qualified and board-certified surgeon, but she specializes in minimally invasive gastrointestinal repair. So if you’re ready to treat your GERD or acid reflux, we’d be more than happy to do a consultation and talk about options.

To learn more about GERD and acid reflux, feel free to visit our virtual GERD Center here on our website.

Don’t struggle with this on your own. Reach out to us for a consultation and get the relief that you need. The Surgical Clinic has locations across the Greater Nashville Area, including Mt Juliet, Downtown, Franklin, Cool Springs, Hermitage, as well as Columbia, Gallatin, Murfreesboro, and Smyrna.


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