Heartburn. Indigestion. Upset stomach. Many people have experienced some sort of stomach pain due to acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Symptoms of this problem can range from minor heartburn and irritation to difficulty swallowing, moderate to severe stomach discomfort, and lots of bloating. More uncommonly, nausea and vomiting may accompany GERD along with chest pain and backwash. If GERD is uncontrolled, it can lead to serious medical problems such as Barret’s esophagus and rarely esophageal/stomach cancer, but this is not common nowadays. The more common medical consequence is dyspepsia, a feeling of indigestion and upset stomach in the upper epigastric/stomach area from impaired digestion due to reflux.
GERD and dyspepsia typically need to be diagnosed by a physician in order for treatment to begin, but the symptoms are fairly recognizable due to its commonness among the public and its typical symptoms. Non-medical treatment is largely dietary and lifestyle modification. For diet, smaller and more frequent meals are suggested compared to the typical three meals a day routine. Larger meals can dilate the stomach and the lower esophageal sphincter, allowing more acid to reflux up the esophagus. Some health care providers suggest avoiding coffee, chocolate, and spicy foods, but recently this suggestion has been questioned due to a lack of evidence supporting this claim. However, eating less fatty foods has also been shown to help with GERD. After meals, light activity such as walking or standing may help with symptoms. Sitting down, especially hunched over, may worsen GERD after eating. Last, alcohol and chronic NSAID usage cessation is recommended, because the two have been shown to upset the mucosa lining of the stomach and even cause ulcers. For lifestyle changes, exercise and weight loss have been shown to decrease the symptoms and stomach pain from GERD. In addition, sleeping with the head of the bed elevated (the whole bed, not just your head) also helps with the discomfort GERD causes.
Medical intervention of GERD involves the usage of antacids, H2 inhibitors, and proton pump inhibitors (PPI). Antacids are your typical over the counter drugs, such as Tums and Maalox. They work decently, but only work for a short period of time. The H2 blockers, such as ranitidine and famotidine, work by blocking the histamine receptors in the cells that produce acid, blocking some acid production. These medications work best at night, but are not the most effective drug for reflux. However, their redeeming quality is their cheapness; you can obtain a month’s supply for only $4. The best medication for reflux is the PPI. It works by blocking the creation of the pump that actually brings acid into the stomach, reducing the amount of acid available. This medication works much better than H2 blockers. Unfortunately, it is also more expensive. The over the counter PPI, omeprazole, is not too expensive, but stronger PPIs such as Nexium require a prescription and generally have a higher price tag. Nonetheless, if reflex is bad enough to cause constant symptoms, and lifestyle and dietary changes are not enough, medications may be necessary to help alleviate stomach pains and discomfort that come from GERD and dyspepsia. To find out more about stomach pain and cures visit Reflux Remedy today!