If you’ve ever automatically rubbed your chest after a heavy meal to ease that rising sensation, odds are you’ve experienced acid reflux. It can flare up without warning and leave you feeling incredibly uncomfortable. Here’s everything you need to know to ease your symptoms a home and when to seek medical advice.
What is acid reflux?
Acid reflux, and its infamous counter-part heartburn, is described by NHS England as “a burning feeling in the chest caused by stomach acid travelling up towards the throat.” It can also leave behind a sour taste in your mouth too, caused by said stomach acid.
If you’ve landed here after experiencing it for the first time, this feeling is a common condition that can sneak up on us from time to time. And while there is often no obvious trigger for it, there are ways you can help ease your symptoms and stop them from worsening.
Common acid reflux symptoms
If you suspect you’re suffering from acid reflux, you’re probably experiencing heartburn (a burning sensation in your chest) and/or an unpleasant sour taste in your mouth that can even feel like it’s regurgitating at the back of your throat.
While these are the common symptoms, there are also lesser-known symptoms too like bloating, nausea, a recurring cough and/or hiccups, hoarse voice and bad breath.
How to ease acid reflux symptoms
From over-the-counter relief to minimising your chances of getting acid reflux, here’s how you can help keep symptoms at bay.
Manage your diet & lifestyle
While there’s no predicting what can trigger an acid reflux reaction, certain foods and drinks have been called out for being common causes or can cause existing symptoms to worsen. Things like spicy or fatty foods (we’re looking at you Vindaloo curry), coffee, alcohol, fizzy drinks, citrus and chocolate, are repeat culprits.
NHS England also recommends opting for a diet of smaller, more frequent meals. Also, keep dinnertime far away from bedtime (eg. Eating dinner at least 3-4 hours before bed) as lying down can help stomach acid travel up the body.
Being overweight can also increase pressure on your tummy which means that you are more likely to suffer from heartburn. Focusing on a healthier, well-balanced diet, can help minimise your chances of suffering from acid reflux.
It may sound obvious, but if you’re feeling bloated and uncomfortable switch from tight clothes and accessories (like skinny jeans and belts) and wear loose layers that won’t add extra pressure to your mid-section.
Also, try not to lie completely horizontal if you’re chilling on the sofa or trying to get to sleep. By elevating your head, keeping your chest and head above your waist forces gravity to come into play and keep the stomach acid where it’s meant to be – relaxing at home in the stomach, not hitchhiking up the throat!
Kick the habit
Another reason to add to the lengthy ‘stop smoking’ list, but if you’re a smoker then you’re more likely to suffer from heartburn or reflux as smoking can irritate your digestive system. For help quitting for good, check our guide on how to stop smoking.
Look at labels
If you’re taking medication, some ingredients may be contributing or worsening your symptoms. Speak with your local pharmacist or GP to check through your medication so they can review your treatment.
Acid reflux & heartburn remedies
There are several over-the-counter medicines available from pharmacies without needing a prescription that can make all the difference to your symptoms. The main types are:
Antacids: these neutralise the effects of stomach acid.
Alginates: produce a coating that protects the stomach and oesophagus from acid.
Proton pump inhibitors: these work by reducing the acid produced by the stomach.
H2-receptor antagonists: these reduce the amount of acid produced by the stomach.
When to see a GP
If you’ve been experiencing acid reflux symptoms repeatedly (eg. Most days for 3 weeks or more), can’t get any relief from over-the-counter or home remedies, are in any pain and have lost weight unexpectedly, speak to your GP about your symptoms as these can be a sign of a more serious condition.