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  • What is Acid Reflux?

    It is the movement of the stomach contents up the oesophagus or gullet. Often causing an uncomfortable or burning sensation behind the breastbone.

    In more serious or left untreated, Stomach contents can be regurgitated into the mouth affecting the teeth, gums and causing bad breath.

    Sometimes the regurgitated fluid can enter the airways and exacerbate or make asthma worse.

  • What causes Acid Reflux?

    The stomach has a small circular piece of muscle at the top, called the cardiac or lower oesophageal sphincter.

    This stops the stomach contents from travelling back up the oesophagus or gullet.

    When this muscle becomes weakened, the stomach contents can travel up and cause symptoms like heartburn, bad breath and the feeling of being sick.

  • Is Acid Reflux common?

    It is very common and 60% of people will have reflux or similar symptoms in a 12-month period.

    In the same period, 20-30% of people will have symptoms on a weekly basis.

  • What are the symptoms of Acid Reflux?

    The movement of acid can give the following symptoms

    • Burning feeling behind the breastbone
    • Feeling sick
    • Being sick
    • Bad breath
    • Tooth and gum problems
    • Worsening of asthma
  • What can make Acid Reflux worse?

    The following can make acid reflux worse.

    • Being overweight or obese
    • Smoking
    • Eating spicy food,
    • Large meal sizes
    • Late night Eating, within 2 hours of going to sleep
    • Alcohol
    • Coffee
    • Chocolate
    • Pregnancy
    • Tight Clothing
    • Certain medicines for blood pressure like Calcium channel blockers, medicines for angina like glyceryl trinitrate and painkillers like ibuprofen, diclofenac and other anti-inflammatory drugs.
    • Stress
    • Genetics
  • Do I need to see a doctor for Acid Reflux?

    Most symptoms of acid reflux can be treated either with over the counter remedies or by visiting your pharmacy.

    It’s important to get your symptoms checked by a Doctor if you’re

    • Getting symptoms several times a week
    • Symptoms are getting worse
    • Symptoms are not being controlled by over the counter or pharmacy medicines
    • Being sick or vomiting blood
    • Having difficulty in swallowing
  • How do I choose the right treatment for Acid Reflux?

    There are different categories of treatment and their uses and explanations are listed below.

    Generally, patients should start with antacids and then make their way down the list if treatment does not control their symptoms.

    1. Antacids – the first line treatment. These help neutralise stomach acid to relieve symptoms. The effects usually last for 2-3 hours. Examples of antacids include Rennie, Enos, Andrews Salts, and Tums. They contain ingredients like calcium carbonate, which neutralizes stomach acid, but too much calcium taken regularly can make acid reflux worse. Only be for occasional or infrequent use.

    2. Alginates – neutralize and form a layer on the top of stomach acid, which prevents upward movement. Are available in tablet and liquid forms. Liquids act quicker but are more inconvenient to carry around. Usually, these last no more than 3-4 hours.
    Alginates are made up of calcium carbonate, magnesium carbonate or aluminum salts. Too much calcium taken frequently can cause stomach acid to worsen, so should only be used infrequently. Excessive magnesium salts can cause diarrhoea and too much aluminum salts can cause constipation.
    Always check with pharmacist, as alginates can interact with other medication. Examples include Gaviscon, Gaviscon Advance, and Peptac.

    3. H2 Receptor Antagonists – available as tablets. They reduce the production of stomach acid and were initially introduced on prescription, before being available to buy from pharmacies. They start to work in as little as 30 minutes and their effects can last for up to 12 hours. They are well tolerated and side effects are rare. They can include diarrhoea, tiredness, rashes, and constipation. Examples include Ranitidine, Zantac, Gavilast, Cimetidine, and Pepcid AC.

    4. Proton Pump Inhibitors – or PPIs for short, are the latest medicine for controlling acid reflux and other stomach symptoms. They work by reducing the stomach acid, but are more effective and last longer. Effects can be seen up to 17 hours after the dose is taken. They come in tablet or capsule forms, be should be swallowed whole (Losec Tablets can be crushed if needed). PPIs are very well tolerated, with low incidence of side effects. Usually, unwanted effects include diarrhoea, constipation, drowsiness. Examples include Omeprazole, Pantoprazole, Losec, Nexium, and Pantoloc.

  • How long does it take to treat Acid Reflux?

    Short-term treatment with medication will help to control and alleviate the symptoms. Treatment time varies with different medication and can be very quick with antacids working within minutes and H2 receptor Antagonists and PPI’s up to 60mins.

  • What else can I do to help prevent Acid Reflux?

    Non-medicinal treatments to help alleviate acid reflux include:-

    • Eat smaller portions spread out through the day rather than 3 main meals
    • Avoid eating at least two hours before going to bed
    • Stop smoking
    • Reduce alcohol intake
    • Reduce stress
    • Loosen tight clothing
    • If it’s worse at night, then use another pillow to prop yourself up or elevate the head end of the bed.
    • Lose weight
    • Check your medication with your pharmacist or Doctor to ensure it's not causing your symptoms.
    • Overall health and well-being (taking vitamin supplements) 
  • Does acid reflux affect sinuses?

    Yes, acid reflux can affect the sinuses for those that are struggling with the condition over a long period of time. Acid reflux can actually cause hoarseness, sore or burning throat, post-nasal drip, sinusitis, cough and lots more.
    Given the close proximity of acid reflux symptoms and your nose throat and ears, it’s common to have other symptoms that affect that specific area.

  • How does acid reflux affect the body?

    Acid reflux and heartburn affect the body in a number of different ways. The severity of symptoms vary from person to person, however,there are some similar signs that tend to be consistent. Things like burning in the chest behind the breastbone, pain after eating or lying down and a sore throat.

    Acid reflux can cause stomach acid to be brought up into the mouth causing bad breath, tooth decay and discolouration of the tongue in some cases.
    If this condition is still not easing after taking medication or you have been suffering with it for more than a couple of times a month, then this can be caused by other medical conditions such as stomach ulcers, issues with the oesophagus or GORD.

    There are different stages of GORD which is why it is so important to speak to a healthcare professional if symptoms persist.

  • How is acid reflux is diagnosed?

    Acid reflux is usually diagnosed from your symptoms. Our doctors will ask about your symptoms, when they occur and the severity. From this, they will be able to make a diagnosis of acid reflux or heartburn. Simply fill in our consultation form so we can ascertain your medical history.

    Depending on the severity of the condition, doctors may prescribe medication to help get symptoms under control. If they are unable to determine the cause of your symptoms, or they are very severe, you may be sent for more in depth-testing. This will help to determine the cause and the right form of treatment for your specific condition.

    Treatment for GORD may differ depending on the stage of the disease you are in. If you are experiencing symptoms of acid reflux or heartburn on a regular basis then it’s important to consult a doctor to avoid complications.

  • Does milk or other natural treatments help to cure symptoms of acid reflux?

    Some believe that milk and other natural remedies will help to ease the symptoms of acid reflux and heartburn. However, their effectiveness is unknown. Milk is known to reduce symptoms straight after drinking it, but could actually cause symptoms to become worse after a while. This is mainly because of the high quantity of fat in milk products.

    If you would like to reduce the symptoms of acid reflux or heartburn then the best option is using specifically designed medication to treat the underlying causes of the condition.

  • How to treat a baby affected with acid reflux?

    It is best to treat a baby or young child suffering from heartburn or acid reflux using natural means. The best way to do this effectively is to change your child's eating pattern, holding them upright for 30 minutes after feeds and raising the head of the baby's crib.  

Authored By:

A photo of  Andy Boysan

Andy Boysan


Published on: 29-05-2019

Last modified on: 29-05-2019

Andy is a co-founder, the superintendent pharmacist and director at The Independent Pharmacy.

Reviewed By:

A photo of Dr Donald Grant

Dr Donald Grant

MB ChB DRCOG MRCGP Dip.orth.med

Reviewed on: 29-05-2019

Next review date: 29-05-2021

Dr Don Grant is a GP with over 30 years experience and is the Clinical Advisor at The Independent Pharmacy

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