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Acid Reflux Q&A

Can drinking milk help ease acid reflux symptoms?

For years, reaching for a glass of milk was touted as a treatment for the symptoms of acid reflux. But more recently, milk and other dairy products have been identified with an increased production of stomach acid. While milk may offer an initial relief from the pain and burning associated with acid reflux, soon afterward, acid production will increase and the symptoms will recur. In fact, milk and other full-fat and low-fat dairy products should generally be avoided in men and women with acid reflux.

What is the difference between acid reflux and gastro esophageal reflux disease, or GERD?

Generally, acid reflux refers to the occasional occurrence of heartburn, and which can be controlled through lifestyle and dietary changes, as well as occasional use of over-the-counter or prescription agents. When acid reflux becomes chronic, it’s called GERD, and involves more serious symptoms, such as hoarseness, sore throat, chest pain and, in some cases, development of respiratory conditions, such as asthma. Individuals with GERD also have an increased chance of developing esophageal cancer. In these individuals, acid reflux is a symptom of a larger condition that may require surgery to correct.

Are there options for controlling acid reflux symptoms that do not into involve taking medications?

Yes. In fact, many individuals who suffer from occasional acid reflux can control their symptoms with a few, relatively simple lifestyle changes. Knowing which foods are known triggers of acid reflux can help you plan a diet which is less likely to cause your condition from occurring. In addition, keeping a diary of what foods cause flare-ups of acid reflux is an excellent tool for self-management. Sleeping with your head elevated at an angle, quitting smoking, and avoiding alcohol are also tips that can reduce your symptoms without the use of medication. In addition, there are certain plant-based products which many individuals use to find relief from their symptoms. Others find taking a solution of two teaspoons of apple cider vinegar in a glass of water three times daily helps control their symptoms.

What are the effects of long-term acid reflux?

Chronic acid reflux, especially if left untreated, can result in eventual erosion of the lining of the esophagus, as well as a narrowing of the esophagus which can impeded normal eating and swallowing. Some individuals develop a condition known as Barrett’s esophagus, where the damaged lining of the esophagus changes to tissue which more closely resembles the lining of the intestine. Barrett’s esophagus is associated with a higher risk of developing another complication of chronic acid reflux: esophageal cancer. Acid reflux is more than just a pain in the chest and throat. It can develop into a much more serious condition, and for this reason, anyone who suffers from chronic, or consistently repeated, acid reflux should see a doctor.

Can acid reflux occur as a result of other medical conditions?

Yes. While most of the men and women who have acid reflux experience symptoms as a result of dietary or lifestyle factors, other individuals may have certain underlying conditions which can cause acid reflux to occur. These conditions include hiatal hernia, peptic ulcer, heart disease, and tumor. If your acid reflux is not relieved through medications available over the counter or by prescription, it’s likely that your doctor will order tests to determine if an underlying medical problem is causing your symptoms.

Can a firmer pillow help keep the head elevated enough to reduce acid reflux from occurring during sleep?

No. In order for gravity to kick in and help keep stomach acid from leaving the stomach and flowing upward into the esophagus, the head of the bed should be elevated from 8 to 10 inches. Simply using a firmer pillow, or even two stacked pillows, will not achieve the same effect. In fact, the head and the upper portion of the chest should both be elevated at about a 30-degre angle. Elevating only the head, or the head and neck, will not help.