How to avoid gastric reflux
When important dinner parties, celebrations and festive occasions come around, it is not uncommon for people to overeat. In some cases, this can lead to “heartburn.” Learn how to prevent and relieve it.
What is gastric reflux?
Gastric reflux refers to the partial regurgitation of the stomach contents into the esophagus (tube that connects the mouth to the stomach). The acidity of the reflux can irritate the esophagus, throat and mouth. People who suffer from gastric reflux typically experience a sensation of heartburn that radiates to the throat.
While often associated with gastric reflux, heartburn can, however, have other causes, such as ulcers, indigestion or gastritis. Before arriving at the conclusion that you suffer from gastric reflux, talk to a doctor to get an accurate diagnosis.
Causes and symptoms
Gastric reflux is often caused by a weak lower esophageal sphincter (LES). Located at the junction of the esophagus and stomach, the LES opens to allow swallowed food to reach the stomach and then closes to keep it from backing up. When it opens at the wrong time or does not stay closed, the contents of the stomach are pushed up into the esophagus, causing reflux.
Symptoms of Gastric Reflux
Burning sensation behind the breastbone, radiating to the throat
Hoarse voice, especially in the morning
Chronic sore throat
Bitter, acid taste in the mouth
These symptoms usually appear after eating or when lying down.
Persistent bad breath
Erosion of tooth enamel
When to see a doctor
The majority of people with gastric reflux never consult a doctor and just treat their own symptoms with over-the-counter drugs. When taken for a long time, these drugs can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb certain nutrients
If you have experienced gastric reflux or heartburn for more than two weeks, you should consult your doctor or pharmacist rather than self-medicate with over-the-counter drugs.
You should also seek medical attention as soon as possible if you have the following symptoms:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Pain when swallowing
- Coughing, asthmatic breathing and a frequent need to rinse your throat
- Bloody phlegm, vomit or stool (black stool)
Many factors can disrupt the normal functioning of the LES causing gastric reflux.
- Pressure on the stomach caused by obesity, pregnancy or wearing tight clothes around the waist.
- Chemicals that cause the LES to relax, like those found in cigarette smoke, mint and certain drugs.
- Substances that irritate the stomach or increase its level of acidity, such as certain foods and beverages, antibiotics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (acetylsalicylic acid/Aspirin®, ibuprofen/Advil®, Motrin®), certain medications, such as those for osteoporosis, and supplements (iron, potassium).
- Certain diseases, including hiatus hernia and scleroderma.
How to prevent gastric reflux
If you tend to suffer from gastric reflux, here are a few preventive measures to consider:
- Avoid the following foods and beverages: alcohol, tea, coffee, cola, chocolate, citrus fruit and juices, tomatoes, tomato juice, garlic, onions, fatty, fried and spicy dishes, mint and products containing mint.
- Eat small, light, more frequent meals.
- Eat slowly and chew well.
- After a meal, wait three to four hours before lying down.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Do not smoke.
- Avoid tight-fitting clothing around the waist.
- Raise the head of your bed at least 15 cm (6 inches) to sleep.
How to choose the right heartburn medication
Many drugs work well to alleviate the symptoms of gastric reflux.
- Alginates, available over the counter, form a protective barrier that keeps acid from splashing up into the esophagus (Gaviscon)
- Antacids, available over the counter, neutralize stomach acid: Maalox®
- Prescription or over-the-counter H2 receptor antagonists reduce the stomach’s production of acid: famotidine (Pepcid®), ranitidine (Zantac®).
- Proton pump inhibitors (PPI) are available by prescription and are similar to H2 receptor antagonists, but more powerful: omeprazole (Losec®), esomeprazole (Nexium®), pantoprazole (Pantoloc®), rabeprazole (Pariet®), lansoprazole (Prevacid®).
If gastric reflux cannot be successfully treated with drug therapy, surgery is available. However, it is reserved for patients with serious complications.
Your family pharmacist can tell you which medications used for other health problems can cause or aggravate gastric reflux.
He or she can also recommend over-the-counter drugs for gastric reflux, based on the severity of your symptoms and your state of health. Don’t hesitate to ask for help!
The pharmacy services presented in this section are offered by pharmacist owners who are affiliated with Uniprix. The pharmacists are solely responsible for the professional activities carried out during the practice of pharmacy. These services are offered in participating pharmacies only. Certain fees and conditions may apply.
* The information contained herein is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide complete information on the subject matter or to replace the advice of a health professional. This information does not constitute medical consultation, diagnosis or opinion and should not be interpreted as such. Please consult your health care provider if you have any questions about your health, medications or treatment.
The pharmacy services presented in this section are offered by pharmacist owners who are affiliated with Uniprix. The pharmacists are solely responsible for the professional activities carried out during the practice of pharmacy.