Acid reflux and heartburn are often thought to be normal conditions in middle to older age but if left untreated can lead not only to discomfort, problems swallowing and lung complications, it can sometimes cause the cells of the esophagus to become pre-cancerous. Many adults will take over-the-counter antacids and leave the condition untreated for years without seeking help.
According to the Canadian Digestive Health Foundation, 5 million Canadians experience heartburn or acid regurgitation at least once a week and increasing age is a primary risk factor for developing GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease).
GERD is caused by a weakened lower esophageal sphincter (LES) valve which, by not closing properly allows acidic gastric juices to flow up into the esophagus. This can cause burning and pain or an acid taste in the mouth. Symptoms are often worse when lying down or bending over.
Some foods such as chocolate, acidic foods, peppermint, fried, spicy or fatty foods and alcohol are associated with reflux. Smoking and caffeine both relax the LES allowing acid to flow back up the esophagus. Obesity and pregnancy also contribute to worsening of GERD symptoms. Raising the head of the bed about 6 inches at night may alleviate some symptoms. Try to eat smaller meals and not too close to bedtime.
If symptoms of acid reflux become frequent, consult a doctor about treatment options.
For more information about acid reflux and GERD symptoms, prevention and treatment, visit the Canadian Digestive Health Foundation website at www.cdhf.ca .