What is acidity?
Acidity or acid reflux is a very common condition affecting many Indians. This condition is characterized by heartburn felt around the lower chest area, which is caused by the stomach acid flowing back up into the food pipe. Very few people realize the unhealthy eating habits and poor lifestyle choices that cause this condition.
How does acidity occur?
The food we eat passes down the oesophagus into the stomach. The gastric glands in the stomach create acid which is necessary to digest the food and to kill any germs. Acidity occurs when the gastric glands produce a large amount of acid, more than what is needed for the digestion process. This condition is characterized by a burning sensation just above the stomach, or right below the breastbone (the hollow part).
This condition is very common in India due to the heavy consumption of oily and spicy foods by Indians.
Who is prone to acidity?
People who are prone to acidity include:
- those who overindulge in alcohol
- those who are obese
- those who often consume spicy food
- those who often consume non-vegetarian food
- those who take Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs(NSAIDs)
- women nearing menopause
- women who are pregnant
- people who suffer from medical conditions such as diabetes, asthma, hiatal hernia, peptic ulcers, connective tissue disorders, or Zollinger-Ellison syndrome
What are the causes of acidity?
Acidity can occur:
- due to unhealthy eating habits
- due to certain foods consumed in excess
- as a side effect of medicines
- due to existing medical conditions
- due to other causes such as stress, lack of sleep etc.
Please see the table below for details:
What are the symptoms of acidity? How is acidity diagnosed?
The symptoms of acid reflux include:
- burning sensation in the stomach
- burning sensation in the throat and heart
- difficulty in swallowing
- prolonged sour taste in the mouth
- bad breath
If you suffer from the symptoms of acidity you can consult your family doctor or any general practitioner. Based on your case the doctor may ask you to undergo:
- x-ray of the oesophagus and the stomach
- An upper gastrointestinal endoscopy which enables the doctor to see the lining of the oesophagus and stomach
What are the complications of acidity?
The complications of acidity include:
- severe pain in the chest or abdomen
- excessive vomiting
- difficulty in swallowing
- gastric ulcers
What is the treatment for acidity?
Based on your condition, your doctor will prescribe medicines (including antacids) to counter the acidity. If the condition is too severe, he may suggest surgery (Vagotomy) to reduce the production of acid in the stomach.