As overeating has become more common, Americans have been suffering from a lot more heartburn, the American Gastroenterology Association has found. About 25 million people say they experience daily symptoms of acid reflux, up from 15 million a decade ago, with another 60 million saying they have heartburn once a month.
“Blame stress and an aging population — and above all, experts say, blame Americans’ habit of eating too much,” reports The Courier-Journal‘s Anita Creamer.
Though it can occur at any age, acid reflux is most common in middle age. It is caused when acid backwashes into the esophagus while a person is digesting, the result of the sphincter muscle at the top of the stomach being weak. Acid reflux, which can cause heartburn, nausea, coughing and hiccups, can be especially common at night if a person goes to bed with a full stomach. “Anything that increases stomach pressure increases reflux,” said Dr. Ronald Hsu, a gastroenterologist at Sutter Roseville (Calif.) Medical Center. “People who are more obese have more symptoms. Pregnant women can have more reflux.”
To get relief, avoid mint-flavored antacids. Mint relaxes the valve between the stomach and esophagus, compounding the problem. Losing weight can help. So can avoiding chocolate, citrus fruits, alcohol, caffeine or spicy foods. Over-the-counter medications like Prilosec and Prevacid can block the release of stomach acid and provide relief.
People who regularly have acid reflux are more prone to developing esophageal cancer, which has been relatively rare but is difficult to treat and is quickly becoming more common. Most at risk are middle-age and elderly men who have long suffered from acid reflux and often are obese. (Read more)