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Could My Acid Reflux Be Masking a More Serious Condition?

April 27, 2023

If you’re dealing with acid reflux, you’re certainly not alone. It’s estimated that one out of every five people in the United States suffer from the condition. Most of the time, acid reflux is caused by a weakened muscle between the stomach and esophagus, which can allow acid and bile from the stomach back into the esophagus. But that’s not the only culprit. “Acid reflux can also be caused by other underlying health conditions, such as a hiatal hernia and abnormalities in the esophagus,” says Housein Wazaz, MD, gastroenterologist at MidState Medical Center. How can you tell if your acid reflux is a normal digestive issue or a sign of a bigger problem? Dr. Wazaz offers four signs to watch out for. [insert-cta-small id=49262]

The usual symptoms of acid reflux

Typically, symptoms of acid reflux include:
  • Burning sensation in abdomen or chest
  • Sore throat
  • Hoarse voice
  • Belching
  • Difficulty swallowing
“It can affect anyone at any age, but I often see patients over the age of 40 who are experiencing symptoms,” says Dr. Wazaz.

4 signs your acid reflux may be more serious

These symptoms, on the other hand, might be a sign of an underlying health condition if you notice them in conjunction with acid reflux:
  • Weight loss
  • Nausea
  • Blood in your stool
Frequency is important, too. “If you’re experiencing acid reflux more than two or three times a week and medication isn’t alleviating your symptoms, you should let your doctor know and may need to be referred to a specialist,” says Wazaz.

At-home remedies

If you’re suffering from acid reflux, here are seven simple at-home remedies you can try:
  1. Follow a healthy, balanced diet
  2. Avoid eating too quickly
  3. Don’t eat late at night
  4. Identify foods that might be causing acid reflux
  5. Elevate your head when you sleep
  6. Reduce stress
  7. Quit smoking
> Related: Got Heartburn? What to Eat (and Avoid) for Acid Reflux

Medication can help - but don't overdo it.

And if those aren’t enough, there are a variety of medications that you can try, ranging from over-the-counter to prescription strength. But don’t lean on these too heavily, Dr. Wazaz cautions. “Using over-the-counter medication for a few weeks or a couple months is fine, but long-term use has been associated with kidney disease, abnormalities in your blood stream and vitamin deficiency. So it’s not recommended to be treated for a long time without medical supervision,” says Wazaz.