Are You Suffering from Heartburn or the Constant Acid Reflux?

Awareness Digestion Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease GERD Health

Are you constantly experiencing heartburn? Are you getting reflux of fluid into your mouth? Do you have difficulty or pain when you swallow?

You may be among the 13.4% of Malaysians experiencing gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). [1]

It is GERD Awareness Week and here are some things you need to know about GERD.

GERD occurs when stomach acid frequently flows back into the esophagus, which is the tube that connects your mouth and stomach. [2] This constant acid reflux can cause many troublesome symptoms and damage to the esophagus in the long run.

Before you jump to the conclusion that the acid reflux you’ve just experienced means you’ve got GERD, let us assure you that many people experience acid reflux from time to time. On the other hand, GERD is when you experience mild acid reflux at least twice a week, or moderate to severe acid reflux once a week. [2]

GERD is chronic - which means that it is a long-term condition - but the good news is that it can be treated! [3] Most people are able to manage the discomfort of GERD by making simple but consistent lifestyle changes, taking supplements and over-the-counter medications.

Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash


Common signs and symptoms of GERD include [2]:

  • A burning sensation in your chest (heartburn), usually after eating, which might be worse at night
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Regurgitation of food or sour liquid
  • Sensation of a lump in your throat

If you have nighttime acid reflux, you might also experience:

  • Chronic cough
  • Laryngitis (an inflammation of your voice box due to overuse, irritation or infection)
  • New or worsening asthma
  • Disrupted sleep

When to see a doctor?

Immediately get to the clinic or hospital if you are experiencing chest pain, especially if you are also experiencing shortness of breath, or jaw or arm pain, because these may be signs and symptoms of a heart attack.

Make a visit to the doctor if you:

  • Experience severe or frequent GERD symptoms
  • Take over-the-counter medications for heartburn more than twice a week

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GERD is caused by frequent acid reflux.

When you swallow, a circular band of muscle around the bottom of your esophagus (lower esophageal sphincter) relaxes to allow food and liquid to flow into your stomach. Then the sphincter closes again.

If the sphincter relaxes abnormally or weakens, stomach acid can flow back up into your esophagus. This constant backwash of acid irritates the lining of your esophagus, often causing it to become inflamed. [2]

Risk factors

Conditions that can increase your risk of GERD include:

  • Obesity
  • Bulging of the top of the stomach up into the diaphragm (hiatal hernia)
  • Pregnancy
  • Connective tissue disorders, such as scleroderma
  • Delayed gastric emptying (slowing or stopping of the movement of food from your stomach to your small intestine)

Factors that can aggravate acid reflux include:

  • Smoking
  • Eating large meals or eating late at night
  • Eating certain foods (triggers) such as fatty or fried foods
  • Drinking certain beverages, such as alcohol or coffee
  • Taking certain medications, such as aspirin

Photo by Thomas Park on Unsplash


GERD can be treated by managing the symptoms and here are some things that you can do. [4]

1. Diet And Lifestyle Changes

    • Eat smaller meals
    • Eat slowly
    • Eat at least 2 hours before sleep
    • Lose weight if needed
    • Avoid nicotine
    • Avoid alcohol
    • Avoid caffeine
    • Avoid high fat foods

    Photo by Anna Pelzer on Unsplash

    2. Taking Medications

      • Antacids and H2 blockers can help to deplete acids.
      • Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) block certain acidifying protons and may also heal damaged stomach lining.
      • Unfortunately, PPIs are linked with increased risk of other adverse effects: osteoporotic-related fractures, Clostridium difficile infection, community-acquired pneumonia, vitamin B12 deficiency, kidney disease, and dementia. [5] 

      Photo by Christine Sandu on Unsplash

      3. Taking Probiotics

        • Probiotics are a type of good bacteria found in the digestive tract. They are important for digestive health and immune function. [6]
        • A meta-analysis found that 79% of studies about probiotics and the effects on GERD symptoms concluded that probiotics helped to reduce the symptoms of GERD, including reduced regurgitation and decreased heartburn. [7]
        • In another 12-week study, combining heartburn medication with probiotics reduced the risk of treatment relapse, compared with a control group that only got heartburn medication. [8]

        To reduce GERD symptoms, you can try these products available at SM Health Care Sdn Bhd.

        BiO-LiFE Imunix

        • Contains freeze dried probiotic strains:
          Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM®
          Bifidobacterium lactis BL-04
        • Total count: 3 billion CFU probiotics
        • Also improves bowel movement, promotes better absorption of vitamins and minerals, and boosts immunity
        • No preservatives, artificial colours and flavours

        BiO-LiFE A.B. Adult Gold Pre & Pro

        • Contains both prebiotics and probiotics, also known as synbiotic:
          Chicory inulin (prebiotic)
          Oligo-fructose (prebiotic)
          Lactobacillus plantarum LP-01 (probiotic)
          Bifidobacterium lactis BB-12 (probiotic)
        • Total count: 10 billion CFU probiotics
        • Adding prebiotics to probiotics can boost the survival of probiotics, making sure they arrive to the digestive tract alive and well
        • Also improves bowel movement, promotes better absorption of vitamins and minerals, and boosts immunity
        • No preservatives, artificial colours and flavours
        • Available in 3 different sizes - 10 sachets / 30 sachets / 60 sachets

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