Heartburn, the commonest symptom of acid reflux affects one in four adults in the United Kingdom every month and one in ten every week. It is one of the commonest reasons for people visiting their GP and is most definitely an illness of our times. Fifty years ago everyone had stomach ulcers. Ulcers are found far less often these days at endoscopy, but heartburn has taken over and is now very common indeed.
In these pages, we explain the causes, symptoms and treatments for acid reflux. We also introduce you to a number of remedies which you can try yourself as well as cures which the doctor has available to help you. We will also tell you a little about surgery and the novel endoscopic techniques, which claim to cure reflux symptoms. We will show you why you should be careful before taking the surgical route. There is no doubt that surgery is appropriate for some people, but by no means for everyone. Many people get significant benefit if they are careful with their diet, whereas others need conventional, or sometimes, second line medication.
Curiously, most acid reflux attacks occur during the day, but some people are bothered particularly at night. These people are most at risk from chronic cough, a symptom which is often not recognised as being related to stomach problems as they often do not have heart burn or other more typical symptoms.
Please note that not all indigestion symptoms are related to acid at all. In one interesting study, older people with osteoporosis frequently complained of heartburn, even though they did not have acid reflux. This is something we see quite frequently in our practice. It is probably due to the nerves feeding the oesophagus being pinched due to the poor back posture (kyphosis) that these people have. It is therefore important to sort out the cause of heartburn so that the correct treatment can be offered.