How Do You Feel When You Have Acid Reflux?

Reviewed on 5/10/2022
Woman with acid reflux symptoms clutching her chest
Symptoms of acid reflux include a painful burning sensation that occurs in the chest, stomach, abdomen, or throat. You may also feel as if food is stuck in your throat.

Acid reflux is a condition in which acid from the stomach backs up into the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach (the esophagus). When acid reflux occurs more than twice weekly, is chronic, or causes uncomfortable symptoms or damage, it is called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Heartburn caused by acid reflux often feels like a painful burning sensation that occurs in the chest, stomach, abdomen, or throat. 

Because heartburn can cause chest pain, some people may feel as if they are having a heart attack. See a doctor right away if you have any chest pain to rule out a heart attack or another heart condition. 

You may also feel as if food is stuck in your throat.

Other symptoms of acid reflux in adults include:

What Causes Acid Reflux?

Acid reflux occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter becomes relaxes or weakens, causing stomach contents to back up into the esophagus. 

Causes of lower esophageal sphincter weakness or relaxation include:

How Is Acid Reflux Diagnosed?

Acid reflux and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) are diagnosed with a patient history and physical examination. Tests used to diagnose acid reflux include: 

  • Upper GI series
  • Upper gastrointestinal (GI) endoscopy and biopsy
  • Esophageal manometry 
  • Esophageal pH and impedance monitoring
  • Stool occult blood test

How Do You Get Rid of Acid Reflux?

The first line of treatment for managing acid reflux is lifestyle changes or non-prescription medicines. 

Home remedies to relieve acid reflux include:

  • Lose weight if you are overweight or obese
  • Don’t smoke
  • Avoid overeating
  • Avoid eating two to three hours before bed
  • Raise the head of the bed six to eight inches using blocks of wood or rubber under two legs of the bed or a foam wedge under the mattress
  • Avoid medications such as aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) including ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn) that can aggravate reflux
  • Avoid foods that worsen symptoms 
  • Take medications with plenty of water
  • Wear loose clothing around the stomach area

If symptoms of acid reflux are not relieved with lifestyle modifications, medications used to treat reflux include: 

  • Antacids
  • Histamine blockers
  • Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs)
  • Prokinetics
  • Antibiotics

In severe cases of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), surgery may be needed when symptoms do not improve with lifestyle changes or medications. 

Surgery used to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) includes: 

  • Fundoplication
  • Endoscopic techniques
Reviewed on 5/10/2022
Image Source: iStock Images