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When you were in your twenties, you could eat the spiciest buffalo wings on the menu and feel great in the morning. Now, though, eating anything too spicy or too late at night gives you intense heartburn. Why has your acid reflux gotten worse as you got older?
What is acid reflux?
Acid reflux is when stomach acid comes back up the esophagus and possibly up into the throat. The most common symptom is heartburn. GERD – or gastroesophageal reflux disease – is a severe version of acid reflux that affects the esophagus and often manifests with severe heartburn and sometimes chest pain.
What causes heartburn when we’re older?
As you age, a number of several factors can cause heartburn to worsen. First, your muscles weaken as you age, which means the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) – the muscle that acts as a valve and normally prevents stomach contents from coming back up into the esophagus – is less effective at preventing acid from leaving the stomach.
Weight gain can also weaken the LES, causing acid to leak through.
Some medications that older people need, such as blood pressure medicine, can also cause an increase in acid reflux.
Finally, a hiatal hernia can also be an issue. Hiatal hernias are when the upper part of the stomach pushes into the chest cavity. Larger ones can increase the chance of heartburn. More than half the people over the age of 60 have a hiatal hernia.
How do I treat acid reflux?
Lifestyle changes, such as waiting several hours between eating and lying down, elevating your head when you sleep, quitting smoking, and eliminating foods like mint, chocolate, fatty foods, spicy foods, caffeine, and alcohol are very helpful.
In some cases, non-prescription and prescription medications can help. In more extreme cases, a proton pump inhibitor may be necessary, CEENTA ENT doctor Chad Kessler, MD, said.
Acid reflux care at CEENTA
If you have acid reflux concerns, schedule an appointment at CEENTA. Our doctors want to help treat this condition and relieve your symptoms no matter how old you are.
This blog is for informational purposes only. For specific medical questions, please consult your doctor. Would you like an appointment with Dr. Kessler? Call 704-295-3000. You can also request an appointment online or through myCEENTAchart.
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