By Apollo 24|7, Published on- 14 December 2022 & Updated on - 22 February 2024

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  • Symptoms: Burning sensation in the chest (heartburn), upper abdominal pain, Dysphagia or difficulty swallowing, ongoing cough especially at night, backwash or regurgitation of sour liquid and food, a sensation of a lump in the throat, asthma, vocal cords inflammation or laryngitis

  • Causes: Consumption of spice, fried, or fatty food; eating chocolates and peppermint consumption, alcohol intake, consumption of carbonated beverages, drinking too much coffee or other caffeinated drinks, excess consumption of ketchup, presence of citrus food in the diet

  • Risk Factors: specific food consumption, smoking, eating large meals, particular medication, drinking excess alcohol and coffee

  • Severity: Mild, moderate, severe, pre-cancer

  • Which doctor to consult: Gastroenterologists

  • Overview

    Acidity is a term commonly used to describe the signs and symptoms of acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux or GER. It is sometimes mistaken for gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD.

    Acidity or GER occurs when the stomach contents go in the reverse direction and reach the oesophagus. In contrast, GERD is more severe. The chronic condition lasts longer than GER and results from repeated acidity. 

    GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, can occur every hour and involves more severe complications such as sphincter malfunction. Due to the improper functioning of the lower oesophagal sphincter (LES), the stomach contents can move upwards back into the throat and mouth, giving a sour taste.

    Types of Acidity:

    Generally, acidity can be categorised into a few categories such as:

    • Upright acid reflux 

    • Supine acid reflux

    • GERD

    While upright and supine acid reflux are the generic types of acidity, GERD is the chronic version. Upright acid reflux can occur throughout the day, especially while sitting up. Supine acid reflux, in contrast, happens during the night when the acid flows toward the oesophagus. Usually, lying down can provide temporary relief, but it is advisable to consult a gastroenterologist in case of supine acid reflux.


    Symptoms include a burning pain in the chest that usually appears after eating and worsens when lying down.

    People may experience:

    Pain types include burning in the chest.

    Gastrointestinal symptoms include belching, nausea, or regurgitation.

    Common symptoms include a bitter taste, upper abdominal discomfort, and a dry cough.


    The primary causes of acidity include:

    Absence of physical activity
    Inconsistent and poor eating habits
    Consuming spicy or oily foods
    Smoking and tobacco use
    Following a meal, rest or lie down
    Drinking more alcohol, carbonated beverages, coffee, and tea.

    Risk factors of Acidity:

    Acid reflux affects people of all ages. It is seen that lifestyle is a prime factor that increases the risk of having acid reflux, so one should make a few changes in the lifestyle and diet so that it can be avoided; some of the risk factors of getting acidity include: 
    Inactive lifestyle
    Midnight Snacking 
    Spicy food
    Smoking (active and passive) 
    Medications like pain relievers, sedatives, antidepressants, and calcium channel blockers 

    Possible Complications:

    If left untreated, GER can turn into acute GERD in the long run and cause many problems, especially to the oesophagus.

    Oesophagitis: Oesophagitis is an inflammation of the oesophagus and causes pain while swallowing. Chest pain is another common symptom of the disorder. H2-receptor blockers and proton pump inhibitors are the only medications that can provide relief in this situation. 

    Barrett's Oesophagus: Untreated acid reflux can cause Barrett’s oesophagus syndrome. In this condition, the flat pink lining of the swallowing tube is damaged and thickened. The lower esophageal sphincter (LES), a vital connector between the stomach and the oesophagus, is severely damaged. As a result, acid and chemical regurgitation from the stomach damages the oesophagus, causing GERD. A typical long-term effect of Barrett's oesophagus is oesophageal cancer. In such cases, the doctor needs to examine the precancerous cells and remove them to prevent progress.



    Acid reflux can be painful and uncomfortable, but you can modify your diet and lifestyle to help prevent future episodes.

    Avoid triggering foods.

    Avoid eating two or three hours before bedtime.

    Consume a balanced diet rich in fruits, proteins, and vegetables.

    Maintain a healthy weight.

    Sit or stand up after eating, and avoid lying down.

    Sleep at an incline. Elevate your head 6-8 inches above your feet.

    Quit smoking.

    When to Consult a Doctor?

    Patients suffering from the signs and symptoms of acidity need to seek medical assistance under the following conditions:

    On Symptoms: Usually, an individual should consult a gastroenterologist if he/she experiences severe chest pain or shortness of breath. Any discomfort in the jaw or numbness in the arm must also be brought under immediate medical attention. Other than that, any recurring symptoms of acidity that last for more than two weeks need to be examined by a gastroenterologist. If a person suffers from heartburn despite taking over-the-counter medicines, he/she must also get checked by a doctor.

    Difficulty Swallowing: If a patient suffers from Dysphagia or has difficulty swallowing, he/she must consult a doctor. Acute Dysphagia is usually followed by regurgitation and frequent heartburn. All of these can be a sign of acid reflux, and a gastroenterologist can provide the proper diagnosis and treatment for the same.

    Difficulty Breathing: GERD is a chronic disorder often associated with asthma, aspiration, and bronchospasm. It can become fatal if not given immediate medical assistance. The most common problem that occurs due to acid reflux is Dyspnea, as the stomach acid enters the lungs. This can occur during sleep and swell the airways, causing bouts of asthma or aspiration pneumonia. The outcome is sudden wheezing or coughing during sleep.


    Physical Examination: A gastroenterologist specialises in the digestive tract and can examine the signs and symptoms of acid reflux. The doctor will initially conduct a physical check-up to determine GER or GERD. This includes performing an oesophageal manometry for reflux testing and upper endoscopy. The oesophageal manometry confirms the proper functioning of the oesophagus, the long muscular tube connecting the throat to the stomach. For upper endoscopy, a flexible tube with a camera is inserted. It helps examine the oesophagus, stomach area, and small intestine. Patients are sedated while performing these tests.

    Diagnostic Tests

    Blood Tests: Anion gap blood tests are a way to check the pH balance in the blood. This test confirms whether the blood is too acidic and is performed along with the electrolyte panel test. This comprehensive examination confirms the presence of electrically charged minerals like sodium, potassium, and bicarbonate, which help regulate the acid-base balance in the blood.

    Imaging Tests

    Narrow-Band Imaging Test: Narrow-band imaging test helps better visualise the mucosal alteration due to GER or GERD. Doctors can inspect the mucosa minutely with the help of specific blue (410 nm) and green (540 nm) wavelengths from the standard white-light endoscope. The test also helps in examining blood vascular patterns and pit patterns.

    Advanced Test

    Impedance-pH Testing: Since the changes in the mucosa are not visible in most patients of GERD, the endoscopic assessment may not always be accurate. So, a 24-hour oesophageal pH metry is conducted to check the oesophagus acidity levels in 24 hours. Doctors may even use impedance technology to measure the amount of liquid and air going up and down the oesophagus. The test helps determine both acidic and non-acidic GERD.


    Home Care: In case the symptoms of acidity cause significant discomfort, an individual can temporarily subdue the symptoms with some home remedies. For instance, consuming one teaspoon of fennel powder with warm water can relieve symptoms like bloating. The mix is also seen to improve digestion. Another remedy is to chew a few cumin seeds and then drink a glass of water. An individual can boil a teaspoon of the seeds in water and then drink it as well. However, one must always consult a gastroenterologist before following these methods.


    Prescription Medication: A doctor can prescribe some medicines to relieve the symptoms of GERD. These include:

    While the prescription-strength H-2 blockers do not cause many side effects, proton pump inhibitors tend to cause nausea, headache, diarrhoea, and even low magnesium or B12 levels.

    Non-prescription medication: A few non-prescription over-the-counter medications are available that patients can consume for temporary relief. Among these, antacids (Magnesium Hydroxide-Aluminium Hydroxide, Dimethicone) are the most common ones and help neutralise the acid in the stomach. However, over-consumption of antacids is never recommended as it can cause diarrhoea and kidney problems. Other non-prescription medications include histamine (H-2) blockers like Pepcid AC. However, these are less effective than antacids.

    Surgical Treatment: Nissen Fundoplication is one of the most effective surgical procedures for treating GERD. During the surgery, a surgeon operates on the sphincter at the bottom of the oesophagus to control the acid reflux. Although the surgical method is shown to cure patients of the symptoms, it is often recommended as a last resort.

    Additional Information

    Stages of GERD

    1. Stage 1 – Mild GERD 
    2. Stage 2- Moderate GERD
    3. Stage 3 – Severe GERD
    4. Stage 4 – Precancer or cancer

    Types of Acid Reflux

    1. LPR or Laryngopharyngeal reflux
    2. GERD

    How does smoking affect acidity?

    Smoking harms not only the respiratory system but also the digestive system. It has been seen that smokers tend to suffer from frequent heartburn and peptic ulcer than non-smokers. Diseases like Crohn's disease and gallstones also occur more frequently in smokers.

    Smoking can weaken the oesophageal sphincter, which prevents the backwards flow of stomach acid. So, it is highly recommended to avoid smoking to control and reduce the chances of acid reflux and GERD. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

How to reduce the risks of gastric or GERD quickly?

The easiest way to reduce the risks and complications of GERD is to avoid common triggers. This includes avoiding eating large meals or eating too fast. Fasting can increase gastric acidity levels, so that needs to be avoided. An individual must drink plenty of water throughout the day to help in motility and digestion, reducing the symptoms of acid reflux. Also, consultation with a doctor regarding the ongoing medications to know which ones to avoid, is essential.

Although there is no medication for permanently curing acidity, surgical procedures like the Nissen Fundoplication method can reduce the symptoms. However, the best remedy for getting rid of acidity is to lead a healthy lifestyle. It is possible to permanently cure acidity internally by controlling digestion and gastric problems. However, if an individual is suffering from GERD, he/she needs medical attention as it will not go away on its own.

Yes, stress can trigger acidity as emotional conditions impact the acid production in the stomach. Patients with GERD and a weaker oesophageal sphincter may need to practice meditation and other methods to reduce stress and the frequency of acid reflux.

Acidity or acid reflux is caused by the malfunctioning of the lower sphincter muscle of the oesophagus. When the sphincter relaxes at the wrong time, stomach acid gets released into the oesophagus, causing heartburn and other symptoms of acidity. This backwash of stomach acid is caused by poor lifestyle choices like eating fried food, fasting for longer, and smoking. To avoid the frequency of acidity, one must avoid these bad habits and adopt a healthy lifestyle. However, in severe conditions, only a gastroenterologist can provide proper treatment.