Acid reflux – Symptoms and treatment

If you are suffering from acid reflux problems, you are not alone. Common symptoms of acid reflux disease include coughing, nausea and chest pain. But did you know that a simple daily routine can strengthen the weakened muscles inside your body and thus treat the root cause of the symptoms?

What is acid reflux?

Acid reflux means that you have a reflux of stomach acid from the stomach up into the oesophagus. This occurs when the gastroesophageal junction is in the wrong position, and therefore cannot close tightly. Stomach acid can then leak out. 

When corrosive stomach acid comes into contact with the oesophagus, we feel discomfort. Common symptoms of reflux are coughing, heartburn, acid regurgitation and nausea. 

Acid reflux disease is caused by a weakening of the diaphragm – a thin and strong muscle that holds the stomach and its contents in place below the diaphragm. 

Acid reflux is also called gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD/GORD. Other common terms for acid reflux are silent reflux, gastric reflux and laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR).

Specialist nurse Charlotte Pålsson explains: What is reflux and why do you get it? (Choose English subtitles under Settings)

Symptoms of acid reflux

There are many different acid reflux symptoms, and if you ask people “How does acid reflux feel to you?” you quickly notice that the experience varies from person to person.

Some people have major problems with acid reflux while others have a minor stomach acid leakage into the oesophagus and therefore only experience mild symptoms.

Some people have acid reflux without heartburn, while others have serious problems with heartburn that greatly affects their quality of life.

Acid reflux discomfort varies in how it is experienced and how often it occurs. Some people have problems several times a day or in connection with a certain activity such as heavy lifting, lying down or after eating. Others have symptoms that come and go, with long periods without symptoms in between. 

In the worst case, stomach acid can damage the lining of the oesophagus even if you have not experienced severe gastric reflux problems. That is why it is important to also address milder problems as soon as possible.

Acid reflux symptoms that many people experience

  • Heartburn
  • Chest pain
  • Dry cough
  • Nausea
  • Acid regurgitation
  • Thick and bubbly saliva
  • Pain in the upper part of the abdomen

Some people also experience voice changes, hoarseness, a sore throat or difficulty in breathing – symptoms that are similar to asthma. Another common symptom of acid reflux is a corrosive injury to the teeth and mucous membranes in the mouth. Oral health might therefore be negatively influenced by recurrent acid reflux.

“It feels really amazing to get back to my old life”

Kevin Craner was in the shape of his life when he was suddenly diagnosed with reflux. He was given medicine but the side effects terrified him. Kevin thought about whether it was possible to train the muscles and took a chance with IQoro.

It made sense to me that if weakened muscles may be the problem, there must be a way of strengthening them. It made sense why it would work. I was already familiar with the concept of neuromuscular adaptions from my workouts. Read Kevin’s story

Acid reflux treatment

Acid reflux is not something that needs to be endured. Today it is possible to treat the root cause of acid reflux. A treatment that not only relieves the symptoms temporarily, but makes you completely free of discomfort in the long run. 

Below, we will explain how reflux is caused by a weakening of the diaphragm, and also how to get rid of acid reflux. When the diaphragm is weakened, it is unable to hold the stomach in place, which leads to stomach acid leaking into the oesophagus.

The most important thing to stop your acid reflux symptoms in the long term is to strengthen the weakened diaphragm and internal muscles. This is where the neuromuscular training device IQoro comes in.

IQoro provides a natural treatment for acid reflux. The treatment stimulates the nerves and strengthens the entire muscle chain in the swallowing process, from the lips down to the diaphragm and stomach. 

Acid reflux treatment with IQoro has been studied at Swedish universities. The results show a scientifically proven effect that has been reviewed and published in international medical journals. 

When you train with IQoro, the diaphragm is strengthened and your problems are alleviated as you practise. As your daily exercise routine produces results, problem-free periods will become longer until you eventually become completely symptom-free. And then, you will have naturally treated the root cause of your gastric reflux.

The training only takes 90 seconds a day, divided into three sessions, and it is so simple that anyone can manage it. IQoro can be used anywhere: at home, at work or on the go. So the challenge is rather to really get the routine into your everyday life so it actually makes a difference. 

When you feel symptom-free, it is important to do maintenance training to maintain the effect, but you can reduce the number of training sessions per week.

Learn more about how to train with IQoro.

How does IQoro work?

By activating the natural swallowing process in a high-intensity way, IQoro strengthens muscles from the face, oral cavity, throat and oesophagus down to the diaphragm and stomach.

By activating the sensory nerves in the lips and the soft palate, you can stimulate the brain and thus also reach muscles that you cannot control voluntarily, such as the lower part of the oesophagus and the gastro-oesophageal junction.

When you continuously stimulate and activate the muscles, they become stronger. Just as your arms get stronger if you do push-ups regularly, the diaphragm gets stronger if you activate it regularly.

Using a daily routine of 90 seconds, IQoro works to strengthen the weakened muscles that cause your acid reflux problems.

When the diaphragm is strengthened, it will be easier to control the position of the stomach so that less stomach acid leaks into the oesophagus. 

This reduces your acid reflux symptoms, which will disappear completely over time.

How quickly will I get better?

The duration of treatment using IQoro depends, among other things, on how long you have had acid reflux, how weak your muscles have become and how regularly you train.

According to our customer surveys, many people experience positive results from training with IQoro within a couple of weeks. Others may need to train for 6 months or longer to improve.

Regardless of how long you have had problems, whether you are young, old, fit, overweight or underweight, research has shown that as much as 100 percent of the participants have improved after 6-8 months of training and at least 58 percent have become symptom-free. 

When you have achieved the desired result, maintenance training is then required to prevent your acid reflux from returning.

If you are taking medicines for your problems, it is important that you do not reduce the dose or stop completely without consulting your healthcare provider. This also applies if your problems have decreased or ceased completely.

Treatment with IQoro is as effective without a diagnosis

A diagnosis of hiatal hernia or not – does it matter for the possibility of improving after IQoro treatment

In a scientific study on patients with acid reflux symptoms, patients were divided into two groups:

  • one group with a hiatal hernia diagnosis 
  • one group that did not have a hiatal hernia diagnosis. 

All participants had been treated with antacids for over 1 year and had to stop taking the medications at the beginning of the study. 

In the study, both groups trained with IQoro for 6 months following our training instructions. After the training period ended, all participants felt improvements to their acid reflux problems and 58 percent became completely symptom-free.

The result of the study was statistically significant with a three-star significance, which is the highest statistical certainty. 

The study clearly showed that the effect of IQoro treatment was equally good in both patient groups, regardless of whether they had a diagnosed hiatal hernia or not.

The reason why some of the participants had not had their hiatal hernia diagnosed was probably that the patient was standing during the x-ray examination.

There is a risk of missing a hiatal hernia during an x-ray if the person being x-rayed does not lie down on their side with pressure on the stomach.

Symptom relief

Acid reflux discomforts that affect everyday life are common. Maybe you have tried to relieve the symptoms in different ways to avoid discomfort?

There are four different ways to relieve acid reflux symptoms:

1. Neuromuscular training

2. Medicines

3. Home remedies

4. Lifestyle changes

Just as we explained above, the best long-term solution for acid reflux problems is to strengthen the muscles through IQoro training: so-called neuromuscular training. 

The difference between exercising with IQoro and other symptom relief is that IQoro treats the root cause while other approaches to relief only help momentarily. 

Below we go through the other types of symptom relief for acid reflux.

Acid reflux medicin

It is common to take various medications to relieve acid reflux symptoms. These can help alleviate some symptoms and make us feel better, also avoiding certain symptoms in the short term, but common to all acid reflux medicine is that it does not treat the root cause of the problems.

How does it work? 

Antacids (PPIs) weaken the corrosive property of stomach acid and make it gentler on the lining of the oesophagus and the throat when it leaks. The stomach acid thus continues to leak even when you take the medicine, but the experience is not as unpleasant because it is not as strong as usual.

Antacids only reduce the effect of stomach acid for as long as you take the medicine. When you stop taking the medication, the symptoms will return sooner or later. This is because drugs do not strengthen a weakened diaphragm.

Over-the-counter medicines for acid reflux

There are also over-the-counter medicines for acid reflux. One alternative is chewable acid reflux tablets which form a jelly-like mass that prevents acid regurgitation.

These medicines work well as a short-term solution to protect your mucous membranes from the corrosive acid. However, they are not intended for long-term use as they increase the risk of a number of serious diseases. That is why it is not recommended to use them as a symptom relief in the long run.

Since it takes time to train and strengthen weakened muscles in the body, you may need symptom relief in the form of medication in the beginning, before acid reflux treatment with IQoro gives results. Then it is important to reduce the dosage, in consultation with your healthcare provider, to avoid the so-called rebound effect.

Home remedies

There are lots of different home remedies to reduce acid reflux problems and most home remedies are harmless if used with common sense.

However, home remedies for acid reflux are not something we recommend from a scientific perspective. But if you find a trick to reduce acid reflux that works for you, it is of course positive. Some are said to find relief from drinking water mixed with bicarbonate, others by eating sweet almonds or making sure to drink plenty of water.

For home remedies, the same thing applies as for other symptom relief: they will not do anything about the underlying cause, which is weakened internal muscles.

Lifestyle changes

Suggestions for lifestyle changes to relieve discomfort and reduce the symptoms of acid reflux are common.

Various lifestyle changes can be:

  • lose weight
  • raise the head end of your bed
  • avoid eating before bed
  • avoid certain foods such as coffee, white bread or strong spices
  • reduce alcohol consumption
  • lie on the left side when sleeping

Of course, making health-promoting changes is positive, and if it helps with your acid reflux there are no problems with it. 

But lifestyle changes can make you learn to adapt your life to your condition, so that the symptoms do not become so common even if the underlying cause remains. 

For many people, it can also mean refraining from things that are important and enjoyable in life, such as good food, exercise and social contexts. But the longer you push the problem in front of you and make adjustments to “avoid symptoms”, the weaker the diaphragm becomes.

As time goes on, it is not uncommon for you to therefore get more symptoms of hiatal hernia. That is why it is important to find a long-term solution and strengthen the weakened muscles as soon as possible. 

What causes acid reflux?

The underlying problem in acid reflux, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, is a weakened diaphragm – a so-called hiatal hernia.

The diaphragm is a thin but powerful muscle that sits below the ribs and acts as a septum in the upper body. In the upper half you have the lungs and heart, among other organs; in the lower half you have the stomach and intestines.

There is a hole in the middle of the diaphragm through which the oesophagus passes down into the stomach. It is called the hiatus canal.

When the stomach and gastroesophageal junction are below the diaphragm, the junction closes tightly. Food and fluid can reach the stomach, but nothing can rise back up into the oesophagus.

In order for us to vomit and belch, the upper part of the stomach can slide up through the hole in the diaphragm so that the gastroesophageal junction temporarily ends up above the diaphragm, which enables the junction to open and release its contents. This function is controlled by the muscles in the diaphragm.

But when the diaphragm is weak, the stomach can slide up and down uncontrollably. For example, if the stomach is exposed to pressure when we lie down or bend forward.

When the stomach and gastroesophageal junction slide up into the chest cavity, the junction loses the ability to remain tight, and corrosive stomach acid leaks up into the oesophagus. The oesophagus is not made to cope with strong stomach acid, which is the cause of the burning sensation, pain and discomfort that many describe in acid reflux.

This weakening is called a hiatal hernia or hiatus hernia which is the Latin name for the diagnosis. There are also a number of other names for the same diagnosis, such as gastric hernia or hiatic hernia.

The oesophagus defends itself against the strong stomach acid through the glands at the bottom of the oesophagus forming a protective mucus, which can cause other symptoms such as thick, frothy saliva.

A continuous hawking, hoarseness and constant dry cough that refuses to go away are not the flu, but rather stomach acid and mucus leaking into the airways and over the vocal cords. These are common symptoms of acid reflux.

Who gets acid reflux?

Acid reflux can affect both young and old – children and adults. As many as 20 percent of Europe’s population is estimated to suffer from acid reflux – that is 112 million people in Europe alone.

Even if the root cause of reflux is that the diaphragm is weakened, it is not a sign that you are not getting enough exercise or have done something wrong. 

Acid reflux commonly affects people who are otherwise completely healthy. Among other things, acid reflux can occur through prolonged heavy physical exercise.

Science has not yet proven why so many people suffer from hiatal hernia and thus acid reflux. There can be several reasons, but it is known that acid reflux is common among:

  • snorers or people with sleep apnoea
  • people who lift heavy loads and overload their diaphragm
  • pregnant women, as the fetus presses against the abdomen and diaphragm
  • people who have been ill for a long time and needed to eat liquid food 
  • older people who often have weakened internal muscles
  • people who are not normally physically active
  • people with severe obesity
  • people with diagnoses/diseases that impair muscle function.

Just as the muscles in the arms and legs can become weak, it is logical that muscles inside the body can be affected for various reasons. 

It is not uncommon for several people in the same family to have acid reflux problems because environment and lifestyle can have an effect.

Acid reflux during pregnancy is common because the pressure on the diaphragm increases as the baby grows in the womb. Age is also a common cause of acid reflux problems because all our muscles weaken as we get older.

Training with IQoro works for people of all ages and with different conditions. 

Elderly people and people with disabilities can train with assistance if the ability to hold IQoro or to close the lips is impaired in any way. There is also IQoro for children.

Different types of acid reflux

There are different types of acid reflux, all of which have similar symptoms but still differ enough that it can sometimes be difficult to understand that it is actually acid reflux you are suffering from.

Below we explain the difference between silent reflux, GERD, LPR and Barrett’s Syndrome.

What is GERD / GORD?

GERD, or GORD as it is also called, means that stomach acid leaks into the oesophagus and attacks the mucous membrane there. Common symptoms of GERD are heartburn, a feeling that something is stuck in the throat, pain behind the sternum, difficulty swallowing some kinds of foods and thick mucus or bubbly saliva.

Many people who suffer from GERD also get prolonged coughing. The symptoms are usually felt both in the chest and in the throat.

GERD stands for Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease and GORD stands for Gastro Oesophageal Reflux Disease. It is the same thing and depends only on how you choose to spell esophageal.

What is silent reflux?

Acid reflux without heartburn is called silent reflux.

Silent reflux means that you do not feel heartburn or acid regurgitation. Instead, you have other symptoms of acid reflux, mainly in the throat.

For example, some silent reflux symptoms you may have problems with are thick mucus, a frequent need to clear the throat, lumpiness in the throat or irritation of the larynx.

If stomach acid also flows into the airways, it can irritate the vocal cords and make your voice change. Hence the subsequent need to clear the mucus from the throat and vocal cords to speak clearly. 

The reason you are not aware of the leak is that the gastric fluid seeps up when you sleep. However, the problem is still the same: stomach acid leaks into the oesophagus due to a hiatal hernia and irritates the mucous membrane there.

What is LPR reflux?

Laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR) means, just like the other types of acid reflux, that stomach acid leaks into the oesophagus due to a hiatal hernia.

The difference with LPR reflux is that you normally get both heartburn and symptoms similar to those of silent reflux – i.e. a frequent need to clear the throat, thick mucus and lumpiness in the throat or sore throat and irritation of the larynx and vocal cords.

What is heartburn?

Heartburn and acid regurgitation are also due to stomach acid leaking into the oesophagus. Symptoms of heartburn are a burning, stinging or gnawing pain in the chest or throat.

What is Barrett’s Syndrome?

Barrett’s Syndrome (Barrett’s oesophagus) is basically stomach acid reflux that has persisted for many years.

Barrett’s Syndrome means that the corrosive acid from the stomach has begun to burn the lining of the oesophagus. These burns can lead to cell changes that can eventually develop into cancer.

Seeking medical help for reflux

Acid reflux is quite common, and in most cases harmless if it only happens once in a while, but if you have problems that recur more and more often and affect your everyday life, you should address your problems.

When should I seek medical help for acid reflux?

We always recommend that you contact your doctor or a medical centre if acid reflux is causing you problems. A doctor will then examine your condition to rule out other serious illnesses.

Since treatment with IQoro does not have any negative side effects, it is a good place to start strengthening your muscles right away, while waiting for a medical examination.

Always contact your doctor or a medical care centre if your condition deteriorates quickly. If you have heartburn together with black stools, or vomit something that looks like coffee grounds, you should see a doctor or go to the emergency room right away.

Examinations and investigations

When you seek care for acid reflux or heartburn, you will most likely be examined and treated by a doctor. The visit usually begins with you describing your problems.

For this it may be good to have thought about how often and when your problems occur, what symptoms you have and how long you have had acid reflux. Feel free to do our self-test for acid reflux so as to reflect on your symptoms and see if you have hiatal hernia or not. It only takes three minutes and is completely free.

When you then visit the medical centre, the doctor may also want to do a gastroscopy. You will be referred to a testing facility for the gastroscopy at a later time.

Gastroscopy for acid reflux

Performing a gastroscopy involves sending a small camera through the nose to examine what the inside of the oesophagus and stomach look like. The doctor who performs the gastroscopy will look for signs of sores and inflammation. Your doctor may also take tissue samples to look for cell changes.

Many people think that a gastroscopy could be uncomfortable, but most people will be given a sedative. Talk to your doctor if you are worried. You need to fast for at least six hours before a gastroscopy.

If the gastroscopy does not show a hiatal hernia – why do I have acid reflux?

One important thing to keep in mind is that a camera cannot see how strong your muscles are inside your body. Even if the stomach slides up and down through the diaphragm uncontrolled, it may well be that it is below the diaphragm on the day of the gastroscopy.

That is why a gastroscopy can indicate that everything looks normal, even if you have a hiatal hernia that causes your acid reflux. If it had been possible to monitor how your stomach moves during the day, such as when you lift heavy objects, the result of the examination might have been different.

A gastroscopy is performed primarily to rule out other diagnoses and not to specifically look for a hiatal hernia. But if the examination is done at the right time, when the stomach has slipped up to the chest cavity, the surgeon can measure how many centimetres the stomach has slipped up.

An acid reflux medicine prescription is an indirect diagnosis

If the doctor prescribes medicine for your acid reflux problems, this is an indirect diagnosis of hiatal hernia.

A hiatal hernia is the root cause of acid reflux because it is the weakened muscles that allow the leakage of stomach acid.

If you are prescribed medication to alleviate your acid reflux problems, this means your doctor has assessed that you have a hiatal hernia, even if it has not been proven during an examination. If you have also had a gastroscopy that excludes that your problems are due to other causes, the diagnosis is even more certain.

You can always start training the muscles in the diaphragm using IQoro if you have acid reflux problems, regardless of whether you are taking medication or not.

Acid reflux surgery

Treatment with IQoro as an alternative before surgery is recommended by NICE

Surgery to correct gastric reflux problems involves sewing the stomach in place below the diaphragm. This means that the upper part of the stomach can no longer slide up through the hiatus canal (the hole in the diaphragm) allowing stomach acid to leak out and cause problems.

Acid reflux surgery is a quick procedure that usually allows the patient to leave the hospital the same day. Take it easy for a few days after acid reflux surgery, eat small portions and chew properly. Some doctors prescribe special diets after surgery.

One thing that is important to remember when it comes to acid reflux surgery is that it is not possible to belch or vomit normally after such an operation. If you eat or drink something inappropriate, you may need to see a doctor to get the contents removed from your stomach.

There is no guarantee that the symptoms will not return some time after the procedure. Surgery is therefore only a last resort and very few people who suffer from acid reflux are offered the procedure.

Even if you plan to have surgery to get rid of reflux, there is nothing stopping you from training with IQoro before the procedure.

IQoro after acid reflux surgery?

Some people contact us months or years after their acid reflux surgery when their acid reflux symptoms have returned. 

The good thing to remember is that it is not dangerous to start training with IQoro after the surgery. It can probably still have a positive effect by strengthening the diaphragm. 

At the moment, there is no research on patients after surgery and how successful results can then be achieved through exercise. 

Reference sources

  1. Kjellén G, Tibbling L. Manometric oesophageal function, acid perfusion test and symptomatology in a 55-year-old general population. Clinical Physiology. 1981; 1:405-15
  2. Hägg M, Tibbling L, Franzén T. Esophageal dysphagia and reflux symptoms before and after oral IQoro® training. World J Gastroenterol 2015; 21(24): 7558-7562.

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