Acid reflux is a condition in which the stomach contents rises back (refluxes) into the esophagus. Acid reflux occurs due to a fault or dysfunctional valve that separates the esophagus from the stomach. At the entry of stomach, it is guarded by a ring of muscle which is called lower esophageal sphincter (LES). In normal individuals, the valve allows food to enter the stomach and then closes. If the sphincter valve is faulty, stomach contents can easily go up the esophagus causing irritation and burning chest pains (heart burn). Chronic acid reflux into the esophagus leads to gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD).
What are the signs and symptoms of acid reflux disease?
Symptoms of Gastro intestinal reflux disease manifest as a result of irritation of the acidic chime from the stomach. The common symptoms of acid reflux include;
- Burning chest pains: This is a burning sensation felt originating from the stomach to the lower chest and its due to the acid irritation causing heartburn.
- Food regurgitation: This is the tendency of bringing swallowed food back in to the mouth
- Voice hoarseness: This occurs due to irritation of the vocal cords by the acidic reflux
- Dysphagia and odynophagia: This is difficulty and pain when swallowing foods. This occurs due to inflammation of the lining of the esophagus which is critical in pushing food bolus down (peristalsis)
- Asthma: Reflux can cause asthmatic symptoms due to the constant irritation in the air passages by the acidic juices.
- Dental erosion: This occurs in GERD due to chronic reflux of the acidic juice to the mouth. This is commonly observed on the inner side of the maxillary incisors when there is constant contact with the juices.
- Difficulty in breathing: This is due to seeping of the regurgitated juices in the airways causing irritation and inflammation.
- Halitosis: A foul smell breath due to the regurgitated substances
- Nausea and feeling of fullness or bloating
What are the causes of acid reflux disease?
Acid reflux -is technically due to faulty LES valve allowing acidic juices to seep back into esophagus. Too much pressure on the stomach can make the sphincter give way. Some other causes and risk factors of acid reflux disease include;
- Pregnancy: As the pregnancy progresses to the third trimester the size of the fetus exert pressure on the stomach and can push the contents back up the esophagus. This is relieved by eating smaller meals but it disappears after giving birth.
- Large meals: Large meals can exert excess back pressure on the LES causing it to give way for the acid reflux. Smaller meals help minimize and solve the problem.
- Unfavorable body posture after meals: Some body postures after meal can promote pressure on the valve causing a reflux. Some of these postures include bending forward and lying supine after meals.
- Hiatus hernia: This is a condition where a part of the stomach punches in to the diaphragm and is higher than the valve position. Hiatus hernia causes an automatic reflux due to gravitational pressure. Hiatus hernia is uncommon and can be caused by chronic heavy coughing, vomiting, straining, or pregnancy.
- Smoking: Tobacco smoking elicits production of acid in the stomach and also weakens the sphincter muscle valve hence a higher risk of acid reflux disease.
- Certain foods and drinks: Certain foods and drinks can cause acid reflux in people. The common foods include spicy foods, fatty foods, garlic, coffee, tomatoes, vinegar, citrus fruits and alcohol.
As you can see there are many many symptoms and causes for acid reflux, and there are as many treatments for this unfortunate condition. Because this post would really get too long I have made separate posts for 6 Acid Reflux Cures and A 3 Step Natural Acid Reflux Treatment System. If you are interested in acid reflux treatments, I recommend you have a look at both of them, because they have their own differences.
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