The Main Cause of Acid Reflux

Acid reflux or GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease) refers to the condition in which stomach contents are leaked back into the esophagus. Normally once the food exits the esophagus and reaches the stomach it is prevented from going back by a group of muscles. In people suffering from acid reflux these sphincter muscles do not close properly causing stomach acid and other contents to rise up into the esophagus.

The gastric juices can travel upwards and make their way into the airway, mouth and throat causing asthma. GERD is associated with heartburn or acute pain in the chest area. The stomach acids can also cause dental erosion and difficulty in swallowing. Acid reflux may result in the regurgitation of half-digested food from the stomach in addition to the expulsion of stomach acids.

The main cause for acid reflux is the faulty functioning of the LES or lower esophageal sphincter. These muscles are supposed to act as an active barrier between the contents of the stomach and the esophagus. There may be multiple reasons for the LES not functioning properly including a sharp rise in stomach pressure. This pressure may subsequently force the sphincter muscles to open and let the gastric juices through.

Eating large meals may promote the development of acid reflux. People are advised to switch to smaller portions and follow systemic eating habits. They can maintain a diary cataloguing their diet, which may help them in identifying which food groups are problematic and trigger acid reflux. A change in dietary preferences can help reduce the effects of acid reflux.

Peptic ulcers and lack of sufficient digestive fluids may restrict the digestive function of the stomach. This may subsequently lead to accumulation of stomach acids that may force their way into the esophagus. Hernia is another condition which may be conducive to the development of GERD or acid reflux. Hiatal hernias are caused by the protrusion of the stomach through an opening in the diaphragm region. Hiatal hernias are normally caused by excessive vomiting, coughing, physical exertions and strain.

During the third semester of the pregnancy, the unborn baby grows large enough to press against the stomach. This may cause undue pressure which results in stomach contents being expelled back into the esophagus. This type of acid reflux disappears soon after childbirth and is a purely temporary condition. Small meals with greater frequency than normal are supposed to help reduce the symptoms. Antacids are normally not effective for treating this condition.

Asthma attacks with bouts of sneezing and coughing can put extra strain on the chest which may lead to acid reflux. Asthma medications which dilate the air passages may also relax the sphincter muscles, causing backing up of gastric juices.

Smoking and alcohol consumptions are two other major causes of acid reflux. Smoking reduces the presence of bicarbonates in the saliva, which are responsible for neutralizing acids.

Smoking cigarettes may actually reduce the saliva in the mouth and relax the LES muscles. It also weakens the digestive process and causes the transfer of bile salts form the small intestine to the stomach. The bile salts enhance the damaging effect of the acids. Alcohol consumption can be directly linked with GERD. Cutting down on alcohol consumption normally improves the symptoms associated with acid reflux.

Some people may have a low pressure sphincter which cannot withstand the pressure from the stomach acids. Blood pressure medications and antidepressants can lower the pressure. Fundoplication is a simple surgical procedure which can be done to strengthen the sphincter muscles. Gastroparesis is a condition in which the stomach takes large amount of time to empty itself. When the stomach acid remains in the stomach for a prolonged period with steady increase in pressure it has nowhere to go but the esophagus.

Obesity causes undue pressure in the stomach region and may force the regurgitation of stomach contents. Hence it is also a factor in causing acid reflux. Bio-phosphates are a group of drugs that are used to treat osteoporosis. They can cause heartburn and other symptoms similar to acid reflux. These supplements may not directly cause acid reflux but it may mimic many of its symptoms.

For most people some changes in their lifestyle can greatly reduce acid reflux and its symptoms. Substances like caffeine and coffee should be consumed in small quantities. Obese or overweight people should look to cut down on their weight. Alcohol intake and smoking should be restricted. Such practices are likely to promote reduction in acid reflux related problems.

Some other conditions that may induce acid reflux in patients include: Zollinger Ellison syndrome which can increase stomach acidity, Hypercalcemia which increases the production of gastrin, Scleroderma and Glenard syndrome. All these disorders affect the functioning of some part of the upper digestive system comprising of the esophagus, stomach and gastric acid production mechanism.

People suffering from acid reflux are advised to avoid some particular food products. Substances that cause heartburn include chili powder, citrus fruits, pineapples, garlic, tomatoes, vinegar and black pepper. Some food products cause gas which further adds to the severity of acid reflux. These foods include cauliflower, beans, cabbage, broccoli, carbonated drinks and sprouts. Besides avoiding these foods certain medications or supplements may be prescribed by doctors to help improve this condition.

Certain histamines are used to reduce inflammation and suppress acid reflux. Proton pump inhibitors restrict the production of gastric acid by acting on the walls of the stomach. Pro-kinetic supplements help empty the stomach and prevent pressure from building up in the stomach. The most widely used medications for GERD are antacids which can help reduce the severity of certain symptoms such as indigestion and chest pain. The use of antacids may not show long term effects.

Acid reflux is mainly the result of stomach acid flowing back into the esophagus. Following a healthy diet with small meals can help prevent this condition. Also people suffering from this condition should carefully eliminate any food products that may initiate or promote the development of acid reflux. Taking proper precautions and following healthy eating practices can help reduce the impact of acid reflux and its related symptoms.