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What is Acid Reflux?
When we swallow food or liquids they pass through our esophagus and into the stomach. In between the esophagus and stomach is a muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter. This opens and closes allowing food to pass through into the stomach. Each of us has acid in our stomachs to help breakdown the food we eat. Unfortunately, if the lower esophageal sphincter does not close all the way it can allow some of that acid to move backwards, and up into the esophagus. That is when we experience the “heartburn” from acid reflux because that acid creates a burning sensation.
Acid Reflux Symptoms
The most common symptom of Acid Reflux is heartburn.
Often times acid reflux is referred to as heartburn. Other common acid reflux symptoms include:
- Chest pain
- Regurgitation of food or sour liquid
- Lump in your throat sensation
- Unexplained weight loss
If you are experiencing these symptoms persistently, then you might suffer from a condition called Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD).
If that is the case please contact your nearest TDDC gastroenterologist today.
What causes Acid Reflux or Heartburn?
Although acid reflux is very common, there is not one common cause of acid reflux. There are many components that could contribute to the weakening of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) and allow for the stomach acid to flow back up the digestive tract. Acid reflux can be caused by some foods, medicines, pre-existing conditions, or activities after eating. Different factors can affect an individual’s acid reflux in very different ways.
Some common causes include:
- Consuming caffeine- caffeine can function to relax the muscle (LES) that keeps the stomach acid from moving up the esophagus.
- Alcohol, particularly red wine- alcohol can function to relax the muscle (LES) that keeps stomach acid from moving up the esophagus and increase stomach acid production.
- Being overweight or obese- the excess weight can increase the pressure put on the abdomen and allow the stomach acid to backflow.
- Eating a heavy meal and then lying down- this can allow the stomach acid to backflow.
- Smoking- relaxes the muscle preventing backflow of stomach acid (LES) and triggers increase in acid production.
- Being pregnant- changes in hormones can cause more frequent relaxation of the muscle that prevents backflow of stomach acid. (LES)
- Eating a diet low in dietary fiber- dietary fiber is essential to keep your digestive system flowing smoothly.
- Carbonated drinks- the carbonation expands in the stomach and the built-up pressure can result in acid reflux.
- Hiatal Hernia- the entrance into the stomach from the esophagus is enlarged and can allow for the backflow of acid.
- Lower Esophageal Sphincter is weak or compromised- The lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is the barrier that prevents acid from flowing back up the digestive tract.
- Spicy Foods- directly irritate the esophagus lining.
- Fatty Foods- cause the muscle preventing acid reflux (LES) to relax.
- Aspirin, Ibuprofen, certain muscle relaxers, or blood pressure medications- can act as irritants to the esophageal lining.
- Chocolate- the chocolate and the caffeine it contains can cause the muscle preventing acid reflux (LES) to relax and the acid to backflow in the digestive tract.
- Citrus Fruits- the acidity of citrus can irritate the lining of the esophagus.
- Peppermint- causes the stomach acid to flow back up the esophagus.
- Tomatoes- the high levels of acidity can irritate the lining of the esophagus.
- Black pepper, garlic, raw onions- can cause an increase in the amount of acid production.
How can I relieve Acid Reflux?
The best and most effective way to relieve acid reflux is to consult with a board-certified gastroenterologist. However, there are some lifestyle changes that you can implement that will help you lessen the severity and frequency of symptoms.
These include but are not limited to:
- Avoid the foods and beverages mentioned in the above list
- Eat slowly and in moderation
- Stand or sit upright after eating
- Don’t eat at least 2 hours before going to bed
- Sleep at an incline
- Quit smoking
- Lose weight if overweight
- Tell your gastroenterologist about the current medications you are taking
- Limit your caffeine intake
What is the difference between acid reflux and GERD?
Most people in their lives have experienced the burning sensation of acid reflux. However, GERD is the more serious and chronic form of acid reflux. GERD is typically diagnosed when you experience acid reflux more than two times a week and you are experiencing inflammation in your esophagus. If you are experiencing the symptoms of acid reflux more than twice a week, schedule an appointment with a gastroenterologist today.