Acid reflux disease causes backward flow of the stomach contents to the esophagus. This article provides some information about the causes of this condition.
The stomach produces acids and enzymes, which aid in digestion of food materials. People suffering from acid reflux experience heart burn and nausea, due to the backward flow of the liquid content in the stomach to the esophagus. The contents of the stomach include acids, enzymes and sometimes bile. Most people experience these symptoms once in a while, but if the problem is persistent, the condition is called acid reflux disease.
This disease can cause damage to the lining of esophagus, which may lead to ulcer, bleeding and even cancer. In severe cases, acid reflux disease may cause chronic cough, asthma, sinus infections, throat and lung infections, etc. The causes of acid reflux may vary from one person to another. There are several factors that contribute to this disease. They include esophageal abnormalities, hiatal hernia, pregnancy, smoking, intake of certain foods, and gastroparesis.
The valve that is situated in the lower end of the esophagus, controls the opening to the stomach. This valve is called the lower esophageal sphincter. Normally, it opens to allow the food to enter the stomach, and prevents backward flow of the contents to the esophagus. Any abnormality of this valve can cause the reverse flow of gastric juices to the esophagus, and sometimes to the throat. It is said that, certain types of drugs and food items can weaken the lower esophageal sphincter.
The chest is separated from the abdomen by a muscular, horizontal partition called the diaphragm. The lower esophageal sphincter is situated in the same level as that of the diaphragm. In some cases, the upper stomach, which is attached to the lower end of esophagus, move above the diaphragm. In normal cases, both the diaphragm and the lower esophageal sphincter jointly resist the back flow of stomach contents, but in people with hiatal hernia, the resisting power is less, as both are in different levels. This results in two low power barriers, in place of a single high pressure barrier. Hence, hiatal hernia is one of the common causes of acid reflux.
Some women experience acid reflux during pregnancy. The pressure exerted on the stomach by the growing fetus causes reverse flow of the stomach contents to the esophagus. It is also said that, the elevated level of hormones weaken the lower esophageal sphincter, during this stage. Antacids cannot be of much help in this condition, but in almost all cases, the disease disappears after delivery.
Smoking and Gastroparesis
Smoking can cause damage to the mucous membranes, increase acid secretion, can weaken the lower esophageal sphincter, and reduce the production of saliva, which has a neutralizing effect on the acid. All these factors contribute to or may even worsen acid reflux disease. Gastroparesis is a condition in which the food remains in the stomach for longer durations. In most cases, the symptoms of acid reflux are more severe right after taking food, when the stomach is full. Gastroparesis extends the time of food retention in the stomach, and thereby aggravates the symptoms of acid reflux.
Acid Reflux Foods
Some food items and food habits trigger the symptoms of acid reflux. Lying down right after having a heavy meal may cause heart burn. It is said that, over consumption of chocolate, garlic, onions, coffee or tea, alcohol, tomato, mint, carbonated drinks, and spicy food, may also cause heartburn, and lead to acid reflux disease.
Finally, obesity can contribute to acid reflux, as it causes pressure on the stomach. Overeating, stress and a diet that is high in salt and fatty foods, can also result in this disease. You can control this disease to a certain extent, by changing your lifestyle. Avoid smoking, fatty food, heavy meals, and consumption of alcohol. However, it is better to get the condition diagnosed by a health expert. If acid reflux is caused by an underlying medical condition, proper treatment is enough to relieve the symptoms.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice. Visiting your physician is the safest way to diagnose and treat any health condition.