Acid Reflux

What is acid reflux?

Acid reflux disease or heartburn are the commonly known expressions of gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD), which is the flowing back of the acidic juices from the stomach up into the esophagus. (Esophagus anatomy: esophagus is a tube connecting the throat and the stomach.) The lining of the esophagus does not have adequate defence against the harmful effects of the acid contents of the stomach, which causes injury of the esophagus, like inflammation, sometimes even ulceration, and a burning pain known as heartburn. In most cases the flowing back stomach material remains in the lower part of the esophagus, resulting in heartburn and/or nausea. (See stomach anatomy) Many of us may experience minor acid reflux especially after a large and heavy meal or certain drinks.

What is heartburn?

Discomfort or burning pain in the upper abdomen and/or lower chest area, often behind the breastbone caused by gastric acid reflux. Heartburn pain originates from the lower part of the esophagus according to stomach anatomy. The acid reflux pain might be so serious, that severe heartburn can be mixed up with angina or even heart attack. Read more about symptoms of acid reflux….

What causes heartburn?

acid reflux anatomyMain cause of heartburn is the chronic irritation by the acid gastric contents, which regurgitate into the lower part of the esophagus. (See stomach anatomy) Here, the lining has no protection from the burning effect of stomach acid. By contrast the stomach lining is covered with a thick protective layer of mucus, so acid never reaches the delicate walls of the stomach lining.
Sometimes, the refluxed stomach material flows back up all the way into the mouth causing burning sensation in the throat and acidic taste in the mouth.

What causes acid reflux?

The stomach contents are prevented from entering the esophagus by a double-action valve mechanism. The lower end of the esophagus has a muscular ring, known as the lower esophagus sphincter (LES), which forms one part of the valve mechanism. The other part consists of the hiatus, a narrow opening in the diaphragm muscle. The combination of these two muscular gateways provides an effective one-way valve.stomach anatomy (See stomach anatomy)
The most common cause of acid reflux is the incompetence of the lower esophageal sphincter. (See esophagus anatomy)



What can happen to the muscular sphincter?

Gastric acid reflux may develop as a result of several factors acting together to weaken the esophageal sphincter muscle and to make the valve leak. These factors include,

Acid reflux causes

  1. poor muscle tone in the lower esophageal sphincter (often caused by medicines, drugs or certain foods and drinks)
  2. increased abdominal pressure due to pregnancy, obesity, constant coughing (asthma) or wearing tight belts/clothing.
  3. a weakness in the hiatus that allows part of the stomach to slide into the chest called hiatal hernia or hiatus hernia (often caused by severe coughing, repeated vomiting, straining or sudden physical exertion.)

Heartburn causes

Many people develop mild heartburn in association with certain lifestyle factors, such as:

Read about acid reflux diet...

Severe acid reflux, which persists over many year can damage the delicate esophagus tissues, causing erosive esophagitis and scarring in the esophagus. It might eventually be severe enough to cause esophageal stricture (narrowing or partly obstruction of the esophagus). A stricture can make swallowing very difficult and extremely painful.

what is acid refluxChronic acid reflux may lead to the esophageal lining replacing the stomach lining, increasing the risk of developing esophageal cancer. The long term irritation by acidic material causes changes in the cells lining at the lower end of the esophagus (Barrett’s esophagus), leading to a serious form of cancer.
The chances of getting cancer of the esophagus is eight times higher in people who have chronic heartburn and it is increasing faster than almost any other cancer.

So take your acid reflux or heartburn seriously!

Related pages:

Acid Reflux Home Remedies

Acid Reflux Symptoms

Acid Reflux Diet

Heartburn Remedies

Heartburn and Pregnancy


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