Acid reflux and you

By: Oct 03, 2011
acid reflux

The treatments, symptoms and causes of acid reflux.

Have you ever had an unpleasant experience following certain meals in which stomach bile or acid made its way back into your mouth, causing extreme discomfort and even pain? Such a condition is known as acid reflux and certain habits are more likely to trigger it than others.

When we eat, food passes through the esophagus to reach the stomach, where acid or bile juice is literally waiting to do its job to help the digestion process. A ring of muscle fibers, known as the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), prevents food, liquid, and bile juice from backflowing into the gullet. When the sphincter muscle becomes weak and doesn't close properly, gastric juices revert into the esophagus. Once in the esophagus, the only logical place is to travel back up into the throat and mouth. This condition triggers irritation in the esophagus, causing heartburn and related symptoms. You may have experienced some or all of these symptoms and wondered what was happening to you.

Symptoms of Acid Reflux

  • Uncomfortable, yet not completely describable feeling
  • Nausea
  • Heartburn
  • Chest pain
  • Regurgitation
  • Difficulty swallowing

Once the acid is back in a sufferer’s mouth and throat, the potential to cause dental erosion, hoarseness, and even asthma is high. So apart from the discomfort reflux will leave behind as its calling card, there are other “issues” to be concerned with.

Causes of Acid Reflux

What causes this increase in bile in one’s stomach can literally vary from person to person. While someone who is a habitual user of the “most insane chili sauce known to man or woman” might never experience it, someone who dabs just a little bit of black or white pepper on her food might be overtaken by it.

Smoking is one of the leading causes of acid reflux. With all the other known problems associated with smoking, it might be a great time to quit.

Given the acidity in coffee and spicy foods, either of those can be triggers for a known sufferer. Alternatively, eating a heavy meal, acidic in nature or not, just before bed can cause reflux. The stomach releases more acid to break down the excess food, some of which might flow backward into the food pipe, causing heartburn. This is of course a fairly easy fix. Curtail late night eating.

For some, eating citrus fruits, including lemon, lime, tomato, and orange, or juices made from these fruits can contribute to acid reflux. Oftentimes drinking these juices within an hour of drinking coffee can increase this risk.

Studies conducted at the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Houston, Texas point to a connection between obesity and acid reflux. What the data shows is a link between body mass index (BMI), especially around the stomach, and an elevated production of acid and bile. Losing weight can dramatically decrease acid reflux in this instance.

Pregnancy and Acid Reflux: Unlikely Bedfellows

Pregnancy sure has its ups and downs, doesn’t it? Nausea, bloat, insomnia, the feeling that your organs are moving everywhere but where they are supposed to be, which is all balanced by that healthy glow, long and flowing hair and a beautiful belly that everyone is just dying to touch. For many women who are expecting, following each meal, regardless what she eats, can be nothing short of pain and discomfort.

During the third trimester of pregnancy in particular, the pressure of the growing fetus on the stomach often results in acid reflux. The good news about this known cause is that for the majority of women following delivery, it is a distant memory.

Long Term Dangers of Acid Reflux

Acid reflux can become dangerous if not treated. It can last for some months or even longer. If the problem persists and goes untreated, it can develop into GERD, which can cause esophageal scarring. This condition creates swallowing problems and even an increased risk of cancer of the esophagus and stomach.

Avoiding Acid Reflux

There is hope for the habitual sufferer that doesn’t have to involve a brightly colored purple pill. Of course you will want to discuss any treatment you opt for with your doctor.

  • Keep your head in a raised position while sleeping
  • Avoid sleeping immediately after eating. Ideally a walk and waiting up to two hours before bed can work wonders.
  • Avoid smoking, which is known to reduce the digestive power of the stomach – among other more serious symptoms.
  • Reduce your intake of food and learn to stay active if you are obese or overweight
  • Avoid eating when you feel anxious or nervous
  • Avoid fried, oily, and junk foods, which are rich in fat.
  • Avoid spices in your diet

If those fail to provide relief, talk with your doctor. He or she might prescribe acid suppressants, such as Histamine, Prokinetic agents, antacids, Proton pump inhibitors.