What is Acid Reflux?
Acid reflux is when stomach acid leaks up into the oesophagus. Everyone gets it now and then it is known as indigestion or heartburn but a person with gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD will have acid more than twice a week.
What Causes It?
There are many causes of acid reflux. The most common being a hiatal hernia, this is when the hiatus or hole in your diaphragm is too loose and your stomach leaks up into your chest cavity.
The second cause is your stomach creating too much acid putting pressure on the lower oesophagus
And finally, the third is when the lower oesophageal sphincter is loose or spasms and allows stomach contents to leak up.
What are the Symptoms?
- Bloody or black stools or bloody vomiting
- Dysphagia — a narrowing of your oesophagus, which creates the sensation of food being stuck in your throat
- Hiccups that don’t let up
- Weight loss for no known reason
- Wheezing, dry cough, hoarseness, or chronic sore throat
- Heartburn: a burning pain or discomfort that may move from your stomach to your abdomen or chest, or even up into your throat
- Regurgitation: a sour or bitter-tasting acid backing up into your throat or mouth also causes bad breath
- Excessive production of phlegm causing constant clearing of the throat
- Tooth Decay and gum disease
People most at Risk:
- being overweight or obese – this can place increased pressure on your stomach and weaken the muscles at the bottom of the oesophagus
- eating large amounts of fatty foods – the stomach takes longer to get rid of stomach acid after digesting a fatty meal and the resulting excess acid may leak up into the oesophagus
- smoking, alcohol, coffee or chocolate – these may relax the muscles at the bottom of the oesophagus
- pregnancy – temporary changes in hormone levels and increased pressure on your stomach during pregnancy can cause GORD (read more about heartburn in pregnancy)
- hiatus hernia – when part of your stomach pushes up through your diaphragm (thin sheet of muscle between the chest and tummy)
- gastroparesis – when the stomach takes longer to get rid of stomach acid, which means excess acid can leak up into the oesophagus
- certain medicines – some medicines can cause GORD or make the symptoms worse, including calcium-channel blockers (used to treat high blood pressure), nitrates (used to treat angina) and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
This can also cause GERD symptoms to worsen.
You don’t necessarily need to have all or even one of these risk factors to have acid reflux this just means people in these categories are more likely to develop the condition