Acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), can be caused by a variety of reasons from eating a spicy meal to having an abnormality in the esophagus or taking medication for asthma. Acid reflux is a condition in which stomach contents back up into the esophagus causing a burning sensation like heartburn and, if chronic, can cause damage to the esophagus over time. Many people merely take antacids or acid reducers to alleviate the pain, but if acid reflux is chronic there may be an underlying condition that is causing the problem. Here are some causes why a person may be experiencing acid reflux.
Acidic Food Choices
For the person who is experiencing acid reflux occasionally, it could be he or she is eating too many spicy or fatty foods. Foods high in acidic content, such as citrus fruits and juices or tomatoes and onions can be the cause of acid reflux. Caffeine is another culprit. Too much coffee, chocolate or tea can cause a high acid content in the stomach. Eating too much at one time can also cause the food to digest too slowly and back up into the esophagus. For those who experience acid reflux occasionally, watching their diet and taking an antacid is the best way to alleviate the problem.
People with acid reflux that experience symptoms such as sore throat, chronic cough, hoarseness or feeling like they have a lump in their throat are more likely to have an abnormality of the esophagus. Adult-Ringed Esophagus is a condition in which a person has multiple rings around the esophagus that causes trouble with swallowing and food getting stuck or backing up. Motility Abnormalities is a problem with spontaneous muscle action in the esophagus. These abnormalities have to be diagnosed by a doctor.
Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES) Muscle Malfunction
The lower esophageal sphincter (LES) muscle is responsible for closing off after food has emptied into the stomach and not allow it back up into the esophagus. These muscles can weaken, allowing stomach acid to back up into the esophagus and cause acid reflux. This weakening can occur from drugs, nervous system factors or dietary substances causing the muscles to become impared.
The Link between Asthma and Acid Reflux
According to the Cleveland Clinic in an article titled “GERD and Asthma”, seventy-five percent of people who have asthma also suffer from acid reflux. Experts believe that acid reflux can be triggered by the sneezing and coughing associated with an asthma attack. Other concerns are that medications taken by asthmatics to relax and dilate the airways may also relax the LES and allow stomach contents to back up into the esophagus. Sleeping with the head elevated slightly, eating smaller meals, limiting acidic foods from the diet and allowing foods to digest properly before lying down are all ways that acid reflux can be prevented.
Impaired Stomach Function
Nearly half of all people who suffer from acid reflux are found to have some abnormal muscle or nerve function in the stomach. In these cases, the stomach is unable to contract normally and does not digest and empty at a normal rate allowing for the risk of stomach content to back up into the esophagus. Eating smaller meals and allowing time for food to digest may help to alleviate the symptoms of acid reflux.
Genetic Association with Acid Reflux
Genetics may also play a role in suffering from acid reflux. Stomach or esophagus structure problems may be genetic in families. This is especially important to be aware of in the case of genetic susceptibility to Barrett’s esophagus. This condition makes a person more susceptible to esophageal cancer due to long-term damage of the esophagus by stomach acid. If a member of your family has been diagnosed with Barrett’s esophagus and you also suffer from acid reflux, it is important to be checked regularly by your doctor.
Pain Relievers and Acid Reflux
Many over-the-counter pain relievers that are taken on a regular basis can contribute to acid reflux. Aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen are all culprits as well as many prescription pain relievers. This only applies to people who take these medications for more than six months on a regular basis. Taking the occasional pain reliever should not cause symptoms of acid reflux.
There is a long list of medications that can cause acid reflux to flare up. Calcium channel blockers for high blood pressure, anticholinergics taken for urinary tract infections, beta adrenergic agonists used for asthma, and dopamine taken for Parkinson’s disease are just some of the drugs that can cause acid reflux. Many antibiotics as well as iron pills and potassium can also be culprits. Check with your doctor if you believe the medication you are taking is causing you to suffer from acid reflux.
If you are experiencing acid reflux on a regular basis then talk to your doctor about the causes and treatment. Simple changes in the diet as well as a few lifestyle changes may be all you need to do to treat it. However, if there is an underlying cause, it is important for you to find out what it is and how to treat it.
Author: Deanna Lynn Sletten
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