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All of us, at one point of time or the other, would have experienced acid reflux. Before moving on to the causes of acid reflux, let us first explore as to what is acid reflux!
Acid reflux is a condition wherein the stomach acid, which helps to digest the food we consume, gets thrown back into the oesophagus, thus causing heartburn.
Normally, the stomach has a lining which protects itself from the effects of the powerful acid namely the hydrochloric acid, which the oesophagus or the food pipe does not!
As a result, one might experience a burning sensation when the valve separating the stomach from the food pipe, fails to stop the stomach acid from regurgitating into the oesophagus. This is the state of acid reflux.
Having known as to what is acid reflux, let us move on to learn its causes.
Lying Down Immediately After A Heavy Meal:
Gravity plays an important role in pushing the food we consume from the food pipe to the stomach. This process of the food, travelling from the oesophagus to the stomach, does not only occur due to swallowing. When gravity comes into the picture, one can easily imagine as to the difficulty with which the food is pushed into the stomach when one lies down after a heavy meal. This may directly lead to acid reflux.
Obesity can be directly linked to acid reflux. If you want to know the reason for this, then read on! The fat deposited around the belly area puts a pressure on the stomach, which leads to hiatal hernia, which causes the acid to be thrown back into the oesophagus, thus causing a burning sensation.
Having Food Late At Night:
Normally, a lot of strong acids are produced in the stomach when we consume a meal. When we eat food at bedtime, we may have to go to sleep with a lot of acids produced in the stomach. These acids may make their way up the food pipe, thus causing acid reflux.
Spicy foods aggravate the production of more acids in the stomach and decrease the LES pressure that is the lower oesophageal sphincter pressure. This may directly result in acid reflux. Other foods that may cause acid reflux are citrus fruits, fatty foods, chocolate, mint, garlic, onions, tomatoes, etc.
Certain beverages like tea, coffee and drinks like alcohol, soda, etc., may cause acid reflux. The reason behind this is, these drinks tend to weaken the muscle separating the stomach and the food pipe (lower oesophageal sphincter). As a result, this muscle is unable to stop the flow of acids from the stomach to the food pipe causing acid reflux. People having a tendency to have more acid reflux are advised to stay away from tea and coffee, as these drinks have the tendency to relax the sphincter muscle.
Nicotine, a major component of tobacco, also comes under the list of relaxing the sphincter muscle, which increases the risk of the stomach acids surging up the oesophagus, thus causing acid reflux which may ultimately lead to a disease called GERD. Also, tobacco has the tendency to reduce salivation. Saliva has an important acid neutralizing substance called bicarbonate, which helps in reducing acid reflux. As smokers have reduced secretion of saliva, they are more prone to acid reflux.
Certain medications like aspirin, ibuprofen and certain blood pressure medications tend to produce more acids in the stomach and also reduce the capacity of the valve that separates the food pipe and the stomach to open and close effectively, thus directly leading to acid reflux.
Consuming Fatty Foods:
Foods that are rich in fats like French fries, butter, ice-cream, potato chips, pork or lamb meat can cause acid reflux. These fatty foods cause the LES to relax and push more stomach acid to back up into the oesophagus.
Certain citrus fruits like lemon, pineapple and grapefruits contain acetic acid, so consuming too much of these citrus fruits can also cause acid reflux.
Consuming too much of chocolates can also cause acid reflux. Chocolate contains an ingredient called methylxanthine, which helps to relax the smooth muscle in the LES and increases acid reflux.
Acid reflux, when left unchecked, can cause other serious complications like GERD, nausea, heartburn, indigestion, etc. So, it is always advised to get medical help if you encounter acid reflux twice in a week to prevent the damage to the food pipe.