Modern medical science defines acid reflux as a symptom caused by mucosal damage due to abnormal reflux in the esophagus. Reflux is the backflow of gastric juices from the stomach to the esophagus. This is sometimes termed as gastric reflux by some medical texts.
The barrier that separates the stomach and the esophagus may have undergone certain changes that cause acid reflux to occur. If the gastric reflux reaches the throat, a disease called laryngopharyngeal reflux occurs.
In most cases, heartburns are common symptoms attributed to acid reflux — a sensation of a burning discomfort in the sternum. According to medical findings, acid reflux happens during digestion. When gastric juices flow backwards from the stomach to the esophagus, it causes a burning sensation to occur from the chest to the throat. This is usually caused by:
- Eating highly-acidic foods in large quantities.
- Overeating is also a factor that causes acid reflux — large amounts of gastric juices are produced and flow into the stomach when an individual eats above their normal capacity. These acids will flow back to the esophagus and causes heartburn.
- Stress is also a factor that leads to acid reflux. When an individual is subjected to an environment that causes their stress level to increase, blood is pumped away from the stomach to the muscles, which eventually leads to heartburn.
- Within the last months of pregnancy women are prone to suffer acid reflux. The enlarging baby pushes the stomach upward causing some acid to flow to the esophagus. It was noted that eating small amounts of food reduces the possibility of this happening. Normally, this problem disappears after childbirth.
- Obesity is known to cause acid reflux that can be easily remedied by weight loss.
Other Causes of Acid Reflux
Normal human activities are not the only reasons why acid reflux occurs; internal functions (or malfunctions) in our system can lead to the disease. Some of those are:
- Hiatal Hernia — this happens when the opening between the esophagus and the stomach is enlarged and the upper portion of the stomach moves up into the lower portion of the thorax. There are two types of hiatal hernia: 1) axial hernia and 2) paraesophageal hernia. Only axial hernia leads to acid reflux.
- Esophagitis — are infections found in the esophagus. This is one of the most common causes of acid reflux or GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). We cover more about this in an upcoming chapter.
- Asthma — there are also instances where excessive coughing attributed to asthma can cause acid reflux.