What Is Acid Reflux?Posted on May 27th, 2010 No comments
Acid reflux disease is something you hear a lot about these days, and for good reason… it has been estimated that at least 60 million people in the United States suffer from it! But what is acid reflux exactly? Here’s your answer…
Well the latin word “reflux” means to back up, or recede… and that is exactly what happens in acid reflux disease – acid from the stomach flows into the esophagus where it doesn’t belong. As common sense would tell us, having strong stomach acid in our esophagus can lead to unfortunate acid reflux symptoms.
Many people use the terms “acid reflux” and “heartburn” interchangeably, but they actually don’t mean the same thing. Acid reflux refers to what’s taking place (acid moving up). Meanwhile heartburn is a term used to describe the burning feeling in the esophagus from the acid. Therefore heartburn is actually a symptom of acid reflux.
What is acid reflux’s cause?
There are numerous things which are known to cause or contribute to acid reflux. That being said, the actual cause is abnormal functionality of the digestive system. This can entail various things, but more often than not the cause is the lower esophageal sphincter not working as it should. This is a round band of muscle that acts like a valve, shutting off the stomach from the esophagus. When it works properly, it keeps things flowing in the right direction. When it doesn’t work right, it allows the stomach’s content to sometimes flow up into the esophagus.
While the lower esophageal sphincter is often the problem, there are also things which are known to exasperate or worsen the condition. Some of these are:
Pregnancy: When a women is pregnant, various changes to her body (including the extra mass of the baby) can cause acid reflux. Luckily this is a problem that will usually disappear after the baby is born.
Foods/Drinks: There are a wide variety of things we consume that are known to make matters worse for acid reflux sufferers. Some of the most well known ones are spicy foods and citrus juices. However there are others that aren’t often thought of but can be just as agitating, such as foods that are high in fat, liquor, and coffee, among others.
Lifestyle Habits: A number of things people do can be bad for acid reflux. Smoking, for example, greatly agitates the lining of the esophagus and can damage the sensitive tissue. It’s dangerous enough as it is, but when it’s compounded with acid reflux it’s a double edged sword. Eating too large of meals or laying down too soon after eating are two other examples of things that can cause problems if you have acid reflux.
What is acid reflux’s cure?
When a pregnant mother, often times the “cure” happens by itself simply after having the baby. Unfortunately for the rest of us, it’s just not that simple. You see if the cause of acid reflux is a faulty esophageal sphincter, there’s not much that can be done to correct it. For extreme cases, there is surgery, but other than that it’s not known what causes it to weaken in the first place, nor what can be done to repair it. That being said, one can logically conclude that if the body were capable of self-repairing, leaving the heartburn and other symptoms untreated isn’t going to help that process.
One Last Important Thing About Acid Reflux
So now that you know the answer as to what is acid reflux, it’s important to mention that this article is NOT medical advice and should not be used to diagnose or treat yourself – only a doctor can do that. If you do have it, thankfully there are numerous acid reflux treatments on the market that are known to do a great job at alleviating the symptoms.