Acid reflux occurs when stomach acid flows backward into the esophagus. Stomach acid is produced as a result of digestion. This acid breaks down food into soluble substances, maintains the pH level in the stomach, and destroys unhealthy bacteria. Under certain circumstances, the acid refluxes through the food pipe connecting the stomach and throat. A person will experience burning sensation in the chest or taste sour liquid at the back of the throat. In some cases, a person may taste regurgitated food at the back of the mouth during an acid reflux episode.
Causes of acid reflux
Acid reflux is mainly caused when the lower esophageal sphincter dysfunctions. Under normal circumstances, the lower esophageal sphincter closes after the food passes through it. However, in some cases, it does not close properly and acid flows back from the digestive system back into the food pipe leading to acid reflux. Also known as gastroesophageal reflux, acid reflux can be severe and one can experience frequent episodes of heartburn. This extreme form of acid reflux is known as gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD. A person with GERD experiences acid reflux at least twice a week.
Acid reflux is a lifestyle disease. It is preventable. However, sometimes acid reflux is difficult to avoid, for instance, when a person has hiatal hernia. Other risk factors for acid reflux include the following-
- Passive or active smoking
- Lack of physical exercise
- Drinking too much of caffeinated or carbonated beverages
- Certain medications such as muscle relaxers, aspirin, blood pressure medications, asthma medications, and ibuprofen
- Sleeping or lying down after a heavy meal
Eating certain foods can also trigger acid reflux. These include the following-
- Black pepper, raw onions, garlic
- Red wine
- Oranges, lemons, and other citrus foods
Signs and symptoms of acid reflux
Common symptoms of acid reflux include regurgitation and heartburn.
During an acid reflux episode, a person may taste regurgitated food or sour-bitter tasting liquid at the back of the throat.
This is one of the most obvious and common symptoms of acid reflux. There will be a discomfort or burning pain that may start from the stomach and spread towards the chest or upper abdomen.
Other symptoms of acid reflux include the following-
- There may be a persistent dry cough
- A person may experience dryness in the mouth
- There can be tenderness or bleeding of the gums
- There can be difficulty in swallowing food due to the narrowing of the esophagus
- The breath may smell bad
- A person may feel bloated during meals or after meals
- A person may experience gassiness after meals
- There may be belching, flatulence, or burping after meals
- Stool may appear black
- There can be unexplained weight loss
- Voice may be hoarse after waking up in the morning or through the entire day
- There may be dryness, soreness, and chronic irritation in the throat
- A person may experience chronic and frequent hiccups
- While lying down or bending over, a person may experience extreme discomfort
- A person may also experience nausea in extreme cases