allDiseases & Conditions

What Causes Acid Reflux?

multiple-sclerosisCertain foods are the main source of acid reflux symptoms. Chocolate and coffee are notorious for producing symptoms because they both trigger the production of stomach acid. Other triggers include onions, garlic, peppermint and citrus fruit. In addition, smoking, alcohol consumption, being overweight and genetics may also play important roles in the development of heartburn. Furthermore, certain medications that weaken the lower esophageal sphincter valve can also cause stomach acids to migrate into your esophagus. These medications include certain antihistamines, antibiotics and beta blockers. Beta blockers are medications used in the treatment of high blood pressure and cardiac arrhythmias. Decongestants, aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen sodium and anti-anxiety medications have also been implicated in the development of heartburn as well. If your medications are making your heartburn worse, talk to your doctor about a dose reduction or a change in medication to reduce your symptoms.

All Acid Reflux Episodes Are Not Created Equal

There are different types of acid reflux and different causes. Although the end results are typically the same, there are a number of different variations of heartburn and acid reflux. For me, my heartburn and acid reflux was exacerbated by pregnancy, and persisted until I lost the extra weight. During the summer months, you may discover that your acid reflux worsens. This maybe related to rich picnic foods, overindulgence in alcohol, and even allergy medications that are commonly consumed during hay fever season.

Acid reflux that occurs during pregnancy typically occurs during the last trimester, when the baby exerts pressure upon your stomach. In addition to the pressure placed upon your stomach, pregnancy slows down the digestive process, allowing irritating acids to stay in your stomach for extended periods of time. This coupled with the fact that your lower esophageal sphincter muscle relaxes during pregnancy raises the risk of heartburn. Although you may want to reach for the nearest bottle of acid reducing medications or antacids to mitigate your symptoms, there’s a higher probability that you’ll hesitate before taking medications that may cause harm to your unborn baby. Even though many natural and alternative remedies are considered safe, always check with your physician prior to taken them.

Heartburn and acid reflux that occurs at night is probably one of the worst types of heartburn there are. Nighttime acid reflux disrupts your sleep and can contribute to daytime sleepiness and fatigue. Lying flat on your back can encourage stomach acid to travel into your esophagus, and in some cases, can contribute to choking and aspiration. If you aspirate stomach acids into your lungs, a serious respiratory infection can occur.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can cause a myriad of troubling symptoms. Not only does it cause heartburn, GERD can also cause a chronic cough, hoarseness, sore throat and constant throat clearing. In addition, GERD can contribute to esophageal ulcers, bad breath, nasal congestion and tooth erosion. Furthermore, it can cause nausea and vomiting, a sour taste in the mouth, increased burping, bile rising in the throat, excess salivation and laryngitis. In severe cases, GERD can trigger an asthma attack and exacerbate existing allergies. Sometimes, a condition known as silent reflux can occur, which


can cause significant damage to your esophagus. To diagnose GERD, your doctor will take a detail medical history from you, perform an examination and possibly refer you to a gastroenterologist for further evaluation. Diagnostic imaging tests that help diagnose GERD include endoscopy studies. If your doctor recommends that you have an endoscopy study, a narrow tube will be passed down your esophagus through your mouth so that your stomach can be visualized. Samples of your tissue can also be obtained during an endoscopy study to rule out any serious pathology or cellular changes. Although most people only suffer from occasional bouts of acid reflux, some are affected by chronic acid reflux, which occurs at least three times a week. It is especially important for those suffering from chronic acid reflux to seek medical treatment to reduce the risk of complications. In certain cases, chronic heartburn and acid reflux can contribute to a pre-cancerous condition of the esophagus, and if not recognized and treated, can lead to esophageal cancer.