What Causes Acid Reflux And Are You At Risk?

Published: October 2, 2013

a a a

What are the Causes?

Acid indigestion is a condition that produces similar symptoms to acid reflux; however, the underlying causes of both conditions are different. Acid indigestion occurs intermittently or periodically and results primarily from diet. Acid reflux, on the other hand, is a condition that results from a malfunctioning esophageal sphincter.

Normally, when a person swallows food, the esophageal sphincter that surrounds the entrance to the stomach will relax and then close. For patients with acid reflux, the esophageal sphincter will malfunction. It may be weak, and it may be unable to close completely. As a result, stomach bile and particles of food may flow back from the stomach, through the sphincter, and up the esophagus.

The backflow of stomach acid and food particles create uncomfortable symptoms of heartburn in addition to a feeling that something is stuck in the throat. Over time, the chronic backflow of bile will cause permanent damage to the lining of the esophagus and throat. This damage is typically worse for people with supine acid reflux since the stomach acid flows up and down the esophagus. Upright acid reflux tends to be less dangerous since gravity can help a person hold stomach content down.

Both acid indigestion and acid reflux produce symptoms of heartburn, which can last for minutes or for hours. Foods that can trigger indigestion include fatty foods, creamy foods, citrus, oily foods, spicy foods, and fried foods.

Chronic acid indigestion is a sign of acid reflux disease. As with indigestion, acid reflux symptoms can be triggered by certain foods that are high in fat, creamy, oily, or spicy. A person who suffers from chronic indigestion or acid reflux may be able to identify certain foods as more problematic than others. In general, a person should avoid these foods to prevent symptoms. While certain foods can trigger symptoms of heartburn, it is important to understand that acid reflux is ultimately the result of a malfunctioning esophageal sphincter.

A malfunctioning esophageal sphincter can be temporary or permanent. The precise cause will vary from person to person. Some people may have a genetic predisposition to acid reflux disease, and other people may have been exposed to environmental factors that can cause acid reflux.

You may not be able to tell whether you are experiencing acid reflux or acid indigestion. Generally, people with acid reflux will experience symptoms for a period of at least several weeks. Acid reflux may produce symptoms that are more severe than acid indigestion.

Who's at Risk?

Groups at high risk include those with a family history of acid reflux or gastroesphageal reflux disease (GERD). Other causes include hiatal hernias, pregnancy, obesity, and scleroderma.

Even though acid reflux is caused by a malfunctioning sphincter, your symptoms may become worse if you consume foods that are high in fat or in large quantities. People who are obese tend to be at risk for developing GERD.

Certain medications can also cause acid reflux. Beta blockers, bronchodilators, sedatives, antidepressants, and motion sickness medicines can cause intermittent or persistent acid reflux. Smokers are at a high risk for developing complications since smoke and carbon monoxide can cause additional damage to the esophagus.

Chronic acid reflux results in GERD, which puts people at risk for long-term damage to the esophagus and throat. When there is injury to the esophagus, people might start to wheeze, cough, lose their voice, or become hoarse. Constant regurgitation of stomach acid can also cause damage to the teeth and sinuses.

Supine acid reflux causes twice the damage of upright acid reflux. With supine acid reflux, stomach acids travel to and from the stomach and esophagus twice. If you are a heavy sleeper, you may not realize that you are experiencing acid reflux while you are sleeping.

With upright acid reflux, stomach acid is less likely to flow back down or up the first place because gravity keeps the stomach acid stable.

It is impossible to quantify how much damage someone with acid reflux will endure. It is also impossible to create a statistical measure for the likelihood or probability that a person will develop acid reflux in the first place. Diet, environmental factors, heredity, lifestyle, and overall health are all components that play a part in causing the disease.

More in Diseases & Conditions
New on SymptomFind
a a a  
RELATED ARTICLES
NEED ANSWERS?