Acid reflux or the GastroEsophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) – as it is known in the medical fraternity – is nothing but a condition wherein the food or liquid in the stomach leaks backwards into the tube which connects your mouth to the stomach also known as Esophagus. This movement ultimately leads to a heartburn sensation and other symptoms which are actually a result of irritation of the esophagus.
What actually causes this backward movement of the food is the ill-functioning of the sphincter muscle which, being in the stomach, should ideally prevent movement this movement. Some other medical conditions or activities that can accentuate the possibility of the muscle not performing its task are:
Smoking and / or drinking
Also several medicines can also trigger or worsen the acid reflux, examples are as below:
Dopamine-active drugs used to cure Parkinson’s disease
Birth control pill – Progestin
Seasickness treating Anticholinergics
Insomnia and anxiety treating Sedatives
Antidepressants which are tricyclic in nature
High blood pressure or heart disease curing Beta-blockers
Asthma easing Bronchodilators
As mentioned above, the 5 conditions that can increase the probability of malfunctioning of the muscle, are all responsible in more than one ways in causing acid reflux. Let’s look into these conditions briefly.
Pregnancy – Acid reflux can happen more often during the last three months of pregnancy. This is because the baby presses up against the stomach leading to its contents going back up into the esophagus. No antacids can work here. Eating more number of small meals throughout the day may reduce the possibility of a reflux and these usually disappear after the baby is out.
Hiatus Hernia – in this condition wherein a small opening in the diaphragm causes the upper part of the stomach extends beyond into the chest – is usually triggered due to any kind of physical strain that the body takes or vomiting, coughing etc.
Smoking / Drinking – The stomach acid production goes overboard for smokers apart from weakening of esophageal sphincter and bile salts transportation from intestines into the stomach thus making the stomach acid much more harmful – all of which leads to increased chances of acid reflux. Although there seems to be no direct causal links evident, lessening the drinks also helps the body fight more effectively against acid reflux.
Although not included in the above list, Asthma is also another key condition which can cause acid reflux. It’s actually a chicken and egg story in the medical fraternity though – as to whether the acid reflux came first and then the asthma or is it the other way round. Many people of the fraternity are of the opinion that asthmatic attack, which are marked by intense coughing and sneezing do something to the chest which in time results in the acid moving back up into the esophagus and thus leading to GERD. But then there are others out there as well who say that the real culprit are medicines prescribed to those who suffer from asthma – as these are meant to dilate the air pipe and can also make the esophageal sphincter relax as a side effect. Asthma patients, on the other hand, are of the opinion that acid movement into the esophagus actually worsens the asthmatic condition as it stimulates the nerves riding down the neck into the chest leading to breathlessness and constriction of the bronchitis.
These are only some of the conditions which can cause acid reflux or GERD apart from issues like peptic ulcers as well as generic ones like related to eating habits etc.