Acid reflux – causes
Acid reflux (gastroesophageal reflux) occurs when stomach acid flows into the esophagus, i.e. in the wrong direction, due to weakened function of the lower esophageal sphincter muscle. Namely, when we swallow food, it travels down the esophagus and passes through the lower sphincter and ends up in the stomach. The job of this sphincter is to control the contents entering the stomach and to prevent the stomach contents from returning from the stomach to the esophagus. In healthy people, our stomach is protected by a mucous membrane from the effects of its (stomach) acid. However, our esophagus does not have such a protective mucosa, and stomach acid, if it returns to it, can cause pain, inflammation and damage.
The most common causes of increased acid secretion in the stomach are a bad diet or bad eating habits. Acid reflux it occurs more often in people who exercise little, consume fatty foods with animal fats, fried foods, consume large amounts of food in one meal, consume alcohol, carbonated drinks and coffee, and are smokers. Problems can occur more often in people who eat right before going to bed, who have problems with Helicobacter pylori bacteria, also in pregnant women.
Acid reflux – symptoms
The most common symptom of acid reflux is heartburn, followed by nausea, vomiting or trouble swallowing. The most common foods and drinks that can cause heartburn are tomatoes, onions, garlic, leeks, caffeinated drinks, carbonated drinks, chocolate, chewing gum, citrus fruits, citrus juices. With heartburn, there is a burning pain under the sternum, which pain can spread to the neck, throat, and even to the face. If the problems referred to acid reflux are not treated, complications may occur which include narrowing of part of the esophagus, an ulcer on the esophagus or even precancerous changes in the lining of the esophagus, the so-called Barrett’s syndrome.
With worse eating habits, the symptoms will be even more pronounced. They occur during sleep, especially if the headboard is low during sleep, but also at any other time of the day. After repeated repetition of the symptoms and discomforts that occur with acid reflux, it would be good to see a doctor as soon as possible in order to establish the causes of such excessive acid production in the stomach.
How acid reflux is diagnosed and treated
The diagnosis of acid reflux is made on the basis of an X-ray examination, esophagoscopy (a search of the esophagus using a flexible observation tube), on the basis of measuring the pressure of the lower esophageal sphincter, determining the PH (acidity) of the esophagus and the Bernstein test, and a biopsy can be performed. If a disease is detected acid reflux the doctor will advise changes in eating habits, exercise, quitting smoking, avoiding alcohol, etc. It is also good to eat moderately, slowly and avoid stress. It is not good to lie down immediately after eating, wait at least half an hour after eating. It is also good to raise the headboard.
Medicines include alginates and antacids. Some medicines can be taken without a prescription, but in this case it is necessary to be careful when taking medicines and to study the details of side effects in the instructions for the medicine. It is also mandatory to consult a doctor beforehand. With acid reflux, it is important to chew food well, consume lots of fresh vegetables, avoid alcohol, coffee, cigarettes, processed food, and carbonated drinks. Medicines that reduce acid secretion can also be taken under medical supervision, and only a small number of patients need esophageal surgery, laparoscopically. During treatment, sleep hygiene, quality of meals and physical activity are important.