What is Acid Reflux?
At the bottom of the oesophagus is a ring of muscle known as the oesophageal sphincter. Normally the sphincter protects the oesophagus from the contents of the stomach by acting as a valve. It relaxes while swallowing, to allow food to pass through and tightens to prevent flow in the opposite direction.
Acid reflux is caused when the muscle relaxes between swallows or doesn’t close all the way, allowing the stomach contents and acid to flow back up, causing chest pain, an unpleasant taste in the back of the mouth and damage to the lining of the oesophagus.
Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) is a common condition experienced by many who face acid reflux more than twice a week. While for some it is an occasional nuisance for others it can be a severe life-long problem. The condition usually occurs as the oesophageal sphincter weakens, unable to tighten and close as required, and can be controlled with medication.
The main symptoms of this condition are experiencing heartburn and regurgitation of stomach contents and acid into the oesophagus.
Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease can present with further symptoms;
Acid reflux is essentially caused by the oesophageal sphincter becoming weak, allowing acid and stomach contents to leak back up into your oesophagus. There are numerous factors that can cause or influence the weakening and relaxing of the sphincter muscle.
Being overweight or obese: It places an increased pressure on your stomach and weakens the ring of muscle at the bottom of the oesophagus.
Eating large amounts of fatty foods: The stomach takes longer to get rid of stomach acid after digesting a fatty meal and the resulting excess acid may leak up into the oesophagus
Helicobacter Pylori: A type of bacteria in the stomach that can contribute to the acid build up.
Lifestyle: Habits of smoking, excessive alcohol, coffee or chocolate may relax the muscles at the bottom of the oesophagus
Pregnancy: Temporary changes in hormone levels and increased pressure on your stomach during pregnancy.
Hiatus Hernia: When part of your stomach pushes up through the diaphragm.
Gastroparesis: When the stomach takes longer to get rid of stomach acid, which means excess acid can leak up into the oesophagus more easily.
Medicines: Some medicines can cause GORD or make the symptoms worse, including calcium-channel blockers for high blood pressure, nitrates for chest pain and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
Family history: Genes inherited may affect your chance of developing the condition.
Acid reflux and GORD can be diagnosed by your doctor based on the symptoms you experience, its duration and severity.
To confirm the diagnosis and determine the underlying cause if your symptoms are persistent and severe, further investigations might be arranged.
Acid reflux can be managed with maintaining a healthy lifestyle, regular exercise, keeping your weight down, avoiding large meals and alcohol at night. If such measures are ineffective or not enough to manage your condition we have treatment options available to you.