What Causes Acid Reflux?

Acid reflux or heartburn is a burning sensation in the chest or stomach and is caused by a rise in gastric acid in the esophagus. In this article, we will explain why acid reflux occurs and what you can do to combat it.
What causes acid reflux?

Chest pain or burning sensation in the head is a common symptom among adults. This is called acid reflux. In this article, we will discuss the causes of acid reflux and what you can do to alleviate the problem.

The sensation of heartburn, which can sometimes spread behind the sternum (the chest bone in front of the heart), may not always be very annoying. However, in order to solve this problem, it is necessary to make certain changes in your lifestyle.

What is acid reflux?

The stomach is an organ that is part of the upper digestive system. It is located in the abdomen, in the upper central area. Above, we find the esophagus, and below it is the small intestine.

The function of the stomach is to help break down food. The acid it produces, called gastric acid, helps digest protein and absorb iron, calcium and vitamin B12. Moreover, gastric acid kills a large part of the microorganisms we ingest and limits the multiplication of bacteria. This also helps prevent intestinal infections.

If stomach acid does not flow to the intestines and moves up to the esophagus, gastroesophageal reflux occurs. To some extent, this reflux is physiological. Such episodes usually occur after a meal, are short, cause no symptoms and are rare during sleep.

When reflux causes symptoms or complications, it is known as non-physiological gastroesophageal reflux. We are talking about acid reflux or heartburn, a burning sensation felt in the stomach or chest.

Woman who knows the causes of acid reflux
Heartburn occurs as a pain in the chest or as gastroesophageal reflux.

What causes acid reflux?

When we eat, the food bowl passes from the mouth through the esophagus and then into the stomach. In the esophagus and stomach, there is a circular muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter. It does not allow the contents of the stomach to return to the mouth.

When for any reason the acid content of the stomach reaches the esophagus, beyond what we call physiological reflux, you may suffer from acid reflux or heartburn. The exact reasons why we experience acid reflux are still being studied.

There are various theories, such as changes in digestive tract movements, increased acid production of the body, stress levels or diet, in addition to psychological and hereditary factors.

We need to clarify that we are not talking about definite diagnoses, such as ulcers, gastroesophageal reflux disease, irritable bowel syndrome or gallstones. However, in each of these situations, you may also suffer from heartburn.

Risk factors

As mentioned above, specialists continue to study the causes of acid reflux. However, there are elements that are considered “risk factors” that we must avoid when possible to reduce the risk of heartburn.

Diet is one of these factors. Food can affect the level of gastric acid in some people, especially when it comes to certain products, such as spicy, fried or high-fat foods, citrus fruits, tomato products (such as ketchup), mint, chocolate, beverages. carbonated or alcohol.

Being overweight is another factor that can increase the risk of suffering from acid reflux. During pregnancy, the uterus expands and pushes the stomach, causing reflux due to anatomical changes.

When to go to the doctor

If you have been experiencing heartburn for a long time, you need certain tests to determine the cause of them. In such situations, it is best to go to a specialist to solve the problem.

It is important to note that heartburn is a cause for concern if a patient over the age of 60 develops acid reflux for the first time in their life. Even more alarming are gastrointestinal bleeding (characterized by blood in vomit or stools).

Lack of appetite is another important factor, as is unexplained weight loss or difficulty swallowing. Sometimes, the patient may have chest pain that is not related to any cardiovascular event, but comes from the digestive system.

In addition, if there is a history of cancer in the affected person’s family, if their parents, uncles or grandparents have experienced a form of cancer, it is important that they see a doctor immediately.

Man refusing a burger
Diet plays a key role in the appearance of heartburn.

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