Acid reflux is the term given to a condition that occurs when stomach acid exits the stomach into the esophagus. This happens when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) which normally separates the stomach from the esophagus is weak or malfunctioning.
As the LES is weakened, the muscles that hold the lower part of the esophagus open to allow stomach acids to flow back into the stomach. Because the stomach produces less acid, the esophageal sphincter has to work harder to keep the acids in and out.
The pain associated with acid reflux occurs as a result of increased pressure on the lower part of the esophagus. When the LES is weakened, the esophageal muscles are also weakened. This increases the amount of pressure in the lower end of the esophagus, which can eventually lead to the perforation of the esophagus.
Heartburn, which is the general term for the symptoms of heartburn, is a much milder form of acid reflux. In fact, this is one of the few conditions that cause no noticeable pain. However, when heartburn strikes, it is accompanied by severe pain and uncomfortable discomfort that usually results from burning, choking, or difficulty swallowing. Frequent heartburn usually happens when food is large and has not been digested properly.
Foods that contain a lot of pectin content such as apples and bananas are also common culprits of heartburn. The pectin prevents stomach acid from staying in the stomach and neutralizing its properties. As a result, the esophagus is not kept safe from stomach acid through the LES.
Another reason for the onset of acid reflux is stress. Stress hormones, called catecholamines, cause the LES to open and contract more than normal.
Because of these stress hormones, the LES gets weak, which means that food remains in the stomach longer than normal. When this happens, digestive juices are not released into the esophagus because the muscle in the stomach that normally secrete them is not able to prevent the acids from entering the esophagus.
Stress can be caused by a wide variety of sources and can also be caused by physical activity. Therefore, it is imperative that a person suffering from stress realizes that his or her condition could be caused by a number of factors.
Some of the most common causes of acid reflux include smoking, stress, hard or fast meals, chocolate, alcohol, stress-related coughing, indigestion, and increased eating of spicy foods. Some people who suffer from heartburn also experience irritable bowel syndrome, which often accompanies the symptoms of acid reflux.
Some people that suffer from acid reflux also experience the common symptoms of heartburn and indigestion. If you have been experiencing stomach pain or bleeding, do not hesitate to visit your doctor immediately.
It is best if you visit a medical practitioner who can determine whether you have acid reflux disease or not. A good doctor will be able to tell whether your symptoms are caused by a weak LES or by other causes.