What is Acid Reflux?
Acid reflux is a digestive condition where a person experiences an uncomfortable (sometimes painful) burning sensation in the lower chest area, at the top of the stomach, sometimes lasting for several hours. This usually occurs after eating or becomes more intense after eating.
Acid Reflux Symptoms
Symptoms of acid reflux can include heartburn, regurgitation, bloating, nausea, vomiting, throat soreness, chest pain, erosion of the teeth and bad breath.
What Causes Acid Reflux?
The burning sensation from acid reflux occurs when stomach acid travels back up through the opening of the stomach (called the gastroesophageal sphincter) into the esophagus.
Stomach acid (called gastric acid) contains enzymes, potassium chloride, sodium chloride, and hydrochloric acid, important compounds that break down food after it enters your stomach. The strength of gastric acid on the pH scale ranges from 1 to 3, which puts it just below the strength of battery acid (pH 0)! A healthy stomach lining is specially equipped with a mucus lining that neutralizes acid to protect it from damage. The burning sensation experienced with acid reflux comes from the powerful gastric acid coming in contact with the tissue in your esophagus, which is not meant to withstand the corrosive levels of the substance.
Stomach acid is able to travel up into the esophagus usually due to a relaxation of a ring of muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter which is just before the opening of the stomach. Normally, this muscle relaxes so that food can enter the stomach from the esophagus, and closes back up after food has passed through.
When there is a prolonged relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter after food has passed through, this causes an opportunity for the stomach acid to move back up into the esophagus, causing symptoms of acid reflux.
Other possible causes of acid reflux include pregnancy and hiatal hernia.