There are many factors that can cause Acid reflux/GERD symptoms. However, the triggers are not always the same for everyone who suffers from acid reflux or GERD. That being the case, by knowing the many causes and which of these causes affect you, you can then determine which treatment method – whether medical or natural - will work best for you when it comes to finding an acid reflux cure.
First, let’s take a look at the different factors that can cause acid reflux:
Relaxed LES: This is when the LES (lower esophageal sphincter) weakens and loses tone causing it to malfunction. A relaxed LES does not close as it is supposed to after food is emptied into the stomach, which allows food to backup into the esophagus.
Delayed stomach emptying: Known as gastroparesis, delayed or impaired stomach emptying occurs when the stomach muscles have weakened and can no longer act spontaneously, causing impaired motility (movement). As a result, the contents in the stomach take too long to empty into the small intestine, and can reflux back into the esophagus.
Too much or too little stomach acid: Too much stomach acid (hyperhydrochlorhydria) can cause acid reflux because sometimes not all of the acid is “dumped” into the small intestine, and can backup into the esophagus. Likewise, too little stomach acid (hypochlorhydria) can cause acid reflux because a certain level of acidity is required for the stomach to empty into the intestines. If there is not enough acid, the valve at the bottom of the stomach called the pyloric valve, does not open, and the contents of the stomach can reenter the esophagus.
Esophagus abnormalities: These are abnormalities and conditions that are linked to GERD.
- Motility abnormalities of the esophagus: This is a problem that effects the spontaneous muscle action within the esophagus known as peristalsis. Peristalsis moves food down the esophagus, but when it functions abnormally, the contractions are slowed and hinder the process. When reflux occurs peristalsis, along with gravity and salvia, helps to wash the acid back into the stomach. If there are abnormalities associated with peristalsis the acid can remain in the esophagus causing damage and bringing on symptoms.
- Adult-ringed esophagus: This is condition that is characterized by small rings in the throat that make swallowing difficult. As a result, food tends to become stuck in the esophagus, and in the same way that motility abnormalities can encourage acid reflux symptoms, adult ringed esophagus can hinder the removal of acid from the esophagus.
Hiatal Hernia: The hiatus is a tiny hole located in the diaphragm, and its purpose is to secure the passageway between the esophagus and the stomach, keeping the organs separate from one another. If the hiatus is weakened, it can result in a hiatal hernia. The hernia occurs when a portion of the stomach protrudes up into the chest through the diaphragm. It is believed that a hiatal hernia can cause the LES to relax.
Asthma: It is thought that many asthma sufferers experience acid reflux due to the coughing and wheezing of asthma attacks which changes chest pressure and triggers acid reflux.
Diabetes: Diabetics are prone to gastroparesis (delayed stomach emptying) due to their increased blood sugar levels effecting the vagus nerve, which controls the stomach emptying process.
Over-reactive immune response: In some cases, acid reflux/GERD symptoms are the result of the immune system attacking itself, which is caused by the immune systems hyperactive response to an irritant within the esophagus. The over-reactive response triggers the release of certain elements that actually inflames the esophagus and can lead to injury and acid reflux.
Obesity: Excessive body weight puts additional pressure on the stomach which decreases the volume of the stomach and forces food back up the esophagus.
Pregnancy – Women who are in the third trimester of their pregnancies are highly susceptible to heartburn as the growing uterus increases pressure on the stomach, which can force food back into the esophagus.
Foods that trigger acid reflux: Certain foods carry a higher risk for acid reflux. These foods include:
- Fried and fatty foods (also slows digestions and increases pressure on stomach)
- Spicy food
- Tomatoes and tomato based products
- Citrus fruit and citrus fruit juices
- Mint (hard candy or herbal tea)
- Caffeinated beverages (coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks, etc.)
- Decaffeinated coffee
- Alcohol (also increases production of stomach acid)
Have a look at the food lists for more details on trigger foods.
People who suffer from food allergies or food intolerances such as gluten and dairy may also experience acid reflux in response to their inability to properly digest the specific food(s) they are intolerant to.
Poor Eating habits: Poor eating habits can slow down the digestive process, and put pressure on the stomach and can lead to acid reflux. Common poor eating habits include:
- Eating heavy meals/overeating
- Eating quickly
- Snacking before going to bed
- Eating while lying down, hunched over, or moving around
- Engaging in rigorous activities too soon after eating (I.E. exercise)
Smoking: The chemicals in cigarette smoke reduces the muscle function of the LES, impairs the throat’s muscle reflexes, increases acid secretion, and decreases saliva production which helps to counteract acid.
Stress: When the body is stressed it distributes more blood into the muscles to help cope with stress. Hence, blood is taken from the digestive system, which can cause the digestive process to slow down, leading to acid reflux. Stress can also contribute to the various other causes of acid reflux because when stressed we tend to indulge in behaviors that trigger acid reflux (I.E. eating fatty foods).
Exercise: Rigorous exercises (I.E. jogging, high-impact aerobics, etc.) and stomach exercises can cause acid reflux in some people. Stomach exercises such as stomach crunches or sit-ups cause excessive contracting of the stomach muscles, placing a lot of pressure on the stomach and LES which can cause food to be refluxed into the esophagus.
Tight fitted clothing: Clothing that hugs tightly around the abdomen (I.E. tight pants, belts, corsets, etc.) squeeze the stomach and can force food up against the LES which can cause reflux into the esophagus.
Medications: Heartburn is a side effect of many medications including, but not limited to:
- Nonsterodial anti-inflammatory medications (NSAID’s) – I.E. aspirin, ibuprofen, etc.
- Calcium channel blockers – treatment for high blood pressure and angina
- Asthma inhalers
- Anticholinergics – treatment for allergies, urinary tract disorders and glaucoma.
- Beta adrenergic agonists – treatment for asthma and obstructive lung diseases.
- Bisphosphonates – treatment for osteoporosis
- Dopamine – treatment for Parkinson disease
- Anxiety medications
- Iron pills
Note: Most medications with heartburn as a side effect usually need to be ingested on a frequent basis in order to produce acid reflux symptoms, or increase the chances of developing GERD. Make sure you talk to your doctor about medication side effects if you have GERD or are prone to acid reflux.
There is no single acid reflux cure, but there are many treatments that can help alleviate and prevent it from occurring. That being said its important to understand that you need to discover which treatment methods are best suited to your lifestyle and will provide you with the most relief.
Acid Reflux Treatment
If you are suffering from acid reflux, GERD or heartburn most doctors will recommend some form of prescription medication to combat the symptoms you are experiencing. The problem with this approach is apart from being expensive, most medications prescribed for acid reflux, heartburn and GERD are not designed for long term use and tend to mask the problem rather than addressing it.
For reliable acid reflux, heartburn and GERD treatment information that focuses on preventing and controlling symptoms naturally, read Stop Acid Reflux Now; an easy to follow, comprehensively researched downloadable book by Kathryn Whittaker.
Stop Acid Reflux Now shows you how to easily take control of your acid reflux, heartburn and GERD symptoms through the use of effective natural methods that avoid the need for expensive medications. Read how some really simple lifestyle changes can have a huge positive effect on your health, enhancing the quality of your life.