A chronic burning sensation in your chest and a sour taste in the mouth could be an indication that you have Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease or GERD. The term “gastro esophageal reflux” is the movement of the stomach contents back into the esophagus. Acid which aids in the digestive mechanism forms a part of the stomach contents as well. Thus, gastro esophageal reflux is also known as acid reflux. Only when the frequency of acid reflux is greater than normal or complications occur as a result of it, the condition is known as gastro esophageal reflux disease. While heartburn is said to be the most common symptom of GERD, in several cases, symptoms like chest pain, chronic cough or hoarseness can also indicate that one is suffering from GERD. Let us first get acquainted with the underlying causes of the disease.
What Causes Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease
Malfunctioning of LES
Although there are several causes which lead to acid reflux disease, the functioning of a valve known as lower esophageal sphincter or LES, located at the junction of the esophagus and stomach, is what GERD actually depends on.
People suffering from this particular disease have an abnormal LES, which may open at inappropriate times. Stomach contents such as acid, bile salts and pancreatic juices thus spurt in the reverse order, causing severe irritation and consequently damage to the lining of the esophagus.
Excessive body fat or pressure on the abdomen compresses the stomach leading to further pressure on the LES. This, in turn, causes the stomach contents to revert back all the way to the esophagus. Frequent occurrences of such kind can eventually cause GERD.
Intake of alcohol or tobacco on a regular basis not only relaxes the LES, but also increases the level of acid production, thereby increasing the frequency of heartburn. If the heartburn sensation becomes a daily affair, GERD can’t stay far.
It is a condition which occurs when a portion of the stomach pushes up through a diaphragm opening. As such, it becomes easier for the acid to shoot back, thus making hiatus hernia a major contributor to acid reflux.
Fatty & Fried Foods
For those who are ardent consumers of fried products, this is something they should know. Fried and fatty foods have the tendency to slow down one’s digestive process, since these food items are stored in the stomach for a longer duration. This increases the pressure on the stomach walls and eventually the LES, causing acid reflux.
One of the many properties of caffeine is to relax the LES. Once this valve relaxes, in no time does stomach contents travel all the way back to the esophagus. Thus, excessive intake of caffeine containing beverages can lead to acid reflux and consequently GERD.
Citrus fruits like oranges, lemons and kiwi might be loaded with Vitamin C, but they are highly acidic in nature as well. Further lowering of an already low pH level of the stomach contents due to the presence of acids can cause a severe heartburn thus causing GERD.
A bar of chocolate may trigger the happy hormones of your body and keep you humming throughout the day. However, did you know that this sinless indulgence can be a cause of your miseries as well? Chocolate contains concentrations of theobromine which relaxes the LES, causing acid reflux in turn.