Many people suffer from acid reflux and the terrible sensation known as heartburn. In order to understand how to cure it one of the most important things you need to understand is what causes acid reflux. One of the first things you need to understand is the esophageal sphincter.

The Esophageal Sphincter and Acid Reflux

Between esophagus and stomach there is an area which is known as the esophageal sphincter. In food digestion the stomach produces several different acids and enzymes. These are called gastric juices. The inner lining of the stomach is very good at defending itself from the effects of gastric juices but the esophagus has no such defense mechanisms. There is a valve which is meant to protect the esophagus from ever getting gastric juices in it, this is called the esophageal sphincter. Gastric juices can, however, enter the esophagus when the sphincter has become weakened.

Everyone has problems with acid reflux every once in a while. For the most part, this is harmless. However, it can become a serious problem if it is persistent and untreated. This can eventually develop into another problem which is known as GERD or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. This is a chronic form of acid reflux that can cause many problems. The esophagus will become scarred and the person could have trouble doing things like swallowing. GERD is also linked to increase rates of cancer in the esophagus.

So Whats The Difference Between Acid Reflux and Heartburn?

The simplest way to put it is that heartburn is just the sensation which is caused by acid reflux. Acid reflux is the underlying problem while heartburn is just one of the many symptoms of acid reflux. The pain of heartburn is caused by the movement of acid from the stomach up into the esophagus.

Symptoms Of Acid Reflux

There are many other problems which can be caused by acid reflux if it is left untreated for long periods of time. Some of these problems include asthma, chest pain, dental erosion, dysphagia, heartburn, hoarseness of the voice, and regurgitation. Asthma may be caused because if the problem becomes serious enough gastric juices can get into the throat, mouth, air passages, and lungs. Chest pain is just another symptom associated with heartburn, dysphagia is a term for trouble swallowing.

What Causes Acid Reflux?

There are a lot of different things that can cause acid reflux. The main problem is usually linked to the esophageal sphincter not working properly and spilling stomach acid into other parts of the body, like I already said. The problem however, is that we often have no idea what is causing the esophageal sphincter to do this. There are a lot of things different things that could potentially cause this. All of them are usually related to pressure in the stomach.

Common Causes Of Acid Reflux

One of the most common causes of acid reflux is pregnancy. This will begin to happen during the third trimester because the growing baby may begin to put a lot of pressure on the stomach. This of course will cause some of the stomach's contents to back up into the esophagus. Most patients find that they will have to begin eating smaller meals in order to cope with this because antacids will not relieve the problem. The solution is to eat a few extra meals a day and keep all of the portions small. In just about all cases the acid reflux symptoms will disappear almost immediately after the baby has been born.

Your eating habits can also be a big cause of acid reflux and heartburn. The biggest eating habit that could potentially cause acid reflux is eating large meals. You can remove a lot of your problems with heartburn just by cutting down on your portion size. There are other things that can cause the problem however. It will usually be certain types of food for different people. You can begin to keep a diary of the food you eat and if it causes acid reflux. Many people will have a link between certain foods and acid reflux.

Another thing that has been shown to cause acid reflux is a hiatus hernia or hiatal hernia. This is a rare condition where a a person will get a small opening in their diaphragm. This will cause the stomach to protrude into the chest. This can be caused by a few different things. Severe coughing, vomiting, straining, sudden physical exertion(like most types of hernia), pregnancy, and obesity are all things that may cause a hiatal hernia.

Peptic ulcers are another major cause of heartburn and acid reflux. This is when the body doesn't have enough digestive enzymes in the stomach. This will slow down the digestive process which can cause the stomach to accumulate gastric acids which may back up into the esophagus.

There have been a lot of arguments between experts about whether people with asthma have a higher chance of getting acid reflux or if acid reflux is causing asthma. There has never been a definitive answer on the actual relationship between asthma and acid reflux. Some experts have claimed that the asthma medications can cause acid reflux because the relax the esophageal sphincter(but dilate airways) and others have argued that the coughing and sneezing which is caused by asthmatic attacks can cause damage in the chest which triggers acid reflux. However, most people who have asthma state that their asthma has become worse since they have gotten acid reflux. The acid will seep into the esophagus from the stomach and cause breathing problems.

There has been research which shows that smoking can cause acid reflux. The saliva of smokers has lower levels of bicarbonates. Bicarbonates are compounds which neutralize acids. Cigarette smoking has also been shown to reduce the product of saliva and to stimulate the production of stomach acid. This will weak the esophageal sphincter. It can also do other things such as move bile salts to the stomach from the intestines which will in turn make the acids in the stomach much more harmful, and to increase stomach pressure which will cause digestion to slow down considerably. As you might have guessed most of these side effects are all individually linked to acid reflux.