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What Is Acid Reflux and Why Does It Hurt?

Jul 1, 2008
What is acid reflux and why does it hurt so badly? You might be asking this question if you suffer from heartburn or other symptoms of acid reflux. Acid reflux is sometimes referred to as GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). The symptoms of acid reflux can be confused with gas or even a heart attack. The symptoms can be mild to quite painful, and sometimes difficult to recognize.

Acid reflux is not gas. Gas, when it feels like it is in the chest, is actually excess air that has been swallowed and is trapped in the esophagus. Excess air can be swallowed while eating, drinking, or smoking. Some people with loose dentures will swallow excess air as well. This type of gas, as opposed to gas caused from food in the stomach and intestines, is released when you burp, or belch.

Heartburn is the most common symptoms of acid reflux. Heartburn feels like a burning sensation in the chest and can be mild or it can be very painful. Some other common symptoms of acid reflux are nausea and vomiting, and regurgitation. Some more serious symptoms of acid reflux can include coughing and wheezing, the feeling like something is caught in the throat or a choking feeling, ulcers in the esophagus that can lead to strictures (scar tissue), inflammation of the esophagus and throat, and even inflammation of the lungs.

What is acid reflux caused by? Acid and pepsin is produced in the stomach to digest food. With acid reflux, these acids will be forced up (reflux) into the esophagus. Acid reflux has several causes. Often the stomach is just too slow to digest the foods we eat. When this happens, the stomach makes more acid to try to digest what is left. Soon there is too much acid in the stomach and there is no place for the acid to go except back up into the esophagus, causing symptoms like heartburn.

Another common cause is when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) does not close as it should in order to hold down the liquids in the stomach. The LES is a muscle that surrounds the lower portion of the esophagus where it meets up with the stomach. The LES, when functioning properly, will contract and relax. It relaxes when we swallow something, like food, drink or saliva, and then contracts immediately to keep it down. When it is not working properly and the liquid refluxes, this causes symptoms of acid reflux.

A hiatal hernia can be the cause of acid reflux, or it may be the result of acid reflux. This is not known for sure. A hiatal hernia happens when the stomach muscle weakens and pushes up into the esophagus, resulting in the LES being pushed up into the esophagus and becoming unable to do its job

What is acid reflux and how can I stop it? Acid reflux is a very common occurrence and most people will get it at some point in their lives. An antacid should take care of mild symptoms, but if your acid reflux is chronic and cannot be taken care of with antacid, speak to your physician about your symptoms of acid reflux.
About the Author
Ryan helps you understand acid reflux causes and what is acid reflux.
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