After you eat spicy foods, do you feel like you have a gnawing, burning feeling your chest? Are you woken up in the middle of the night feeling like you swallowed a ball of fire? If so, you probably suffer from acid reflux.
Acid reflux is a condition, commonly referred to as ‘heartburn’, happens when the valve that closes off your stomach valve doesn’t close all the way after you eat or it is left open for too long.
As a result, the acid that is produced in your stomach pushes up through the stomach and moves up into the esophagus. The result? – That burning, gnawing, agonizing feeling of heartburn, or acid reflux; or the what is medically referred to as Gastoesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
The Real Cause of Acid Reflux
Many people think that acid reflux is caused by an excessive production of acid in the stomach; however, research has revealed that heartburn actually increases with age, and coincidentally, the amount of acid that your stomach produces actually decreases with age. So, if your stomach is producing less acid, yet the incidents of heartburn increase with age, what is causing the condition to develop in so many people?
Well, it’s actually thought that GERD is the result of an abnormality in the lower esophageal valve. This valve separates the lower portion of the esophagus from the stomach and it’s supposed to prevent stomach acid from moving up into the esophagus. When an abnormality in this valve occurs, the acids in the stomach creep up and the result is acid reflux.
This isn’t the only cause of acid reflux. Heartburn is often a side effect that is experienced by pregnant women. The reason for this is because of hormones that are produced by the body during pregnancy. These hormones actually cause pressure on the esophageal valve, thus heartburn results.
People who suffer from hiatal hernias are also prone to acid reflux. This type of hernia causes the upper part of the stomach to move up in the chest. In severe cases of hiatal hernia, where the stomach moves very far up the chest, heartburn can occur.
People who are excessively overweight also tend to experience acid reflux. The excess weight that is stored in the body can actually cause the excessive pressure in the stomach, which can cause acid to pour out of the stomach and into the esophagus.
How to Treat Acid Reflux
If you are suffering from acid reflux, you are probably desperate for a cure. There are several options available to treat this condition, including:
- Prescription medications
- Over-the-counter medications
- Change in diet
- Weight loss
What is the best treatment option for you? That depends on what is causing your acid reflux. You and your doctor can discuss the best options for you and come up with a customized plan of action to alleviate your heartburn.