Acid Reflux

What is acid reflux?

Acid reflux is a condition where acid escapes from the stomach into the gullet (oesophagus) causing discomfort. This condition is medically known as Gastro Oesophageal Reflux Disease (GORD).

Symptoms

Acid reflux afflicts many people with heartburn being one of the most common symptoms. Heartburn symptoms can cause the sufferer to feel uncomfortable, as the acid from the stomach, comes back up into the mouth and leaves an unpleasant taste.

In severe cases, the frequency of the taste of acid in the mouth can increase dramatically, causing prolonged discomfort including difficulty in sleeping, as the unpleasant acid taste causes disruption during sleep.

Pain in the oesophagus radiating up the chest can also be common place, as the acid attacks the lining.

Cause

There can be many reasons why acid reflux occurs, with the most common reason being down to the sphincter, which acts as valve between the stomach and the oesophagus (gullet), not closing properly. This allows acid to escape from the stomach into the oesophagus, which in turn can travel as far as up to the mouth.

The sphincter is known as the lower oesophageal sphincter (LOS) is a muscle which opens to let food and drink into the stomach and closes to stop acid from escaping into the gullet.

With reflux sufferers, it is thought the sphincter (LOS) does not close properly, allowing acid to escape from the stomach.

Reflux affects a wide age range including adults and children, with some research pointing towards men being more likely to suffer than their female counterparts.

Overeating

Overeating can also cause acid reflux where too much food is eaten, causing acid to be displaced from the stomach into the gullet.

Reflux can be more common in overweight and obese people, possibly as a consequence of eating more. Eating fatty foods in excess can cause excess acid production as well as gassy drinks such as cola and certain beers, particularly lagers.

H.Pylori

The H.Pylori bacterium is known to cause excess acid production and this can cause reflux. Symptoms for H.Pylori generally include pain at the top of the stomach, near the base of the rib cage. By pressing on this area, the sufferer feels a sharp pain, which can become unbearable upon repeated or continous depression on the area.

The H.Pylori bacterium can be eradicated using a combination of powerful antibiotics and acid suppressing medicines. The latter acid suppressants reduce acid production, providing relief against over acid production and the antibiotics, attack the bacterium.

Relief

For mild symptoms of acid reflux, antacid tablets can provide relief by neutralising the acid, through their alkaline properties.

By reducing overeating and the consumption of fatty foods, the chances of acid escaping into the gullet can be reduced.

For mild to severe symptoms such as those caused by H.Pylori infection, the use of stomach acid suppressants such as Proton Pump Inhibitors can be prescribed by qualified medical practitioners along with antibiotics, to eradicate the bacterium.

For every severe and prolonged discomfort, sufferers may have to undergo surgery to try to repair the malfunctioning sphincter. This could involve tightening the top of the stomach area where the sphincter resides, causing a narrow escape path for acid, which is supposedly stopped by the now overlapping sphincter valve.

Health problems

The main health problems from reflux concentrate on damage from the escaping acid from the stomach. Ulcers can form in the gullet (oesophageal ulcers) and these can bleed, causing discomfort and pain.

Damage to the mouth including tooth decay and gum damage are also possible as a result of the stomach acid being pushed up towards the mouth cavity. Symptoms are similar to Buleimia suffers whose constant vomiting after binge eating also brings stomach acid into the mouth.