What is Acid Reflux? Acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a complaint whereby the acidic contents of the stomach are ejected into the oesophagus. The contents of the stomach often contain strong enzymes such as Pepsin, and the acids which are used to break down food. With acid reflux, this noxious mixture is brought back up and can cause serious damage to the oesophagus in some rare cases.
Once a patient feels the onset of GERD, he is likely to suffer from it for the rest of his life, as GERD is a chronic condition. If the oesophagus has also been damaged, this will require a programme of ongoing treatment to ensure the discomfort it causes will not return.
Acid reflux is actually a process that most people will feel fairly regularly. The difference between everyday acid reflux and that of GERD patients is the acidity of the reflux as well as the duration for which it remains in the oesophagus. The body has an in-built defence mechanism against acid reflux. As most instances of reflux occur during waking hours when patients are sitting or standing up, the reflux is pulled back into the stomach by the forces of gravity to minimise pain and discomfort. Furthermore, during waking hours people continually swallow saliva, which helps to drive any reflux back down into the stomach.
However, these mechanisms are only effective during waking hours, when patients are sitting upright. During the night, the gravity cannot take effect, nor can the swallowing which ceases with sleep. Any reflux which happens while you are sleeping is more likely to do damage, as it is more likely to sit in the oesophagus for a longer period of time.
A person’s susceptibility to the condition can be increased by certain physical conditions or states, such as pregnancy. Many women find acid reflux is a great cause of discomfort during their pregnancy, and it is caused by the increased levels of hormones in the pregnant body. These cause the reflux by decreasing the pressure on the muscle which blocks reflux, as well as the increased pressure from the new baby from the lower abdomen. This mixture of effects goes some way to increasing discomfort from acid reflux.
Additionally, some patients may have conditions that generally weaken the muscles of the oesophagus, including the condition scleroderma, may find themselves with increased acid reflux, which is a natural by-product of these conditions and can add further discomfort and distress.
If you are unsure about the symptoms you are experiencing, it is advisable to consult your doctor who will be capable of allaying your fears and frustrations and will recommend a suitable course of action to tackle the problem.
If you feel as if you may be suffering from acid reflux, it is important to consult your medical professional immediately, otherwise, you are at risk of irretrievably damaging the oesophagus, and worsening your condition. Acid reflux can be helped, so it doesn’t have to be a major issue.