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Acidity,” often referred to as acid reflux or heartburn, occurs when the acidic contents of the stomach flow back into the esophagus, causing a burning sensation in the chest or throat. This condition is known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Here’s a detailed explanation of the reasons for acidity:
Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES) Dysfunction:
The LES is a ring of muscle located at the junction of the esophagus and stomach. Its primary role is to prevent stomach contents, including stomach acid, from flowing back into the esophagus. In people with GERD, the LES may be weakened or relax inappropriately, allowing stomach acid to splash into the esophagus.
A hiatal hernia occurs when a portion of the stomach protrudes through the diaphragm into the chest cavity. This can weaken the barrier between the stomach and esophagus, making it easier for stomach acid to flow back into the esophagus.
Certain foods and beverages can trigger or exacerbate acidity. These include spicy foods, citrus fruits, tomatoes, garlic, onions, chocolate, caffeine, and alcohol. These items can either directly relax the LES or increase stomach acid production.
Large Meals and Overeating:
Consuming large meals or overeating can put pressure on the stomach, causing it to expand. This pressure can push stomach contents, including acid, into the esophagus.
Excess body weight, especially around the abdomen, can increase abdominal pressure. This pressure can force stomach acid to flow back into the esophagus.
During pregnancy, hormonal changes and the growing uterus can put pressure on the stomach, leading to increased chances of acid reflux.
Smoking weakens the LES and reduces saliva production, which plays a role in neutralizing stomach acid.
Some medications can relax the LES or irritate the esophagus, leading to acid reflux. Examples include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), aspirin, certain muscle relaxants, and blood pressure medications.
Lying Down After Eating:
Gravity helps keep stomach contents in the stomach when we’re upright. Lying down after a meal can make it easier for stomach acid to flow into the esophagus.
Certain medical conditions can increase the risk of acidity, such as gastroparesis (delayed stomach emptying), scleroderma (a connective tissue disorder), and diabetes.
Chronic stress can affect the digestive system, potentially leading to increased stomach acid production or altered digestive function.
It’s important to differentiate occasional acid reflux from chronic GERD. While occasional acid reflux is common and can be managed with lifestyle changes and over-the-counter antacids, chronic GERD requires medical attention. Untreated GERD can lead to complications such as esophagitis (inflammation of the esophagus lining), Barrett’s esophagus (a precancerous condition), and even an increased risk of esophageal cancer.
If you experience persistent or severe acidity symptoms, it’s advisable to consult a healthcare provider. A medical professional can provide an accurate diagnosis, recommend appropriate treatment options, and help you manage your symptoms effectively.
What we can do?
By understanding the risks, monitoring medications effectively, and making informed decisions, can empower themselves to lead healthier, longer lives, minimizing the threat.By understanding disease progression and medication response at a granular level, patients can take proactive measures to protect their stomach health.
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