Causes of Acid Reflux and GERD
Acid reflux is most commonly triggered by eating sugary, acidic, or fatty foods. Chocolate, citrus fruit, fries, and similar foods can interfere with the brain’s signals to the LES, leading to frequent opening of the the lower esophageal sphincter and an imbalance in stomach acid production. Smoking and consuming alcohol and caffeinated drinks like tea and coffee can exacerbate symptoms. Weight also plays a role; individuals who are overweight or obese are more likely to experience acid reflux.
When acid reflux occurs frequently, the LES becomes weakened and the lining of the esophagus can wear away. GERD causes more frequent bouts of reflux and more extreme pain than acid reflux.
Symptoms of Acid Reflux and GERD
The most common symptoms of acid reflux is heartburn and pain in the throat. Nausea, bloating, relentless hiccups, and regurgitation of stomach acid often accompany the heartburn. In more serious cases, individuals with acid reflux may pass bloody or black stools. The symptoms of GERD are nearly the same as acid reflux, only they occur more frequently and usually at a more severe level.
Long-term effects of Acid Reflux and GERD
If left untreated, frequent acid reflux will likely become GERD. The walls of the esophagus may wear down, leading to a painful inflammation known as “esophagitis”. Acid reflux can also cause “dysphagia”, the scarring narrowing of the esophagus, which makes swallowing difficult. Tooth decay is common when stomach acids travel back up to the mouth. In some cases, affected individuals experience esophageal spasms that resemble a heart attack. In rare occurrences, acid reflux and GERD can lead to esophageal cancer.
Remedies for Acid Reflux and GERD
The symptoms of acid reflux and GERD are usually manageable with proper food combining. Avoiding trigger foods, eating smaller meals, and waiting at least 2-3 hours after eating to go to bed can help affected individuals. Believe it or not, chewing gum for 30 minutes after meals helps regulate stomach acid production and reduce acid reflux. Aloe vera juice, slippery elm, and DGL licorice also work to curb acid reflux when it occurs.