Acid reflux is an irritating and displeasure feeling of a burning sensation in the chest. The actual pain is felt in the esophagus. Although it has a name that is associated with heart, it has nothing to do with the heart. This irritation is caused by excessive production and secretion of gastric acid in the stomach.
Gastric acid production and secretion
Initially, gastric acid is produced and secreted into the stomach lining, and its core function is to digest protein in the food. This is by activating digestive enzymes where these enzymes break down protein into amino acids. Since the gastric is acidic, there are other cells in the stomach lining that produce bicarbonate. Stomach wall cells also produce and secrete mucus that acts as a viscous physical barrier to ensure that gastric acid doesn’t destroy the stomach. Gastric production and secretion is done in a systematic manner to ensure that only enough gastric acid is produced. Down in the duodenum, cells there also produce and secrete bicarbonate that completely neutralizes any gastric acid that may pass further into small intestines.
Acid reflux causes
Heartburn occurs when a muscular valve is known as Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES) fails to occasionally close so as to keep the gastric acid into the stomach. Although LES normally opens to allow food into the stomach and when someone is belching, it may fail to close thus letting the gastric acid to reflux or seep into the esophagus thus causing the irritating feeling.
Occasional and chronic heartburn
Occasional heartburn is not dangerous because it doesn’t happen often and when it happens, it lasts for few minutes.
Chronic heartburn or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is serious and dangerous because it can cause other complications such as stomach ulcer.
- Irritating throat and persistent sore throat.
- Regurgitation of foods and liquids that one had just eaten that tastes acidic in the throat.
- Persistent hoarseness and laryngitis.
- Occasional stomach pains especially in the upper abdomen.
- Dull pain in the stomach for the case of chronic heartburn that might have caused stomach ulcers.
Treatment and prevention
- Taking sodium bicarbonate immediately after a meal.
- Eating small portions of meals though frequently.
- Avoiding much alcohol and caffeine.
- Stop smoking.
- Setting relatively longer time between eating and going to bed as this will allow food to settle well in the stomach before sleeping.
- Avoiding stressful occasions as this might cause serious complications such as stomach ulcers.
Heartburn should be looked into closely by minding what we eat, and the general lifestyle such as stress management, and limited alcohol drinking and quitting smoking.