The stomach is a part of gastrointestinal tract in charge with digestion of the food. The very process of digestion starts in the stomach. The process of digestion requires stomach acid. The acid digests food in the stomach and sometimes it may enter esophagus or even regurgitate into the mouth. This condition of stomach acid regurgitation is known as gastric reflux. The symptoms of gastric reflux are not pleasant and they commonly include heartburn and sometimes pain in the chest.
Causes of Gastric Reflux
There are numerous causes of gastric reflux. Some of them are related to consumption of certain foods, some are connected to bad habits and some may be a consequence of structural abnormalities or even more serious medical conditions.
Lower esophageal sphincter is a muscle which contracts and does not allow stomach acid to enter the esophagus. Sometimes this muscle may be weak due to structural or functional abnormalities and the reflux occurs. Gastric reflux is also typical in patients suffering from hiatus hernia.
Certain dietary habits increase the chance of gastric reflux disease. Spicy and hot food as well as large meals induce gastric reflux. The symptoms of the disease become even worse if a person eats late at night right before going to bed. Specific foods increase the production of stomach acid and aggravate the reflux. They include citrus fruit, fried foods, mint, and chocolate. Coffee and tea are also responsible for increased production of stomach acid.
Not only are drinking alcohol and smoking considered bad and unhealthy habits, but they also assist in occurrence of gastric reflux. Alcohol is more damaging than smoking since it directly stimulates the stomach to produce large amounts of stomach acid.
Obesity is one more cause of gastric reflux. The exact connection between obesity and gastric reflux has not been established yet. However, people who are overweight are suffering from this medical condition more than general population.
Some medications, especially if they are taken on regular bases, may increase the production of stomach acid and cause gastric reflux. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are only one group of medications that can cause gastric reflux. Other medications which increase production of stomach acid include corticosteroids, anticholinergics, calcium channel blockers and so on.
Pregnant women are highly susceptible to gastric reflux. This can be easily explained by the fact that the stomach is pushed up by the enlarged uterus and increased abdominal pressure may also reflect onto the stomach causing entrance of stomach acid into the esophagus.