What Causes Heartburn and Reflux?

Heartburn and Reflux

Heartburn and acid reflux occur when stomach acid flows back into the esophagus, causing irritation and discomfort. This happens when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), a muscle that separates the esophagus from the stomach, relaxes or doesn’t close properly. Several factors can contribute to heartburn and reflux:

  • Hiatal Hernia: A hiatal hernia occurs when a portion of the stomach protrudes into the chest through the diaphragm. This can weaken the LES and contribute to reflux.
  • Certain Foods and Drinks: Consuming acidic or spicy foods, fatty meals, citrus fruits, tomatoes, chocolate, coffee, alcohol, and carbonated beverages can trigger or worsen heartburn and reflux in some individuals.
  • Large Meals: Eating large meals or lying down immediately after a meal can increase the likelihood of stomach acid flowing back into the esophagus.
  • Obesity: Excess weight, especially around the abdomen, can put pressure on the stomach and LES, leading to increased chances of reflux.
  • Pregnancy: Hormonal changes during pregnancy, along with the pressure of the growing uterus on the stomach, can contribute to heartburn.
  • Smoking: Smoking can weaken the LES and reduce saliva production, which normally helps neutralize stomach acid.
  • Certain Medications: Some medications, including certain types of anti-inflammatory drugs, antibiotics, and medications for blood pressure, can contribute to reflux symptoms.
  • Lying Down Too Soon After Eating: Gravity helps keep stomach acid in the stomach. When you lie down shortly after eating, especially with a full stomach, it becomes easier for acid to reflux into the esophagus.
  • Tight Clothing: Wearing tight belts or clothing around the waist can increase pressure on the stomach, contributing to reflux.
  • Medical Conditions: Conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), hiatal hernia, and scleroderma can increase the risk of experiencing heartburn and reflux.
  • Delayed Emptying of the Stomach (Gastroparesis): In some cases, slow emptying of the stomach can contribute to the accumulation of stomach acid and increase the likelihood of reflux.

It’s important to note that occasional heartburn is common and can be managed with lifestyle changes and over-the-counter antacids. However, persistent or severe symptoms may require medical attention. Individuals experiencing frequent or chronic heartburn should consult with a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment options. Lifestyle modifications, dietary changes, and medications can be effective in managing and alleviating symptoms of heartburn and reflux.

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