Causes and Risk Factors of Acid Reflux Disease

Acid reflux disease or GERD (Gastro-esophageal reflux disease) is caused by frequent reflux of stomach acid (and sometimes bile) into esophagus. Normally esophagus enters the stomach at an angle (known as “angle of His”), which creates a valve that prevent stomach contents (acid, food and sometimes bile) from going to esophagus, there is also a physiological sphincter at the gastro esophageal junction known as lower gastro esophageal sphincter (LES). During swallowing the LES relaxes and allow food to pass down to stomach and after that it closes again to prevent reflux. If the LES relaxes abnormally or when it becomes weak, the contents of stomach (acid, enzymes, food etc.) can flow back into esophagus leading acid reflux disease. This frequent backflow of stomach content irritates and inflame the esophageal mucosa and cause acid reflux disease and its symptoms.

Risk factors of GERD or acid reflux disease include

  • Hiatal hernia: presence of hiatal hernia (a portion of upper part of stomach comes out through esophageal opening in diaphragm) increase risk of GERD, acid reflux disease.
  • Obesity: obese individuals are at higher risk of GERD in compare to normal body weight individuals.
  • Pregnancy: during pregnancy there is increase pressure on diaphragm, which may lead to hiatal hernia and increase risk of GERD.
  • Zollinger-Ellison syndrome: there is gastric hydrochloric acid hyper-secretion in this condition, which increase risk of acid reflux disease.
  • Certain medical conditions/diseases: in scleroderma there is motility problem of esophagus which may cause acid reflux disease. Certain other medical conditions are also associated with increase risk of acid reflux disease such as diabetes (you can try ayurvedic medicines for diabetes or you may use usual anti-diabetic medications for blood sugar control), asthma, obstructive sleep apnea, systemic sclerosis, gallstone etc.
  • Hypercalcemia can increase gastrin production and gastric acid production as a result.
  • Smoking can delay healing of any injury including any inflammation of esophageal mucosa and increase risk of acid reflux disease (GERD) and peptic ulcer disease.
  • Delayed gastric emptying increases risk of acid reflux disease by increasing the chance of gastric content to backflow.
  • Certain unhealthy habits such as excessive eating (beyond optimal capacity of stomach) and lying down immediately after eating heavy meal can increase risk of acid reflux disease.

 

Image courtesy of Ohmega1982 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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