Dear Ask The Doctor: What are the symptoms of acid reflux and how does it get started?
Dear Rosalind: Acid Reflux or GastroEsophageal Reflux Disease ( GERD) usually occurs when the Lower Esophageal sphicter which is present at the end of the esophagus and just before the beginning of the stomach is malfunctioning in some manner. Thus due to the laxity of the sphincter the stomach contents are propelled into the esophagus thus leading to the symptoms.
The typical symptoms of Acid reflux are as follows
1)Heartburn ( feeling of a burning sensation either in the middle of the chest or in the central upper abdomen)
2) Regurgitation: reflux of stomach and esophagus contents into the throat, sometimes this may lead to respiratory symptoms like coughing, hoarseness
3) Sometimes may be associated with difficulty swallowing.
The symptoms usually occur after a heavy meal or on lying down immediately after eating. The symptoms may mimic that of a heart problem.
The causes that lead to reflux range from a Lower esophageal sphincter which is not relaxing properly, to hiatus hernia , increase in the acid secretion by the stomach and increase in inta abdominal pressure.
The methods of treating this are through lifestyle modifications which include: weight reduction, avoiding foods like chocolates , citrus fruits, spicy and oily foods, avoiding extremely large meals and sitting up for atleast 2-3hours after a meal . There are also various medications which can be used to improve the symptoms after ruling out other concerning causes like Heart problems which may mimic these symptoms.