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Acid reflux and heartburn are similar conditions that are caused by Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GORD). GORD is a very common condition where acid from the stomach leaks out into the oesophagus (gullet) and can travel all the way up to the throat.
There are various reasons why someone may suffer from acid reflux or heartburn, the most common being a failure of the lower esophageal sphincter. This sphincter comprises of a ring of muscles that act as a valve, allowing food to enter the stomach whilst keeping acid from exiting. If the lower esophageal sphincter doesn’t close fully, it can let acid to leak up out of the stomach.
There are known triggers that can contribute to experiencing acid reflux and heartburn, these include:
- Being overweight: Carrying extra weight can place increased pressure on your stomach. This pressure can lead to a weakening of the lower esophageal sphincter allowing acid to move back up your gullet from your stomach.
- Being pregnant: Fluctuating hormonal levels can weaken the lower esophageal sphincter.
- Eating a diet high in fat. The stomach takes longer to dispose of stomach acid after digesting a high-fat meal.
- Tobacco, coffee, alcohol or chocolate: All these can relax the lower oesophagus sphincter
- Hiatus hernia: where part of the stomach protrudes up through the diaphragm.
- Certain medicines: Calcium-channel blockers and nitrates can relax the lower oesophagus sphincter. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can irritate and inflame the oesophagus lining, leading to heartburn.
- Eating large meals or lying down after eating a meal