Causes of Acid Reflux Disease Explained

In the United States alone, Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease affects nearly one third of the adult population at least once a month.

  • Where did we go so wrong?
  • Are we eating poorly?
  • Is the obesity epidemic among the root causes of acid reflux disease?
  • Are we just a medication-loving society?

Like anything else, the answer is complicated, but acid reflux treatment is available.

GERD symptoms (Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease) generally increase with age. By 65, we are no longer able to produce as much digestive acid as we used to. This lack of acid makes it harder to digest our food.

Dr. Reza Shaker, Director of MCW's Digestive Disease Center, remarks,

"Aging takes its toll on the delicate functions of the mouth, throat and esophagus during the swallowing process. In addition, older adults are more likely to suffer from disease processes that affect the swallowing apparatus, including the esophagus, pharynx, larynx and their controlling nerves."

In fact, a similar disorder -- Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing) -- affects up to 30% of the elderly population in general hospital wards and perhaps twice that in nursing homes.

Other causes of acid reflux disease include diet choices. As previously mentioned, when you eat a lot of fatty foods or enormous meals all at once, the body has trouble breaking down the proteins, which putrefy in your stomach as a result. Other times, too many spicy foods, citrus fruits, caffeine, garlic, onions, peppers, fried food, alcohol, red wine and mint simply exacerbates our system.

It's not always what you eat but when you eat as well. People who eat two or three hours before bedtime often suffer tremendous, heartburn and acid reflux symptoms. They may be up coughing all night from breathing in the acid, they may snore and feel congested or they may have an asthmatic reaction, unable to breathe, let alone fall asleep! Nearly three-fourths of patients with heartburn acid reflux suffer nighttime effects as well. Another common mistake people make is quite the opposite - bending, lifting and working right after dinner. All the moving around could help push food back from where it came.

Believe it or not, some medications you're already on may be upsetting your stomach. Calcium channel blockers, Theophylline (Hydrophed, Marax, Bronchial, Quibron), Nitrates and Antihistamines can all relax the Lower Esophageal Sphincter, which is the valve that keeps food and fluids down after swallowing. If you're taking medication for asthma, high blood pressure, seizures, angina, pain, urinary tract disorders or allergies, check with your doctor to see if acid reflux is one of the side effects.

Are you pregnant? Increased hormone levels naturally relax ligaments in your body at this time, including the LES. Since more pressure is shifted around your midsection, it's natural for food or stomach acids to get pushed back up.

In rare instances, acid reflux disease can lead to esophageal cancer, ulcers, lactose intolerance and other issues in one's life. Sometimes it may be hard to sleep or even eat, without fear of getting sick. The good news is that there are supplements of amino acids or antacids you can take to alleviate the symptoms and causes of acid reflux disease, at least for now. Other medication aims for longer lasting effects or preventative measures, so be sure to ask your doctor about your options.