What causes acid reflux (GERD)?

What causes acid reflux (GERD)?

Acid reflux can be a very uncomfortable sensation and happens more commonly when lying down, after eating a hearty meal, including fats and spices, or even when bending over.

One cause of GERD, a more serious one, is known as hiatal, or hiatus hernia. A hernia occurs when there is a hole or a weakness in the muscular wall that keeps in the organs in place. In this case, the hiatus is the small opening in the diaphragm through which the food pipe runs and attaches itself to the stomach. The stomach can, therefore, push through this opening and result in a hiatal or hiatus hernia, thus causing GERD.

Hiatus hernia

In most situations, when there is a small hiatal hernia, it doesn’t cause problems, and you may only discover you have one when consulting with your doctor. However, a large hiatal hernia allows for acid and food being sent back up through your food pipe, resulting in heartburn. This can sometimes require surgery, but please consult with your doctor should you be experiencing chronic acid reflux.

Hiatus hernias can often be caused by:

  • Consistent vomiting
  • Injury to the area (diaphragm, muscular wall separating chest contents from abdominal contents)
  • Decreased muscle tone in the abdominal cavity, thus obese people and pregnant women may suffer from these
  • Weakened membrane elasticity because of ageing

More controllable risk factors to acid reflux:

  • Smoking, or a history of smoking
  • Decreased digestive time before resting or sleeping
  • A low fibre diet
  • Very little physical exercise
  • Obesity - especially around the central organs
  • High alcohol or caffeine consumption
  • Some chronic medications 
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