Acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease is defined as a condition that arises when stomach contents go back from the throat to the esophagus causing troublesome complications and/or symptoms. Common belief erroneously blames an unhealthy lifestyle as one of the causes of GERD. The fact is, people living healthy lives are only a little less likely to develop GERD compared to those who heavily drink alcohol, smoke or are overweight.
During a meal, the stomach creates hydrochloric to properly digest and dissolve food. The stomach has inner linings that are protected by mucus making it resistant to the corrosive effects of the acid. Unfortunately, the esophagus does not have this type of protection making it highly prone to damage from the stomach acid. When the acid travels to the esophagus, it causes a burning sensation and since the esophagus is located just behind the heart, that sensation is called heartburn because it seems like a burning feeling in the heart.
A normally functioning lower esophageal sphincter which is a muscle located at the bottom of the esophagus hinders the acid from backing up (or reflux). The sphincter relaxes when food is swallowed enabling it to pass. The sphincter then contracts to block flow back into the esophagus. When a person has GERD, his sphincter stay loose between swallows, enabling acid and stomach contents to rise up and wreck the esophagus lining.
In the United States about a quarter to about 40% of adults suffer from GERD at certain stages in their lives. About a tenth of the adult population has GERD on a daily or weekly basis; however, nowadays GERD has been shown to affect babies and children as well.
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