Have you ever experienced acid reflux or wondering if you have GERD? I'm breaking down the basics:
- Stomach acid creeping up into the esophagus causes acid reflux. Symptoms of acid reflux usually include chest pains, heartburn, a bad taste in the mouth, stomach bloating, gassiness, and difficulty digesting and swallowing properly.
- Acid reflux and GERD have in common many risk factors, including pregnancy, history of hiatal hernias, obesity, eating an unhealthy diet, older age, and an imbalance of stomach acid.
- If you have very frequent or severe heartburn and acid reflux, you have a higher chance of developing GERD
- Natural remedies for acid reflux usually also help lower symptoms of GERD. These include improving your diet, avoiding certain problem foods, reaching a healthier weight, taking helpful supplements, and eating smaller, more balanced meals.
So, does acid reflux necessarily cause GERD, and if not, then what does?
For decades, researchers and doctors have believed that stomach acid traveling up from the stomach and into the esophagus was the cause for burning sensations in the chest and other acid reflux symptoms that led to GERD. Esophageal 24-hour pH monitoring tests have been used to diagnose GERD. These tests determine the total acid contact time in the esophagus, along with measurements of symptoms. The idea is that acid reflux erodes the tissue in the esophagus for a long time before GERD,
While acid reflux (regurgitation of acid into the esophagus) likely contributes to GERD symptoms, new findings suggest that the root causes of GERD are tied to abnormal inflammatory responses. Inflammation develops in the digestive system, including the esophagus, through secretion of proteins such as cytokines, which damage esophagus tissue cells.
There’s also evidence that some patients with GERD don’t experience much acid reflux or even have high levels of acid production. The opposite can be true in some cases; GERD can be present in patients with low acid. One study investigated the cause of GERD symptoms in more than 900 people. Researchers found that in patients with very low total acid levels, only 12 percent of symptoms were associated with acid reflux. Most of the patients with GERD who had low acid levels were female and younger, compared to GERD patients with higher acid levels.