Heartburn or having a burning sensation in the chest is a very common complaint and most people correctly attribute it to acidity. So what is acidity and what causes it?
Acidity or acid reflux may affect some people on a day-to-day basis and can be very disturbing and often alarming if it persists. Due to an increase in the adoption of a less active lifestyle and unhealthy diet, there has been a significant rise in the number of people suffering from acidity. Not many people realise that it’s our lifestyle choices that are mainly responsible for acidity and maybe completely preventable if taken care of.
Symptoms of Acidity
· Patients experience a burning sensation in the epigastric region (the stomach region), substernal region (middle-lower chest region), or even throat
· Frequent burping or hiccups
· Foreign body sensation in the throat
· Sour eructation i.e., acid causing a sour taste in the mouth and throat
· Sub sternal discomfort or sticking sensation on eating
· And rarely odynophagia i.e., pain on swallowing food.
What are the causes of acidity?
Normally acid is produced by the stomach and is very necessary for the digestion of food. However, this very acid has the potential to cause damage to the stomach and esophagus in an unprotected environment.
The Esophagus is normally protected from the damaging effects of the acid by
- Its vertical position is thereby aided by gravity in acid clearance.
- The lower esophageal sphincter or the door between the stomach and the esophagus remains mostly closed except during swallowing thereby limiting acid exposure.
- The normal healthy esophageal mucosa prevents acid injury
The Stomach is normally protected from the damaging effects of the acid by
- Rich blood supply
- Good acid clearance
- Protective coating of mucin over stomach mucosa
Any factor which has the potential to disturb and damage the above-mentioned protective factors of the stomach and esophagus can cause acidity.
- Hiatus Hernia
- Lying immediately after eating
- Hiatus Hernia
- Chronic alcohol consumption in high amounts
- Chronic smoking in high amounts
- Helicobacter pylori bacterial infection of the stomach.
- Drugs like steroids or NSAIDs
- Physical stress
- Delayed gastric emptying
- Any critical illness requiring a prolonged hospital stay
How to reduce acidity?
- Avoid fatty, fried, spicy, or acidic foods.
- Cutting back on caffeine
- Eating smaller meals throughout the day.
- Managing stress
- Not taking NSAIDs.
- Reducing alcohol consumption.
- Avoiding smoking
- Not lying down for 2 to 3 hours after a meal.
- Elevating the head of the bed while lying down
- Losing weight if overweight
- Avoiding bedtime snacks
Whom and when to consult?
A Gastroenterologist is the best doctor to consult for all your acidity and indigestion issues. You should visit a Gastroenterologist if you experience any of these
- Persistent acidity despite all measures mentioned above
- Blood in vomit or passage of black stools.
- Unexplained anemia is associated with symptoms of indigestion
- Unexplained weight loss.