Acid Reflux Cause - Effect - Avoidance


The gastric (stomach) juices contain a high concentration of acid that is designed to protect the stomach and for digestion of food. The highly acidic stomach content is prevented from going up the food pipe by two valves (spincters) at each end of the food pipe. It is important to note that the throat area is maintained at a neutral or slightly alkaline pH. Not all episodes of reflux is recognizable by the sufferer and those episodes that happen during sleep may go unrecognized. The bad news is reflux causes severe irritation in the food pipe and throat making these areas more prone for cancer. Some studies have shown that cancer risk in reflux is more than smokers. clinically we find that smokers also tend to reflux more and this adds insult to injury.

When a diet that is difficult to digest, like a spicy-oily type is taken the stomach takes a longer time to digest. Hence food stays in the stomach longer and acid secretion also correspondingly increases. During such time chances of the gastric contents flowing back into the food pipe – Throat is more. When this flow back occurs it is felt and at other times it happens without ones knowledge. (Sub clinical reflux)

The refluxing gastric content cause severe inflammatory changes in the mucosal lining of food pipe and throat. These changes cause a burning pain and discomfort in the food pipe. In the throat they cause a persistent chronic sore throat, foreign body feeling, etc. It can also cause any hacking cough.

Treatment is aimed at decreasing the acid production and closing the spincters of the food pipe. This is achieved by a regularly timed balanced diet, avoiding oily and spicy food and not going to bed immediately after dinner.

It is also advisable to raise the head end of the bed by 4 – 6 inches to increase the level of throat and food pipe in relation to the stomach while sleeping. This will prevent the sub clinical reflux.

Acid lowering drugs like famotidine, Ranitidine and omiprazole are commonly used. Drugs to close the spincters and regulate their actions are also available.