When food in the stomach moves in the wrong direction, upward and toward the esophagus instead of the small intestine, it creates a burning sensation on your chest, and this uncomfortable feeling is popularly called acidity. In medical terminology, the reverse movement of food is called reflux, and the said condition is mainly experienced by those people whose stomach could not be emptied timely. Food remains lodged in the stomach for a long period of time, and if more food is still being consumed, then the pressure that is built up from the accumulated food opens the esophagus rather than the small intestine, which is not supposed to happen normally. Partly digested food, otherwise known as chyme, contains hydrochloric acid, a chemical that causes irritation on the tender membrane of the esophagus.
Another reason for the reverse movement of food in the stomach is a condition called gastritis. In this disorder, the inside layer of the stomach becomes swollen due to many reasons, with some of them being caused by eating very spicy food, consuming food items that cause allergies, or side effects of aspirin. When the muscles are swollen, they are unable to pass the digested food towards the small intestine, so the food flows in the reverse direction through reflux.
What is the result of reflux in our bodies? Acidity! The acidity causes a burning sensation in the chest, and it can sometimes be uncomfortable and distraction, especially when you are busy doing something else like working at the office or studying at school. In order to treat acidity, one would need to dash for the chemist’s shop and buy antacid tablets, and medication can often provide instant relief. This antacid tablet gives some relief, but it actually does not remove the underlying cause of acidity, which is the reflux of the stomach acid.
Esophagitis and Barret’s Esophagus
Acid reflux is sometimes called GERD, an abbreviation for an illness named gastroesophageal reflux disease. GERD is usually associated with long-term acid reflux, wherein the person affected by it would frequently get stomach acid on his or her esophagus at random intervals.
If the person takes no medication with GERD, then he or she may suffer from esophagitis, a disease that causes inflammation on the esophagus. Esophagitis is oftentimes asymptomatic or won’t show any symptoms, but if the inflammation gets severe, then the person would experience burning pain on the chest while having difficulty swallowing food or even saliva.
An antacid is an effective medicine against esophagitis, although doctors would typically recommend that you would rather prevent the disease from occurring in your body, especially if you have frequent GERD. The best way to prevent esophagitis is by keeping a close eye on your diet, as you would have to stay away from fatty food, caffeinated drinks, cigarettes, and alcoholic beverages.
Another disease that is caused by severe GERD is Barret’s esophagus, a condition wherein the lower part of the esophagus that connects to the stomach has a lining that resembles what is found in the small intestine. On paper, it may not look like a serious disease, but when you find out that the lining of the small intestine should not be present on the esophagus, then you will know its severity.
When the esophagus constantly comes into contact with stomach acid, the body will think that the lower part of the said organ is supposed to be the small intestine, which is usually where some stomach acid flows through. During the development of the disease, the esophagus will find a way to combat the stomach acid that it always touches. One of the ways that it could build a good defense on the acid reflux is by transforming its lining from a stratified squamous epithelium into a simple columnar epithelium.
If you are frequently experiencing GERD, there is a chance that you won’t develop Barret’s esophagus, but for those unfortunate reflux-affected people who have a weaker esophagus, they may get the disease. Symptoms for Barret’s esophagus include difficulty in swallowing, vomiting blood randomly, painful eating, and a severe burning sensation in the chest area.
You can prevent diseases related to acidity and reflux by changing your diet, as mentioned previously. If you have a proper diet, not only will you be able to stop esophagitis and Barret’s esophagus from appearing on your body, but you will also enjoy a fit and healthy life.
- Gastric acid (Wikipedia)