There is a valve that sits at the entrance of your stomach. This ring of muscle is referred to as the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). In most cases, the LES closes when food passes through it. However, there could be times that the LES does not close. Or, it may open too often which could lead to the production of acid by the stomach.

This has the potential to travel to the esophagus. When this happens, a person will develop symptoms like heartburn, also known as burning chest pain.
If these acid reflux symptoms occur more than twice in a week, it leads to acid reflux disease, also referred to as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Some of the triggers for acid reflux are:

  • Lying down straight after a meal or eating big meals
  • Being obese or overweight
  • Snacking late at night
  • Drinking coffee, tea or alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Pregnancy
  • Taking medication like aspirin, ibuprofen as well as certain muscle relaxers.

What Causes Acid Reflux in Adults?

What Causes or Triggers an Acid Reflux?

One of the main causes of acid reflux disease is hiatal hernia, which is a stomach abnormality. This takes place when the upper half of the stomach and LES tend to move above the diaphragm – the muscle that forms a barrier between the stomach and chest. In a normal situation, the diaphragm helps keep acid in the stomach. However, if you have hiatal hernia, the acid can travel to the esophagus which can result in acid reflux disease symptoms.

What Causes or Triggers an Acid Reflux During Pregnancy?

In the case of normal digestion, food makes its way to the esophagus (the tube that falls between the mouth and stomach), through the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), also known as the muscular valve, before entering the stomach. The LES is the gateway between the esophagus and stomach. It opens to ensure food goes through and closes to prevent stomach acids from entering back.

When a pregnant woman experiences acid reflux, the LES may relax to cause the rise of stomach acid into the esophagus. This may lead to pain and burning in the chest. When a woman is expecting, hormonal changes may allow the esophagus muscles, including the LES, to relax often. This could allow more acids to creep back in, especially when you lie down after eating a large meal.

This apart, when the fetus grows in the second and third trimesters, and the uterus also expands to provide more room for growth, the stomach comes under a great deal of pressure. This may also be one of the factors responsible for food and acid to be pushed back into the esophagus.

A common question also arises: Is acid reflux a sign that you're pregnant? It could be a possibility. Acid reflux is common but it also might not mean that you're pregnant. However, if you experience symptoms like a missed period or nausea, it could be a sign that you might be pregnant.

What Causes or Triggers an Acid Reflux at Night?

Acid reflux at night can be pretty uncomfortable. Studies suggest that soft drinks and prescription sleeping pills are some of the main causes of heartburn at night. Also, sleeping on your back right after consuming a heavy meal is another main cause of acid reflux.

Some of the other causes of acid reflux could also be linked to asthma, obesity, high blood pressure as well as sleep disorders. If you want to avoid acid reflux at night, you will need to remove carbonated soft drinks from your diet. Also, do not take prescription sleeping pills like benzodiazepine. These simple steps can help reduce the frequency of heartburn when you hit the bed at night.

What Causes or Triggers an Acid Reflux in Babies?

What Causes or Triggers an Acid Reflux in Babies?

Acid reflux is quite common in babies or infant. It usually takes place after they are fed at night. Some of the other causes of acid reflux in infants include:

Immature LES Can Cause Acid Reflux in Babies

The LES, which allows the entry of food into the stomach and keeps it there, is not fully matured in babies or infants. When the LES open out, the stomach content can enter right back into the esophagus. This could lead to spitting up or vomiting.

A Narrow or Short Esophagus Can Cause Acid Reflux in Babies

If the esophagus is shorter, the refluxed contents of the stomach have a lesser distance to travel. If the esophagus is narrower than usual, the lining could get more irritated.

Infant Diet Can Cause Acid Reflux in Babies

If you decide to change the foods your baby or infant eats could reduce the risk of acid reflux. If you are breast-feeding, making dietary changes could benefit your infant.

There are certain foods that you need to junk if you want to prevent acid reflux. Citrus fruits and tomatoes increase acid production. However hard it may be, you need to remove chocolate, high-fat foods and peppermint from the diet. This is because these foods can keep the LES open for a longer period, causing acid reflux in the stomach.

Feeding Position Can Cause Acid Reflux in Babies or Infants

An infant's position during and after feeding can cause acid reflux. Laying the infant down in a horizontal position is better as the stomach contents easily reflux into the esophagus. Keeping the little one in an upright position while feeding for 20-30 minutes after could cause acid reflux.

Make sure that you put your infant to sleep on his back to reduce the possibility of a sudden infant death syndrome. Infant who have had reflux in the past may benefit from sleeping in a slightly elevated position on the left side.

Angle of His Can Cause Acid Reflux in Babies or Infants

The Angle of His refers to the angle at which the esophagus meets the stomach. Differences in the angle can cause acid reflux. A sharp or steep angle may make it difficult for the stomach contents to remain down.

Overfeeding Can Cause Acid Reflux in Babies or Infants

Giving your infant too much to eat can increase the risk of acid reflux. Feeding your infant frequently may also result in acid reflux. Overfeeding can apply pressure on the LES, causing your infant to spit up. When you give your little one less to eat, pressure is taken off the LES.

Gastroparesis Can Cause Acid Reflux

Gastroparesis causes the stomach to take more than the required time to empty. The stomach usually contracts to ensure food is transported to the small intestine for digestion. However, stomach muscles may not function properly if the vagus nerve is damaged. This is because the nerve controls food movement from the stomach to the digestive tract. In gastroparesis, food remains in the stomach for a longer period than usual, giving way to reflux. However, this is rare in infant who are healthy.

What Causes Acid Reflux in Adults?

Hiatal Hernia Can Cause Acid Reflux in Adults

In most cases, it is the diaphragm that prevents acid from entering into the esophagus. However, if the top part of the stomach moves above the muscle that separates the stomach, acid can flow through causing a reflux.

Pregnancy Can Cause Acid Reflux

In some cases, the excess pressure exerted by the evolving fetus can exert quite a lot of pressure on the esophageal valve during pregnancy. This could lead to acid reflux.

Smoking Can Cause Acid Reflux in Adults

Smoking can lead to a number of complications including damaging the mucus membranes, impairing muscle reflexes, increasing acid secretion, while also reducing salivation smoking. These could all lead to acid reflux.

Low Acid Content Can Cause Acid Reflux in Adults

Contrary to popular belief, low stomach acid content also causes a number of GI issues like a leaky stomach. This contributes to acid reflux.

Snacking before Sleep is a Common Cause of Acid Reflux in Adults

It is never a good idea to snack before sleeping, no matter how hungry you are. Eating close to bedtime, and then lying down immediately after, should be avoided. Lying down prevents your body from digesting food. The odd positioning can cause acid reflux.

Over-Exercising Can Cause Acid Reflux in Adults

Engaging in more than your share of cardiovascular exercise like marathons could make it harder for you to digest the food you eat.

Certain Medication Can Cause Acid Reflux in Adults

Some of the adults who are hooked onto certain medication like aspirin, ibroprofen, blood pressure medication, and anti-biotic drugs, among others can cause damage to the stomach lining, which then leads to acid reflux.

Obesity Can Cause Acid Reflux in Adults

When you are an overweight adult, acid reflux is common. This is because the extra weight adds pressure on the esophageal valve. This can also be linked to low stomach acid.

Prevention is better than cure when it comes to acid reflux. If the symptoms show no sign of slowing down, you may also consult a doctor.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:


Last Modified On: May 30, 2016

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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