During the digestion process, food is pre-digested by the stomach, before being absorbed by the intestine. This pre-digestion is made possible by enzymes that increase the acidity of the stomach in order to dissolve food.
The stomach is made up of a particular mucous membrane, which allows it to support this acidity. But in some people, there is hyperacidity that causes heartburn. Acidity from the stomach can also go up in the esophagus: this is called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Gastric hyperacidity and gastroesophageal reflux are therefore two different disorders, which can nevertheless have common treatments.
What is gastric hyperacidity?
Gastric hyperacidity can be caused by a diet rich in protein, fruits or vegetables. Conversely, starchy foods and alkaline foods such as milk tend to reduce this phenomenon. This gastric hyperacidity can manifest as a stomach ulcer. It is characterized by pain that disappears when you eat and reappears after a meal. Nausea, vomiting or even a melena, in other words black stools, can also occur.
Acid lift: what is it?
When the acidity of the stomach rises in the esophagus, it is called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This disorder is caused by a malfunction of the esophageal sphincter, a muscle located at the junction of the stomach and the esophagus, which must normally open to let food pass, then close to prevent stomach contents to go up towards the esophagus. But when it malfunctions, it opens at bad times and lets up the gastric juices present in the stomach, which causes these famous acid refluxes.
What are the causes of acid reflux?
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is generally due to a dysfunction of the sphincter, but certain factors can favor acid reflux, namely:
- thefoodbecause certain foods such as chocolate or coffee are known to open the sphincter;
- the posture, because when one is leaning forward or lying down, it facilitates the ascent of gastric juices into the esophagus;
- the overweight, because a fatty overload in the abdomen can put pressure on the stomach and cause dysfunction of the sphincter;
- the stress, which can worsen heartburn and acid reflux;
- the medication, including certain treatments for tension or asthma, which can also promote gastroesophageal reflux;
- alcohol and tobacco.
Acid lifts: what are the symptoms?
Gastroesophageal reflux manifests as various symptoms, which usually appear after a meal:
How to stop acid reflux?
- A healthy lifestyle
The first thing to do when you have gastroesophageal reflux is to take hygienic and dietary measures. It is therefore advisable to identify the foods which it is difficult to support: it is generally spicy, vinegar, peppery and fatty foods, but this varies according to individuals. In case of overweight, it is also advisable to eat a balanced diet and practice physical activity.
Postural measures can be effective in fighting gastroesophageal reflux. It is therefore advisable not to go to bed immediately after having dinner and to wait two or three hours, but also to sleep on a bed inclined at 5 or even 10% in order to raise the head and limit acid reflections.
- Drug treatments
There are also drug treatments to fight against gastroesophageal reflux. Among them, we find antacids (Gaviscon®, Maalox®…), anti H2 and proton pump inhibitors. There are also treatments to increase esophageal mobility, but they are prescribed with care because they can cause side effects.
Natural solutions can also help limit acid reflux, if they are combined with hygienic-dietetic measures. It is thus possible to turn to phytotherapy, by drinking for example infusions based on licorice, ginger or mint.
- Anti-stress activities
To combat stress, which can worsen acid reflux, activities that promote well-being are advised. On the program: relaxation, yoga, or mindfulness meditation.
Please note: before using self-medication or certain natural solutions, which should not be taken long term, you should first consult a doctor. The objective? Know the state of your stomach, for example by performing a fibroscopy. This examination will allow the healthcare professional to determine which treatment is the most appropriate for combating gastroesophageal reflux.
Thanks to Dr Olivier Spatzierer, head of the gastroenterology and hepatology unit at the American Hospital in Paris.
Read also :
⋙ Gastric reflux: how to relieve acid reflux?
⋙ Bloating, gastric acidity: osteopathy, an effective solution against digestive disorders
⋙ Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD): symptoms that should alert and how to relieve them