Acid reflux or Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is one of the common gastrointestinal disorders, which should not be taken lightly. This disorder can affect anybody irrespective of age and sex. Symptoms of acid reflux are prevalent in women than in men. There are specific factors which cause acid reflux, but in women additional factors like abnormal levels of estrogen, progesterone and cortisol also play a vital role in causing this disorder.
Malfunctioning of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is the root of acid reflux, which causes back flow of the hydrochloric acid from the stomach in the esophageal tube. Prolonged exposure of the esophagus to such acid attacks can erode its lining causing a complicated situation called Barrett’s esophagus, which ultimately results in esophageal cancer.
Causes For Acid Reflux In Women
The exact cause of acid reflux or malfunctioning of the lower esophageal sphincter is not yet clear, but doctors have detected certain triggers and factors responsible for this disorder.
Wrong Eating Habits
Are you fond of chips, fries and spicy foods? Well, these may be the bothering villains. Incidences of acid reflux are higher in those habituated in consuming too much oily and spicy food. You may pop-up an antacid pill regularly after enjoying a heavy meal, but by doing so you are pampering an unhealthy habit.
Hitting the bed right after the meals is another trigger for acid reflux. Avoid post dinner snacking. Most people suffer from acid reflux due to these bad habits. What you are enjoying today may harm you in the future.
Abnormal functioning of the LES (lower esophageal sphincter) muscle often causes acid reflux in many. In such a condition, the LES and upper part of the stomach wall rises above the diaphragm causing a backflow of the acid from the stomach into the esophageal tube. The diaphragm acts as a barrier preventing the back flow of acid, but Hiatial hernia disrupts its normal functioning. Larger the hernia more serious is the trouble.
While excessive acid production in the stomach can cause acidity and other gastrointestinal disorders, insufficient acid production (a condition known as Hypochlorhydia) may also give rise to gastrointestinal troubles. Sufficient acid production is essential for complete digestion of food, whereas insufficient acid in the stomach may cause partial digestion. As a result, symptoms of acid reflux crop up.
Intolerance Towards Certain Foods
Intolerance towards certain foods like wheat and dairy products can cause bloating, heart burn and other symptoms of acid reflux. The gastric juices produced by your body fail to break down these foods, which results in a number of digestive problems. Check whether these foods are responsible for your acid reflux and avoid them accordingly.
You may be habituated in taking large meals without caring for your body weight, but this can give rise to symptoms of acid reflux. Regular consumption of large meals and excessive weight gain may exert pressure on the LES causing it to open it completely or partially. In this case, weight loss is the best treatment of this ailment.
It is quite likely that LES may weaken with age and the valve may not function effectively as before. This may cause back flow of the acid into the esophagus resulting in heart burn. The parietal tissues of the stomach also become less effective due to aging and produce less acid, which adds to the problem.
Acid reflux during pregnancy is quite common, but it subsides after completion of the term. The expanding uterus exerts pressure on the internal digestive organs including LES. According to a theory, high levels of estrogen and progesterone during pregnancy also results in relaxation of the LES muscle, which causes back flow of the stomach ingredients into the esophagus.
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
Heightened level of progesterone post ovulation can relax the muscles of the gut including LES. Consequently, the acid often flows back to the esophagus causing heart burn. In most cases, the symptoms are not severe and die out within a few days.
Increased levels of stress often worsen the symptoms of acid reflux in women. If you fail to digest your emotions, your digestive system will be in trouble. Excessive levels of mental stress increase the production of a stress hormone cortisol, which impedes the normal functioning of the digestive system. If your body immunity system fails to handle high stress levels, your digestive system becomes vulnerable to a number of disorders.
Medicines prescribed by your doctor to treat a specific ailment may often give rise to another. Painkillers, HRT, blood pressure medications, antidepressants and anti cholinergic agents can cause acid reflux in women.