The lower esophageal sphincter, or LES, is a valve between your esophagus and your stomach. When you swallow food, this valve opens to let it pass into your stomach and is then supposed to close behind it. However, if the LES does not close properly or opens when it is not supposed to, your stomach acid can escape into your esophagus.
This can cause a burning sensation that is frequently referred to as heartburn. Another name for this problem is acid reflux. If you experience these symptoms on a frequent basis, you should see a doctor for diagnosis so that you can get the treatment that you need to find relief from these symptoms.
There are many causes of heartburn, so it is important to determine what is causing it in your case. One possibility is what is known as a hiatal hernia. Your diaphragm is a large muscle that is found between your stomach and your chest. However, at times your upper stomach and the LES can be trapped above the diaphragm, resulting in a hiatal hernia.
However, there are other risk factors that can make developing this condition more common. For example, being overweight or obese makes heartburn more likely, as does lying down after you eat a meal. Smoking can increase the risk for reflux, as can certain foods, such as citrus fruits, tomatoes, coffee, mint, and chocolate. Some beverages can also contribute the problem, including tea and alcoholic beverages.
The most common symptom of heartburn is the burning sensation described as heartburn, caused by the stomach acid damaging the delicate lining of the esophagus. Other symptoms include a sour taste in your mouth as the contents of your stomach escape up through the LES.
You may also experience frequent burping, a bloated feeling, a feeling that food is getting stuck in your throat, nausea, sore throat, and weight loss. If you find yourself with any of these symptoms, it is important to see a doctor right away so that you can be treated.
Certain medications can be prescribed to treat reflux. You can take over-the-counter antacids to neutralize some of your stomach acid, but your doctor may recommend that you take more potent medications, such as proton pump inhibitors or H2 blockers. These drugs reduce the amount of acid that your stomach produces so that less will escape through the LES.
Lifestyle and dietary changes can also help to minimize the number of attacks you experience. If certain foods tend to trigger heartburn, try to reduce or eliminate these from your diet. Eating smaller portions and eating more slowly can also help. If you are overweight, dropping some pounds can make the problem go away for some people. Also, make sure that you do not eat too soon before you go to bed.
Acid reflux can be a very distressing condition, especially if you suffer from regular attacks. Keep an eye out for these symptoms, and talk to your doctor if you need treatment.