Let’s start from the beginning of the whole story to actually understand what causes heartburn or acid reflux.
Suppose you just ordered your favorite burger and French fries at your favorite food joint. As you eagerly wait for it, your mind tingle your taste buds with its creative indulgence. Your enjoy the yummy smell spread all around the air, the smell of melting cheese, the fried chicken and the baked burger. Your anticipation grows even higher!
And finally, here it comes. As it is served hot on your table, you have a satisfying look at it. You are now ready to just devour it, putting everything else aside. It looks irresistible!
As its delicious smells triggers your nostrils, your brain gets an immediate signal that your favorite food has just arrived. Right then and there, the first steps of your digestion process is started. Your brain makes your mouth water by stimulating the salivary gland in your mouth and release the saliva.
As you put the first bite of the burger into your mouth and munch, your teeth starts their job of breaking down the food into smaller pieces. Your tongue keeps rolling the food over and over, and mixes it well with the saliva in your mouth. It helps your food easily move down your throat without getting choked. As you are busy relishing the great taste of your morsel, a lot of automatic process has been going on inside your mouth. The burger you just ate turns into the mushy bundle, called a bolus. The enzymes in your saliva has already started digesting the carbohydrates present in your burger.
Then your tongue lifts to push that whole bundle of food into your mouth opening which let it down your throat. You often sum this whole process up in a word, and that is ‘swallowing’. 😉
Your food travels down a 8-inch long tube, called the esophagus, that connect your mouth and your stomach. The movement of the food is made smoother by a rush of salivary secretions by your salivary glands that lubricates it even further. There is also the wavelike contraction movement of your ringed esophagus muscles, that push your food down towards the stomach.
As the food reaches the bottom of the esophagus, a muscular valve called the Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES) opens up automatically, allowing the food to drain down into your stomach for further processing. Immediately after the food has passed through the valve into the stomach, the LES goes back to its closed position, which is tight enough to prevent any food or any stomach content moving back from the stomach into the esophagus. [Please do remember this particular muscular valve called the LES, as this is going to lead you soon to discover the real culprit for those nasty pains and burning sensations in your chest].
Here in the stomach, the whole actual digestive process takes place. The strong and muscular stomach walls starts breaking down the foods into even smaller piece by contraction and releasing a lot of stomach juice. It is a highly acidic blend of enzymes, hydrochloric acid (HCL) and mucus. This churned food, which is now a thick soupy mass called the chyme, is pushed further down into your 20-feet long small intestine ( I just don’t know why the heck they call it the ‘small’ intestine. 20-feet to me is not small at all!).
It’s here in the small intestine, that all the nutritional contents of your food that may be useful to your body is extracted out & absorbed. This is done with the help of a set of whole lot of digestive juices like the alkaline from your pancreas, the bile from your liver and gall-bladder and other intestinal enzymes. Your small intestines takes all the important things out and pushes down the remaining waste down into the large intestine or colon (where all the water content is extracted out) and consequently throwing the dry leftover waste out of the rectum or anus.
You see how amazing your digestive system is?! And this is all absolutely automatic & involuntary. You never notice a thing.
Now that you know the complete process of the digestive system, let’s see where exactly the fault occurs, that causes the acid reflux or the heartburn.
The Root of What Causes Heartburn or Acid Reflux – Its your LES!
Now if you remember, as the food moves to the lower end of the esophagus, the lower esophageal spincter, the LES, opens up and allow the food to pass through into the stomach. The valve then closes back tightly, to prevent any slipping back of the food into the esophagus.
The problem occurs only when the LES starts malfunctioning and doesn’t closes back tightly enough. This results in the continuous back-flow of the highly acidic content of the stomach into the esophagus. This is what triggers that burning sensation in your chest you call heartburn.
The lining of the stomach are build with special kinds of tougher cells that are acid-resistant, which means they can easily tolerate the acidic stomach content, without any issues. But the lining of the esophagus is not tough enough to tolerate such acidic inflow, thus causing the damage to the lining.
This process of continuous back-flow of the acidic stomach content into the esophagus, due to the LES not closing tightly enough, result in the damaging of the esophagus’s lining. This is what we know as GERD – Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease.
GERD increases the risk of whole lot of other problems associated with this damage of the esophagus’s lining, like Esophagitis, which is swelling of the esophagus linings, leading to painful swallowing. This can also lead to Esophageal Ulcers, which are ulcers or sores in the esophagus’s lining. This all can even worsen the risk of suffering from Esophageal Cancer, if left untreated for long time.
Acid Reflux or Heartburn is nothing but the outcome of “Dysfunction of the Lower Esophageal Sphincter, LES”. This is the root cause of the whole problem.
So, now that we know the root cause of the ailment, we just need to know how to take care of it and everything else will fall into place.
Don’t you worry, as we will be discussing in great detail about many effective “natural and holistic” ways to cure this chronic heartburn problem and relief you from all the pain and discomfort forever. Make sure you check out our other posts on acid reflux remedies.
Here is a video for you that explains you more on ‘what causes heartburn or acid reflux’ in good details…
Take good care of yourself !! 🙂