When you swallow your food, it travels through a tube called esophagus. The Esophagus leads into the stomach through a hole in a sheet of muscle called Diaphragm. There is a round muscle at the bottom of the esophagus that works like a valve. The muscle relaxes when you swallow allowing food to pass into the stomach. Certain cells in your stomach called proton pumps release acid to help digest the food. The lining of your stomach protects from the acid. The Esophagus has a different type of lining which looks like it made up of smooth tile. The valve is designed to close tightly after you swallow so nothing comes back into the esophagus. Your diaphragm is also meant to pinned securely around the esophagus closing off the opening to your stomach.
It’s normal for a smaller amount of acid to occasionally splash into the esophagus. This is called Reflux. That means flowing back. A small amount of reflux doesn’t usually cause any harm. But if acid splashes into the esophagus over and over again for years the esophagus can be damaged.
There are several reasons this might happen. It’s not uncommon for the valve to become weaker so it doesn’t close tightly. That allows acid and partially digestive food to come up into the esophagus. Sometimes the diaphragm weakens the esophagus allowing the hole to become larger. That hole is called the hiatus. When it becomes larger part of the stomach may bulge through it. This is called Hiatel hernia. The hernia may cause the esophagus and the valve to move up. In that case the diaphragm is no longer reinforcing the valve. Valve makes it more likes the acid will get into the esophagus. When acid in food splash up into the esophagus repeatedly it’s called Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). Many people experience acid reflux from time to time, but GERD is a type of mild acid reflux that happens at least two times a week.
Symptoms of GERD such as:
- Burning sensation inside your chest(Heartburn)
- Chest Pain
- Swallowing difficulty
- Vomiting or sour liquid
- Feeling like a lump in your throat.