Acid reflux is commonly associated with heartburn, which is exactly what it sounds like: a burning pain in the chest area. This is one of the main symptoms when stomach acid flows back up into the esophagus. During an episode of acid reflux, the gastroesophageal sphincter does not function properly as a one-way valve to prevent stomach contents from moving in the wrong direction. Backwash from your stomach can irritate the lining of the esophagus. Hundreds of millions of people experience acid reflux from time to time. It is most common just after eating a meal.
Other than chest pain, common signs and symptoms of acid reflux may include bloating, burping, nausea, wheezing, difficulty swallowing, unexplained weight loss and the sensation of a lump in your throat.
GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, is chronic acid reflux. Mild acid reflux that occurs at least twice a week, or moderate to severe acid reflux that occurs once a week is considered to be GERD. Factors that may contribute to cases of GERD include obesity, smoking, lack of exercise, certain medications, and a condition called hiatal hernia in which there is a hole in the diaphragm. Dietary choices can also lead to acid reflux such as eating large meals, not having enough fiber in your diet, or ingesting too much salt, chocolate, caffeine, alcohol, soda or juice.
GERD is also very common, affecting up to 20% of all adults. Although prevalent, this disease is often misunderstood and unrecognized. It is usually treatable, and serious complications can occur if it is not properly treated. Most people can manage the discomfort of chronic acid reflux with diet and lifestyle changes and over-the-counter medications. But GERD patients may need stronger medications or surgery to ease symptoms.