The gastrointestinal system plays a pivotal role in maintaining our overall health and well-being. Acidity, acid reflux, and gas are common gastrointestinal issues that can cause discomfort and affect one’s lifestyle. Though they share some similar symptoms, it is essential to understand the differences between these conditions to ensure accurate diagnosis and appropriate management.
Acidity, also known as hyperacidity or acid dyspepsia, refers to the excessive production of stomach acid. It can lead to a sensation of burning or discomfort in the upper abdomen, commonly referred to as heartburn. The stomach normally secretes hydrochloric acid to aid in the digestion of food, but when its production becomes excessive, it results in acidity.
Several factors contribute to increased acidity, some of which could include –
- Imbalanced diet
- Certain medications (e.g., nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)
- Alcohol consumption
Additionally, individuals with a history of gastritis or peptic ulcers may be more prone to hyperacidity.
The hallmark symptom of acidity is heartburn, which is characterized by a burning sensation in the chest that may radiate to the throat. Other symptoms include –
- A sour taste in the mouth (due to stomach acid reaching the upper esophagus during regurgitation).
Acidity may also cause discomfort and pain in the upper abdomen.
Untreated or chronic acidity can contribute to the development of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or peptic ulcers. GERD is a condition in which stomach acid frequently flows back into the esophagus, causing irritation and inflammation.
Acidity, if left untreated, can significantly impact an individual’s quality of life. Chronic symptoms may lead to sleep disturbances, reduced appetite, and impaired daily activities.
Acid reflux occurs when stomach acid flows back into the esophagus, causing irritation and inflammation. This chronic condition is known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
GERD may be brought on by a variety of reasons. Your GERD may occasionally have a complex underlying etiology that involves several elements.
Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES) relaxation
It is the most common cause of acid reflux in patients. The LES controls the closure and opening of the lower end of the esophagus and functions as a pressure barrier to the contents of the stomach. The LES will not fully close once food enters your stomach if it is weak or loses tone. The esophagus may then become flooded with stomach acid.
Being fat puts more strain on your abdomen, which aggravates GERD symptoms. Though the precise relationship between GERD and obesity is not entirely understood, being obese is thought to be both a risk factor and a potential cause of GERD.
A number of medications may influence a person’s chance of developing GERD and worsening symptoms.
Aspirin, Motrin or Advil (ibuprofen), and Aleve (naproxen) are examples of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs), and gastrointestinal side effects are frequent when taking them. These drugs are frequently linked to the development of peptic ulcers, and they may exacerbate heartburn and esophageal discomfort by weakening or relaxing the LES.
These drugs may exacerbate GERD symptoms in those who already have them, while prolonged NSAID usage may increase the risk of GERD in those without the condition.
Prescription medications may potentially exacerbate or induce GERD symptoms. If you experience any symptoms while taking medicine, it’s crucial to speak with your doctor. Here are a few typical offenders:
- Calcium channel blockers are prescribed to treat cardiac disease and excessive blood pressure.
- Anticholinergics are included in medications for glaucoma, allergies, and conditions of the urinary tract.
- Beta-adrenergic agonists.
- Amitriptyline, Tofranil (imipramine), and Pamelor (nortriptyline) are examples of tricyclic antidepressants.
- Codeine and other prescription painkillers, as well as acetaminophen and hydrocodone-containing drugs
- Quinidine used to treat malaria and cardiac arrhythmias.
- Benzodiazepines and sedatives, including Valium (diazepam)
- Asthma, chronic bronchitis, and other lung conditions.
- Osteoporosis medications called bisphosphonates
- supplements with potassium
- supplemental iron
Impaired Stomach Function:
People with GERD may have aberrant nerve or muscle activity in the stomach, which slows down the digestion of food and stomach acid. This delays the stomach’s ability to discharge its contents, increasing internal pressure and enhancing the risk of acid reflux.
Symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GER) include:
- Heartburn is a painful, burning sensation that develops in the centre of your chest, behind your breastbone, and moves up your throat from the lower tip of your breastbone.
- You might taste food or stomach acid if you have regurgitation, which is when stomach contents come back up through your esophagus and into your throat or mouth.
- Not all adults with GERD have heartburn or regurgitation, though. Additional signs could include:
- Chest ache
- swallowing issues or swallowing pain
- Problems in the mouth, throat, or lungs might manifest as symptoms such a persistent cough or hoarseness.
- GERD symptoms can include a persistent cough.
If you suspect that you have GERD or if lifestyle changes or over-the-counter medications don’t help your symptoms, you should consult a doctor.
You must immediately consult your doctor if you have symptoms that could be indicative of GERD complications or other severe medical conditions, such as:
- A chest ache
- Reduced appetite
- Continual vomiting
- Swallowing issues or swallowing pain
- Symptoms of gastrointestinal bleeding include
- Vomit that seems to be coffee grounds or contains blood
- Feces that are bloody or appear dark and tarry
- Unaccounted-for weight loss
Gas in the digestive system is a normal byproduct of digestion, consisting of air swallowed during eating or drinking and gases produced during the breakdown of food.
When you ingest air and when bacteria in your large intestine break down undigested carbs, gas typically enters your digestive tract. If you swallow more air or consume more of particular foods and beverages, you might experience increased gas sensations.
Ingestion of air
Everybody takes a small bit of air in their mouths while they eat and drink. Belching may cause air that you have swallowed to remain in your stomach to travel through your anus and into your intestines.
Greater air in the mouth could result in greater gas and gas-related symptoms. This could happen when you:
- either chew gum or eat hard candy.
- ingest carbonated or fizzy beverages
- A hasty meal or beverage
- putting on loose-fitting dentures
Bacteria from the large intestine
The gut microbiome, or the group of bacteria, fungi, and viruses that live in your digestive tract and aid in digestion, is primarily found in the large intestine. The large intestine contains bacteria that aid in the breakdown of carbohydrates and produce gas as they do so.
Sugars, starches, and fiber are examples of the types of carbohydrates found in some foods and beverages that your stomach and small intestine are unable to completely digest. In the big intestine, where microorganisms break down the undigested carbohydrates and produce gas, they will pass. If you eat more carbs than your stomach and small intestine can properly digest, you can experience more gas symptoms.
Medical illnesses can also contribute to gas
You may experience greater gas symptoms or more gas than normal if you have certain medical conditions.
- IBS and other GI functional problems
Problems with gas symptoms may result from functional gastrointestinal (GI) illnesses such irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), functional abdominal bloating and distention, functional constipation, and functional dyspepsia.
Functional GI diseases are linked to issues with the communication between your stomach and brain. These issues may make you feel more bloated or uncomfortable, or they may interfere with the passage of gas through your intestines.
- Carbohydrate digestion issues
After consuming specific foods or beverages, those who have trouble digesting some carbs may develop digestive symptoms such bloating, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. Among the issues with carbohydrate digestion are:
- People with lactose intolerance have digestive problems after consuming lactose-containing meals or beverages.
- dietary fructose intolerance, in which individuals experience digestive discomfort after consuming fructose-containing foods or beverages.
An increase of microorganisms in the small intestine
An increase in the quantity or variety of bacteria in your small intestine is known as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. These bacteria may induce diarrhea and weight loss in addition to excessive gas production. Most frequently, other medical issues lead to complications such small intestine bacterial overgrowth.
Specific digestive issues
Other digestive disorders and ailments, such as the following, may cause greater gas or gas-related symptoms:
- celiac illness
- disease of gastroesophageal reflux
- pseudo-obstruction of the intestine
- digestive system obstruction or blockage, which may be brought on by diseases including colorectal, ovarian, or stomach cancer
The following are the key distinctions between acidity and gas:
- The medical term for the condition that occurs when the body creates more acid than is necessary for digestion is called acidosis. Heartburn is a common symptom of having an acidic stomach.
- Even though the colon is responsible for producing gas, this process really helps with digestion. Gas is expelled approximately twenty times a day by a typical person, either by the mouth or the rectum.
- On the other hand, a burp is created when an excessive amount of gas is produced or retained in the digestive tract as a result of consuming large meals or foods that are particularly hot. When it becomes stuck in the digestive tract or when the digestive system is not functioning properly, it can range from mild to severe and sometimes cause stomach pain.
On the other hand, the terms acid reflux and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) are frequently used interchangeably; nevertheless, they may not always refer to the same condition. Sometimes people with acid reflux develop GERD, which is a more severe form of reflux than acid reflux.
Frequent heartburn, defined as occurring two or more times per week, is the most common symptom of GERD. Other symptoms that may be present include food or sour liquid being regurgitated, trouble swallowing, coughing, wheezing, and chest pain, particularly while lying down at night
In conclusion, while acidity, acid reflux, and gas may share some symptoms, they are distinct gastrointestinal conditions with different causes, clinical manifestations, and management strategies. Understanding these differences is crucial for accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. By adopting preventive measures and making informed lifestyle choices, individuals can maintain optimal gastrointestinal health and improve their overall well-being.
There is no excuse to continue to suffer with acid reflux, heartburn, or GERD now that there are treatments available that are supported by evidence. It’s possible that the solution is as simple as making some changes to your food or your lifestyle. Heartburn can also be alleviated by taking a medicine that requires a prescription.
People who are concerned that they may have GERD should first make a list of the meals that bring on their symptoms and then discuss this information with their primary care physician. The inclusion of a couple of people’s favorite Super Bowl commercials should come as no surprise to anyone.