Acid Reflux Health Center

Stomach or gastric contents contain acids needed to break up and digest food. In acid reflux, these harsh contents and their chemicals wash up into the esophagus through the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). It is not clear why the LES sometimes fails to close properly, but when it doesn't close, it allows acids to rise up from the stomach cavity and damage the tissue lining the esophagus.

Research suggests that the LES of those with acid reflux relaxes while the rest of the esophagus is still working. Conditions like hiatal hernia may also contribute to the development of this condition. A hiatal hernia happens when the upper part of the stomach and the LES move above the diaphragm, the muscle wall separating the stomach from the chest. Normally, the diaphragm helps the LES keep acid from rising up into the esophagus, but with a hiatal hernia, acid reflux can happen more easily. This hernia can occur in people of any age, although it is normal in otherwise healthy individuals over the age of 50.

Obesity, pregnancy and smoking all contribute to acid reflux. Certain foods also can contribute to or worsen acid reflux symptoms. These foods include the following:

  • citrus fruits
  • chocolate
  • caffeinated drinks
  • alcohol
  • fatty and fried foods
  • garlic and onions
  • mint flavoring
  • spicy foods
  • tomato-based foods
Review Date: 
August 2, 2012
Last Updated:
August 6, 2014