Acidity is the condition characterised by the presence of excess acid present in the stomach which causes gastric pain and discomfort. Acidity may be due to increased acid secretion or gastric reflux. Stress also causes acidity. Acidity is diagnosed through physical examination and imaging techniques such as X-ray and endoscopy.
The acidity experienced by the patients are of following types:
- Acidity due to increased acid secretion: Acid is present in the stomach in optimal quantity. The mucus covering on the inner lining of the stomach protects the tissues from the damaging effect of acid. When the quantity of acid secretion is increased due to reasons such as food or medicines, the mucus covering is not able to provide complete protection and the patient experiences the symptoms of acidity.
- Acidity due to ulcer: When the patient is suffering from ulcer, there is a problem in protective functioning of mucus. Untreated gastric ulcer leads to acidity.
- Gastro-esophageal reflux disease: Acidity is also experienced by the patients suffering from gastro-esophageal reflux disease. The stomach is protected from acid due to mucus lining, but such lining is not present in the esophagus. Thus when the acid from the stomach reflux to the esophagus, there is a burning sensation in the chest. This burning sensation is known as heartburn.
Following are the causes of acidity:
- Stress: Stress not only causes acidity rather it takes a toll on overall health. Specifically, stress reduces the production of the protective lining of the stomach due to which the tissues are exposed to the stomach acid leading to acidity.
- High alcohol intake: Alcohol irritates the digestive system and increases the risk of GERD. Further, alcohol also aggravates the symptoms of already existing acidity.
- Spicy food: The spices present in the spicy food increases esophageal irritation. Further, the capsaicin present in the food reduce the speed of digestion, thus causing acidity.
- Missing meals: As the stomach continues to secrete acid even if the food is not present in the stomach, unused acid causes acidity, gastritis and acid reflux. Skipping meals for a longer time may also increase the risk of gastric ulcer.
- Medications: Acidity has been listed as one of the side effects of medications. Medications which may cause acidity includes aspirin, antibiotics, iron supplement and bisphosphonates.
- Misaligned circadian rhythm: Circadian rhythm plays an important role in body metabolism. Misaligned circadian rhythm also causes acidity as the acid is secreted even in the absence of food in the stomach. Misaligned circadian rhythm also causes insomnia which is also the cause of acidity.
- Medical conditions: Stomach abnormalities such as a hiatal hernia is also responsible for acidity.
- Miscellaneous: Factors such as pregnancy and smoking also causes acidity.
Following are the symptoms related to acidity:
- Sour mouth taste
- Stomach pain
- Burning sensation in the throat
- Difficulty swallowing
- Acid reflux and regurgitation
- Bloating and belching
- Halitosis i.e. bad breath
How to diagnose
Acidity is generally diagnosed on the basis of preliminary symptoms presented by the patient. Chest pain and chest congestion may cause some confusion between acidity and heart problems which can be cleared through various diagnostic methods related to heart attack. Following are the diagnostic methods used to diagnose acidity:
- Physical examination: The physician asks the question regarding the symptoms from the patient and on the basis of reply and symptoms presented, acidity can be diagnosed.
- Barium swallow radiograph: Barium swallow radiograph is the diagnostic method to check the health of the inner lining of the esophagus, stomach, and intestine. X-ray is done to identify the damaged lining.
- Endoscopy: Thin and a flexible tube containing camera is inserted in the esophagus and stomach and the inner view is visible to the doctor on the screen.
Risk neglecting Acidity
- Esophageal destruction: Continuous reflux of the acid from the stomach to the intestinal wall causes damage and inflammation to the esophageal lining. Prolonged erosion of esophageal wall significantly increases the risk of esophageal cancer.
- Gastric ulcer: If the acid of the stomach is allowed to erode the mucous lining, it may lead to a gastric ulcer.
- Gastric cancer: Gastric upset, if left untreated, increases the risk of stomach cancer.
- Tooth decay: Continuous acid reflux in the mouth reduces oral hygiene and enhances tooth decay.
- Excessive vomiting: Excess acid present in the stomach irritates the wall of the stomach which leads to excessive vomiting.
- Chronic pain in abdomen: Acidity and ulcer if left untreated causes chronic pain and discomfort to the patient.
Following are the stages of acidity:
- Mild acidity: This is the initial phase of acidity and does not cause any pain or discomfort to the patient. During this stage, there is an increase in the secretion of acid.
- Moderate acidity: At this stage, the mucous membrane starts eroding and the patient feels pain and inflammation. The acid may also reflux at this stage to cause heartburn.
- Gastric ulcer: Untreated and prolonged acidity causes gastric ulcer due to the damage of exposed inner stomach tissue.
- Gastric cancer: Risk of gastric cancer is significantly increased in those patients who have an unmanaged ulcer.
Foods that helps to reduce acidity
Following foods should be incorporated in diet of patient suffering from acidity:
- Aloe Vera juice
- Apple and banana
- Milk and ice-creams
- Boiled potatoes
- Cauliflower and broccoli
- Oatmeal and yogurt
- Rice and cereals
- Carrots and peas
- Avoid spicy and fried food.
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Limit alcohol and avoid smoking
- Do exercise.
- Perform yoga to reduce stress.
- Sleep well.
- Drink alkaline water.
When to see a doctor
Call your doctor and seek appointment if:
- Your acidity becomes severe.
- Your acidity is not controlled with the prescribed medications.
- You have severe abdominal pain.
- You have continuous vomiting and a feeling of restlessness.
- You have difficulty swallowing.