What Is Acid Reflux?
Acid reflux occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) does not close properly, causing stomach contents to back up, or reflux, into the esophagus. The liquid mixture of acid and pepsin which leaks into the esophagus can be very irritating, causing inflammation and even damage in rare cases. Pepsin, the enzyme that begins the digestion of proteins in the stomach, may also be accompanied by bile that has been backed up in the stomach from the duodenum—part of the small intestine that attaches to the stomach. But the acid is the most dangerous part of this mixture, as it can eat away at the esophagus lining.
While occasional heartburn is common, heartburn that occurs more than twice a week may be considered GERD—Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease—and can eventually lead to more serious health problems, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). You may be surprised to learn that anyone, including infants, children, and pregnant women, can have acid reflux and be in danger of developing GERD.