Specialized cells in the stomach secrete hydrochloric acid to aid digestion and combat harmful bacteria, explains the University of Washington. Diet, lifestyle and certain medications result in acid escaping the stomach and entering the esophagus, causing acid reflux, according to WebMD.
A muscle at the base of the esophagus, the lower esophageal sphincter, is responsible for confining gastric acid to the stomach, explains WebMD. However, a number of factors can lead to stomach acid leaking into the esophagus. A common cause of leaking stomach acid is a hiatal hernia. Hiatal hernias occur when the upper portion of the stomach breaches the lower esophageal sphincter, causing acid to enter the esophagus. Lying down or bending over after a large meal is another cause of acid reflux.
Spicy foods, garlic, onion. citrus fruits and tomatoes can be contributors to acid reflux, notes WebMD. Alcoholic beverages, coffee and soda can also aggravate the condition. Smoking, pregnancy or extra weight can increase excess acid, and certain medications such as aspirin or blood pressure medicine contribute to stomach acid as well.
Eating smaller meals more frequently is one way to reduce excess stomach acid, suggests WebMD, as well as not eating for several hours before lying down or going to sleep. Quitting smoking, losing weight and elevating the head several inches when lying down are also helpful.