Categories: Digestive Health

All You Need to Know about Gastroesophageal Reflux

An Overview Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease or (GERD) is a long-term condition in which the contents of the stomach return to…

An Overview

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease or (GERD) is a long-term condition in which the contents of the stomach return to the esophagus, which in turn leads to complications or symptoms that include chest pains, heartburn (Pyrosis) and bad breath (Halitosis).

In order to find out more about this condition we should understand the basic constitution of the stomach. Whereas, stomach acids are very strong in order to digest different types of food and protect us from certain kinds of bacteria. The stomach is made in a way that could contain these acids without being damaged by their severity. The entrance of the stomach is an annular muscle based at the end of the esophagus. It’s called the Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES), which works as a valve, it allows food to enter the stomach and under normal circumstance it shuts down completely when the food settles inside. But as a result, to several reasons, which will be discussed later, this muscle could lose the ability to close completely, thus the acid returns to the esophagus and causes the gastroesophageal reflux disease and the symptoms that accompany it.

One of the most common causes of the (GERD) is hiatus hernia, which is a tear in the upper part of the stomach inside the chest cavity through a rip or weakness in the diaphragm. This condition affects 15% of people due to brachyesophagus or high pressure inside the abdomen (from coughing, pregnancy, lifting weights, etc.)  Or because of an aperture in the diaphragm that’s bigger than its normal size which is deemed to be the most common cause of hiatus hernia.

GERD is really common and the medical treatment of this condition has evolved widely, starting with medications that either prevent acid-reflux or diminish digestive juices and ending with resorting to surgeries that resolve the physical causes of the issue and that’s what we are going to discuss in detail in the upcoming series of articles regarding this subject.

Causes

We previously had an overview of the gastroesophageal reflux disease, this common condition that troubles many people. Today, we will talk about the risk factors that cause this condition.

Many risk factors cause gastroesophageal reflux disease and as we mentioned before, hiatus hernia is a primary factor. Others causes could be lifestyle factors, which include:

  • Eating small meals shortly before going to sleep.
  • Eating large meals and laying down right after.
  • Eating certain foods like citrus, chocolate, mint, garlic, and onion as well as spicy and fatty foods.
  • Drinking certain beverages like tea and coffee (caffeinated beverages) or carbonated drinks and alcohol.
  • Smoking (active or passive)
  • Taking medications like aspirin, ibuprofen, certain muscle relaxers, and blood pressure medications, or asthma
  • Low levels of physical activity and lack of workout.
  • Having a diet low in dietary fiber.
  • Consuming a high amount of salt.

Other factors that might lead to gastroesophageal reflux disease include obesity, hypercalcemia, Zollinger–Ellison syndrome and other rare conditions like visceroptosis.

Also, studies indicate a link between body mass increases and the symptoms of (GERD) whereas Zollinger-Ellison syndrome and hypercalcemia increase the production of gastrin hormone, which leads to higher levels of Hydrochloric acid and in turn repetitive cases of heartburn. As for visceroptosis, it is a sinking in the internal organs below their natural position and this affects the secretion and movement of stomach acid.

Symptoms

We previously discussed the Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease or (GERD) from a general perspective and mentioned some of its most common causes and reasons. Today, in the next few minutes, we will discuss the most important symptoms of this common digestive condition.

Before we begin, it is important to note that the gastroesophageal reflux disease could appear as a short-term condition, due to a certain symptom or it could be a long-term condition. The most important symptoms that appear in both cases are:

-Heartburn (Pyrosis); which is a burning sensation in the chest, behind the sternum bone and upper central abdomen area, sometimes the pain rises to the neck, throat and the angle of the jaw. The burning sensation of (GERD) happens because of the acid-reflux and it might cause inflammation of the esophagus.

– Reflux; which is the involuntary return of the food through the esophagus, either right after consumption or after a period of time, and It occurs due to contractions in the abdominal muscles and it is often accompanied with abdominal pains.

The less common symptoms include:

  • Permanent dry cough
  • Feeling of nausea
  • Teeth erosion
  • Difficulty or pain while swallowing food
  • Inflammation of the throat
  • Bad breath
  • Asthma or repetitive pneumonia

It is necessary to check with your doctor when some of these symptoms appear, because some of the gastroesophageal reflux disease symptoms are similar to symptoms of heart attacks and pulmonary embolism (arteria pulmonalis clot)

(GRED) can be examined using several methods when lifestyle changes and medications fail to decrease the acid-flux. These methods include:

– Endoscopy

-Biopsy: an extraction of tissues for examination.

-Esophageal Contrast Imaging: it includes imaging of the stomach, the esophagus and the upper abdominal area after drinking a barium swallow to show the contrast in the x-ray image.

Share
Published by
Patti