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Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Updated on February 6, 2018


Gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD happens when acid that has accumulated in the stomach causes ingested food to regurgitate or to flow back up from the stomach to the esophagus.

How does this happen?

GERD happens when something goes wrong with the food as it enters the lower esophageal sphincter.

When food enters the stomach, the lower esophageal sphincter opens to let food in then closes to prevent food from going back to the esophagus. Sometimes, however, the lower esophageal sphincter is not able to do its role properly causing food to regurgitate to the esophagus causing the disease called GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease.

The "Angle of His", the point where the esophagus connects to the stomach prevents stomach acid, bile and enzymes from going back to the esophagus, factors which can lead to damage of delicate tissues of the esophagus.


There are several factors that could influence the occurrence of GERD.

Obesity - A high body mass index (BMI) is associated with a high incidence of stomach acidity. Fat people are more likely to experience attacks of GERD.

Hypercalcemia is a condition where there is excess calcium in the blood which could increase the production of gastric acid.

Scleroderma is an autoimmune disease of the skin that could cause acid reflux.

Hiatal hernia is associated with activities related to movement in the stomach and esophagus areas.

Use of certain medications like prednisolone can make the stomach environment acidic.

Zollinger-Ellison syndrome is a disease that induces the secretion of gastric acid in the stomach and can contribute to stomach acidity.

Glenard syndrome or visceroptosis is a condition where the abdomen has sunk way below its original position. This abnormality in the position of the abdomen could cause acid build up in the gastro intestinal tract.



The most common signs that a person is suffering from GERD is difficulty swallowing, heartburn and food regurgitation.

Nausea, chest pain, profuse salivation and sore throat coupled with difficulty swallowing are rare signs of the disease.

In extreme cases, GERD can cause serious damage to the esophagus.

How to prevent acid reflux attack

The following tips can help prevent acid from coming back to your esophagus:

  • Recline the head part of your bed from 6 to 8 inches. This is best especially for patients who have GERD attacks at night.
  • Avoid taking in food three hours before going to bed.
  • Avoid lying on your back after meals.
  • Try to lose weight if you are overweight.
  • Stop smoking. It reduces the amount of saliva secretion and increases the acid content in the stomach.
  • Stop drinking alcohol, it harms the mucosa, the membrane that lines the stomach.

How Acid Reflux Happen


Treatment of GERD is done with a proton pump inhibitor, a type of drug primarily intended to reduce the production of acid in the stomach.

GERD can be treated with the appropriate medications, in certain cases surgery and complete lifestyle change.

© 2013 Zee Mercado


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