Reflux and heartburn: what you need to know

  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a condition in which stomach acid enters the esophagus, weakening the barriers that prevent its exit. Although there is no overproduction of acid, a faulty barrier allows acid to flow back into the food in some cases, causing irritation and inflammation in the esophagus.
  • Symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease can vary from person to person, but the most common are: heartburn, chest pain, regurgitation of food, difficulty swallowing, and even a chronic cough.
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease affects 3 out of 10 people; in children, 7 out of 10. Causes are related to lifestyle: diet (spicy, fatty foods, citrus fruits and chocolate), obesity, smoking, and hiatal hernia. Cannot be explicitly connected to a battery Helicobacter pylori.

The thought of eating certain foods can make us wonder whether we like it or not, especially since we know how our stomach will react: acidity and Reflux. In the United States, it is the most common stomach disorder. affecting up to 3 out of 10 people, very similar to what is reported in

All Latin America. This disease, which has a great physical and psychological effect, is associated with the use of certain drugs to combat it, and in some cases with their abuse. In two articles we will talk about causes, how it happens and treatment specifiedthose that are not always tablets or “peptobismol”.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

When we eat, the digestive system needs to absorb nutrients as quickly as possible, but for this it must not only digest food quickly, but also eliminate microorganisms that they can harm us. For both reasons, in the stomach, the last boundary before the start of the main absorption process has a liquid called gastric juice, which is basically a very powerful acid that should not come out.

For this, there are gates (sphincters) at the entrance and exit of the stomach. The lower esophageal sphincter, located at the entrance to the stomach, together with other components forms the so-called antireflux barrier; in such a way that in a healthy person nothing should return except vomit. With gastroesophageal reflux disease, although there is no hyperproduction of gastric juice, it is still abandoned, since the sphincter does not close fully.

Rising acid along with food in some cases causes irritation and inflammation of the esophagus. It’s because of walls not ready like a stomach, for that level of acid; causing in the most extreme cases ulcers or very painful sores in the esophagus.


Feelings of each person can be very different. Some people often confuse it with feeling similar to a heart attack. Here are the most common ones:

  • Heartburn and chest pain: This feeling burning acid that damages the esophagus. This sensation may feel like warmth or even like a knife through the esophagus. It is more present during meals or be lying down, which makes it very difficult to sleep.
  • regurgitation: This come back a small amount of food mixed with gastric juice. It may or may not taste sour. Just as in some cases he can return the juice only without food or belching. The duration varies, as does the fact that certain foods keep coming back throughout the day.
  • Dysphagia: Irritation of the esophagus can reduce your size up to do very difficult to swallow. Some time ago we told you about one autoimmune disease it evokes the same feeling that makes normal life impossible for those affected.
  • Chronic cough and structural damage: Cough can be produced persistent, especially at night, due to the presence of acid in the esophagus (and in some cases it enters the upper respiratory system). Acid in contact with teeth, tongue, esophagus, etc. can damage them; although in majority does not happen to them.


There are cases that have genetic causes, and 7 out of 10 people Also It affects them as it is still in development. Natural overproduction of acid is a rare cause, In general, the reasons are more related to lifestyle:

  • Diet: spicy food, a lot of consumption of fats, citrus fruits and chocolate They can activate reflux by overproduction of stomach acid or by relaxing the sphincter.
  • Obesity: accumulation Fat in the stomach area can put pressure on the stomach, which can cause gastric reflux.
  • Smoke: TO characteristics nicotine relaxants of the nervous system, it is possible that the sphincter of the esophagus weakens, preventing the control of reflux, increasing its possibility.
  • Pregnancy: As with obesity, a child’s growth can put pressure on the stomach.
  • Hiatus hernia of the diaphragm: The stomach is just below the diaphragm, the muscle that moves the lungs when you breathe, but the esophagus passes through it through an opening called the esophageal fissure. In some people, the stomach rises and gets stuck in this opening, forming what is called a hiatal hernia. (see it figure). These people have stomach acid. Maybe easily rise during breathing due to the pressure of the diaphragm.

not found connections between bacterium hourAndlycobacter pylori and development of gastroesophageal reflux disease; but it may worsen the symptoms if it is present.

next article We’ll talk about treatment options beyond overconsumption of acid-reducing drugs and their long-term side effects.

Carlos Diego Ibanez
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