Acid Reflux and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

Acid Reflux and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

Acid reflux is a very common condition, it is also known as heartburn, which is actually a symptom of acid reflux, referring to the burning pain or sensation in your chest area. Don’t get confused by this though, as the heart has nothing to do with it.


Understanding acid reflux

The term 'acid reflux' is used to describe stomach acid flowing upwards through the oesophagus (the muscular tube that connects your mouth to your stomach, starting at the back of the throat and ending when it joins the stomach below the diaphragm). Where the oesophagus joins the stomach there’s the lower oesophageal sphincter which is a muscular ring found in the digestive tract.

When you swallow food, your oesophageal sphincter opens to allow the food to pass through to the stomach and then closes to prevent the contents of the stomach coming back up, it works like a valve or rather a door for your food. When your oesophageal sphincter is damaged or weakened in some way, it does not close properly, therefore the stomach contents come back up, causing acid reflux.

The stomach contains hydrochloric acid which helps to break down food and protect you against harmful bacteria. It is important to keep in mind that the lining of the stomach is strong enough to protect itself from this acid, however, your oesophagus is not. 


What does Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) mean?

Recurrent acid reflux, often when it happens more than twice a week, is diagnosed as GERD, therefore it is a chronic disorder. GERD is seen in people of a variety of ages, children and infants also suffer from this. Recurring acid reflux often occurs during pregnancy.

As GERD is often the result of lifestyle factors, it can be treated through a change in diet and lifestyle. In some cases, however, it cannot be prevented and needs to be treated with medication.

NEXT What causes acid reflux (GERD)?

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