Gastroesophageal reflux disease, known as GERD or heartburn, can occur at any age. There is a genetic component to GERD. A person who has a relative or relatives with heartburn is more likely to experience heartburn as well.
What Causes GERD / Heartburn?
Food normally passes from the mouth, down the esophagus, through the lower esophageal sphincter and into the stomach, where it is digested.
Heartburn begins when hydrochloric acid and/or a food bolus are regurgitated up from the stomach, and passes up through a circular muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). The LES should be an airtight trap door that prevents any stomach acid or food from entering the esophagus. When the LES is not working properly or has been damaged through exposure to stomach acid, heartburn may occur.
You can drink a glass of water and stand on your head without having water reflux back up into your throat. The water is held in the stomach by a circular muscle called the Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES). This muscle is airtight. However if the sphincter is not functioning properly, it will allow acid, water or food to come up into the esophagus.
The nerves in the esophagus send a message to the lungs, throat, ears, nose, and sinuses to constrict and produce mucous. This will cause the symptoms mentioned earlier. The food and acid does not have to come up all the way to produce these symptoms.
Hiatal hernia is an out-pouching of the stomach that sits above the diaphragm. This will allow food and water to sit in this pouch and come up easily into the esophagus. By reducing the acid production in the stomach, the symptoms of GERD can improve because the lower esophageal sphincter will begin to work effectively again.
If acid is frequently allowed to come up into the esophagus, damage can occur. Serious problems like Barrett’s Esophagitis may occur, which can lead to cancer of the esophagus. If you or your children suffer from GERD, seek medical attention to avoid the many of the complications that can occur.
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