gastroesophageal reflux disorder

February 28, 2011

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disorder

It is unnatural for stomach contents to rise into the esophagus but unfortunately, this happens to many people. This occurrence is called acid reflux, when stomach acids are permitted to enter the esophagus and move upward. When acid reflux occurs repeatedly, this could be a sign that you have gastroesophageal reflux disorder.

Gastroesophageal reflux disorder is what develops when the lower esophageal sphincter is relaxed and does not close consistently or tightly. The LES acts as a passageway for foods that have been eaten, allowing entrance into the stomach. Although the LES musts open to allow foods to pass to the stomach, a properly functioning LES should close immediately after the food goes to the stomach, and prevent stomach acids from being displaced. Stomach acid is corrosive but is suitable for the lining walls of that organ. In order to breakdown and digest food, the gastric acid in your stomach must be highly acidic. When gastric acid moves into the esophagus it ends up corroding the esophagus, causing irritation and inflammation.

Many factors can cause you to suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disorder. If you have a haital hernia this could make you more susceptible to GERD. A hiatal hernia occurs when the top portion of the stomach and the LES muscle shift above the diaphragm, the muscle that divides the chest and stomach. The diaphragm normally aids the LES in it’s function to separate stomach acid from the esophagus. Hiatal hernias allow gastric acids to go from the stomach to the esophagus easily.

If you are pregnant this may affect your chances of having GERD. Pregnant women should be concerned about GERD because of their increased risk. As the baby develops in the womb, the body must make room. This means that vital organs begin to shift and are compressed. If the stomach shifts or compresses too much, this could force stomach acids to move past the LES and into the esophagus.

Obesity and diabetes also contribute to GERD. If you have a lot of extra weight, especially near the abdomen, this can put excessive pressure on the stomach and diaphragm. If the stomach endures pressure, this makes it easier for stomach acids to escape into the esophagus and cause damage. Diabetes affects the way that foods are digested and could encourage acid reflux. Close attention should be paid to your diet and exercise habits, as they can contribute to obesity and diabetes.

Smoking is a lifestyle contributor to GERD. Each time you smoke, the LES becomes weaker and has to work harder to remain closed. A weakened or relaxed LES will allow stomach acid to seep into the esophagus. The more you smoke, the higher your risk is of developing GERD.

Symptoms of GERD in adults include heartburn, chest pain, chronic cough, regurgitation and difficulty swallowing. Children however may not have heartburn but will likely have a persistent cough and respiratory problems. Avoiding certain foods, smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, and eating smaller lean meals well before lying down for bed are simple ways to manage GERD.

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