October 27, 2010

What causes GERD?

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease ? or GERD ? happens when acid in your stomach chronically backs up into your esophagus. This acid doesn?t belong there and irritates the lining, causing heart burn. If this happens to you more than twice a week, doctors label it as GERD.

It all starts with the Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES). It?s a muscle at the bottom of the esophagus, which should open and close to manage the flow of stomach contents. A normal LES prevents food and acid from backing up into the esophagus. An LES that isn?t functioning properly leads to GERD.

So, what causes the LES to act up repeatedly and essentially cause GERD? Medications, foods, certain health conditions, and various habits are among the many things doctors are pointing at.


Certain medicines, such as NSAIDS ? like aspirin and ibuprofen? have been linked to GERD. Research has shown them to commonly cause this problem, or increase the severity of symptoms in GERD sufferers. Other medications known to aggravate GERD include iron supplements, antibiotics, potassium and sedatives. If you?re having trouble with any of these medications, talk to your doctor for a possible solution.


There isn?t any one food that causes heartburn in all GERD sufferers. Everyone has their own specific triggers. Generally fried food, anything containing caffeine, alcohol, garlic, mint and onion are a few common ones. Keeping a food journal that documents what you ate and your reaction can help pinpoint your specific triggers.

Health Conditions

Hormones are thought to regulate the LES, so GERD and the associated heartburn often occurs during pregnancy, when hormones are out of whack.

Additionally, approximately 20 percent of people with Type 1 Diabetes have something called gastroparesis. The condition causes a delay in emptying stomach contents, which in turn can cause pressure build up, resulting in reflux.

When it comes to Asthma and GERD, there is some argument as to which came first for those that suffer from both. Some argue the constant coughing and constriction of the chest that occurs during an asthma attack puts pressure on the chest, resulting in reflux and essentially leading to GERD. Others say GERD sufferers may inhale acid from the esophagus causing irritation of the lungs. Doctors often point to GERD as a cause of asthma in adult asthma sufferers or if asthma gets worse at night or when lying down. Nevertheless, there appears to be a link between the two.

Obesity can also cause reflux. The additional weight causes pressure on the abdomen, resulting in acid build up.

Hiatal Hernia, a condition that occurs when the stomach is pushed above the diaphragm, has also been linked to GERD. The problem has been shown to worsen symptoms, although has not yet been proven to be a direct cause of GERD.


Even simple things like smoking and wearing tight fitting clothing are sometimes attributed to GERD. Smoking slows the function of the LES, causing acid to back up into the esophagus. Tight fitting clothing places constrictions on the chest and abdomen with the same results. Even snacking before bed can lead to GERD, as eating less than 2 hours before lying down can result in reflux.

For more information on GERD and natural remedies, please check out our book Reflux Remedy Report.

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